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Jeff Hafley despite Week 1 loss: 'This is a different team than last year'

Jeff Hafley had his presser Monday following Saturday's disappointing loss to Northern Illinois that opened the 2023 season.

While he wasn't able to give any intel on who Boston College plans to quarterback the offense moving forward given that both Emmett Morehead and Thomas Castellanos saw a number of reps against NIU, Hafley did say he has an idea of who's starting -- adding that he'll reveal it at a later date. Castellanos went 13-of-28 for138 yards, a pair of touchdowns, and an interception through the air on top of 74 yards on the ground through nine rushes. In Morehead's three drives, he went 4-for-10 with 30 yards passing.

Does Hafley regret playing both quarterbacks in the loss?

"No. I don't regret it at all," he said. "That's kind of the way we went into the game. That's how we evaluated it. we thought they both deserved to play and wanted to see how they'd both play. So, no, we don't regret that at all."

BC also dropped last year's season opener to Rutgers. Following that, they lost in embarrassing fashion to both Virginia Tech and Florida State -- though a light 38-17 win over FCS opponent in Maine did come between those two contests. It later spiraled into a 3-9 season. With a strong FCS team in Holy Cross coming up Saturday before fourth-ranked Florida State comes to town, how do the Eagles make sure a season-opening loss doesn't spiral into an ugly year?

"I think it's a little different this time," Hafley said. "You turn on the tape and you see that there were so many plays that we left out there. We catch the ball here, we sack the QB here where we have a free run to him. We catch an interception and maybe we're winning it at the end of regulation. You show them like 10 or 12 of those, our guys are capable of making those plays. They are. They've done it. Then, you show them the plays they did make with a little more consistency.

"I still think it's a confident group," Hafley continued. "I think they saw we're down 14 points with five-and-a-half minutes left in the game and they rallied back when at one point it didn't look like they were going to. I think there's confidence there and this is a different team than last year. I know that's all coach talk right now. I get it. But, I believe that the team believes that and the staff believes that as well."

Of course, no one is oblivious to the sloppiness put on display by BC. 10 penalties for 93 yards on top of countless dropped passes and a slew of missed opportunities.

"You correct the false starts," Hafley said. "That's what's disappointing. We preach it all the time. We talk about it in practice all the time. We stress it, constantly. You can't have those false starts, two of them that really cost us. The personal fouls -- they called Hergel on one. You watch the tape, you can give me your opinion on whether that was a foul or not. The roughing (the passer) was a bad one. Does Donovan (Ezeiruaku) shove the guy at the end? You see it on tape. You can't do that. You've got to control yourself. The PI on fourth down, the guy's going up to make a play on the ball. But, on defense, here's how I see it. On third and fourth down, you can't foul. You've got to beat that into their head. You cannot foul on third and fourth down. You're going to get some PI's. It happens, right?

"On offense, you can't go backward on any down You've got to keep moving forward," he continued. "We got called on two holds. We've got to keep coaching it better. Keep teaching technique better, but ultimately, those are self-inflicted and between that coach and that player, they've got to fix that."

Despite that, the offensive line -- arguably the biggest topic heading into the season after last year's catastrophe of a line -- was something to watch for, especially with coach Matt Applebaum returning following the relieving of Dave DeGuglielmo. And, the improvements showed: BC averaged 5.2 yards per carry compared to last year's FBS-worst 2.0 YPC, with the line looking much greater overall whether you're looking at raw tape or PFF grades. Hafley pointed out the time the defense was on the field as a key factor in the loss.

"We ran the ball for five yards on average, which is way up from last year. The protection I thought was really good," he said. "The quarterbacks had time to throw it, we just didn't have the ball enough on offense. They had the ball for 37 minutes. That's a long time for one side to have the ball. And, that's not just the offense's fault. We've got to get off on third down as well, right? We need our third down defense to get off the field, then we need to sustain drives. It was better when you watch the execution, now we just can't go backward."

Injury updates

Hafley: "We came out pretty healthy. There were some guys on the injury report that were a little tight, a little sore. But, as of right now, it looks like everybody will be ready to roll. That was a physical game up front. O-line was good, D-line was good (health wise), so yeah, looks like we're healthy right now."

~ That hints that Nigel Tate, who suffered a leg injury mid-game against NIU, should be fine.

~ No update on Bryce Steele, who has been out since before Week 1 with a "personal health issue."

~ Connor Lytton was out for week 1, which prompted backup kicker Liam Connor to kick instead. He made his first career field goal, a 39-yard kick in overtime, along with all three extra points. "Right now, if he's healthy and continues to do what he does, I'm going to play him. I trust him and I'm confident in him. He's got a great look in his eye right now," Hafley said -- not giving any intel on Lytton as well.

Quinn Riley, Chief Editor, to Eagles Daily. He may be reached at & @QuinnRileyBB

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