NEWTON, Mass. -- The Boston College defense had produced only two turnovers through its first three games. In the fourth game, the Eagles doubled their season output.
Hampton Hughes intercepted UMass quarterback Kellen Pagel on the first play from scrimmage Saturday, leading to a BC touchdown and setting the tone for the day.
“We actually drilled a play like that in practice on Thursday, where we simulated matching routes like that,” Hughes said. “And lucky for me first play they came out and ran a similar play like that, and I was able to read my keys and make a play on the ball.”
Hughes, a former preferred walk-on given a scholarship in the spring, was converted from wideout to safety in training camp when presumed starters Okechukwu Okoroha (dismissal) and Dominick LeGrande (transfer) left the team.
Asked what he thought his pick meant for the team, 0-3 coming into the game, Hughes didn’t hold back.
“It was huge,” he said. “And the best part about it was that the offense, they got the ball and they went right down and they scored a touchdown. We were up 7-0 right from the beginning. It was a huge momentum-builder.”
Steele Divitto also added an interception, while Kevin Pierre-Louis forced a fumble (which Nick Clancy scooped up and returned 16 yards for a touchdown) and returned a fumble (forced by Max Holloway) for a 96-yard score.
Pierre-Louis said when he looked up at the JumboTron over the opposite end zone he knew quickly he would take the fumble the distance.
“I saw a glimmer [of UMass players] in the beginning, and then once I saw my teammates I knew they had my back and no one was gonna touch me,” he said with a smile.
The sophomore linebacker said the defense’s goal was to hold UMass to 17 points or fewer; it did exactly that Saturday, and even outscored the Minutemen’s offense 14-10 (UMass also had a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown).
“Key word: confidence,” Pierre-Louis said when asked about what the fast start meant. “It’s gonna be a confidence booster going into next week. Letting us know that we’re still BC. We pride ourselves on tradition and we played a traditional Boston College game.”
The 45 points BC scored was the most since a 52-20 home win over NC State in October 2009. While the defense contributed 14 of those points, the 31 points the offense scored still would’ve represented a season high (a touchdown shy of doubling the previous season high of 19, set in the Week 3 loss to Duke).
Chase Rettig finished 14-for-22 for 196 yards and three touchdowns, a new single-game high for the sophomore signal-caller. Two of those TDs went to Colin Larmond Jr., who caught six balls for 114 yards and the scores. It was the first multiple-touchdown game of his career.
Boston College also rushed 49 times for 193 yards and one score, with sophomore Andre Williams accounting for 20 of those carries and 95 of those yards.
Like a broken record
Another game, another double-digit tackle total for Luke Kuechly. The junior linebacker’s first tackle on the afternoon gave him 400 for his career; he’s the fifth Eagles player and the 32nd ACC player to reach that mark.
Kuechly finished with 11 tackles on the afternoon, extending his nation-best streak with 10 or more tackles to 26 games.
The player head coach Frank Spaziani loves to call “The Human Eraser” leads the nation in tackles per game. And it’s not really close. After Saturday’s game, Kuechly’s averaging 17.25 stops a game. Coming into Saturday’s action, the next highest average was 13 by Houston’s Marcus McGraw, according to cfbstats.com.
Coming and going
BC got a boost from the return of preseason ACC Player of the Year Montel Harris, but it was without regular starting left guard Nate Richman, who did not dress. Richman was replaced by Mark Spinney, who had missed the Duke game after suffering a knee injury against Central Florida.
The Richman injury meant two of the Eagles’ four captains were in jerseys and sweats for the coin toss, as Ifeanyi Momah is out for the year with an ACL tear.
Defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey, who hadn’t played since the first half of the season opener against Northwestern, also returned Saturday. The 6-foot-3, 302-pounder led the Eagles out of the tunnel before the game, didn’t start and played sparingly.