Bill Nichol has worked with Phil Jurkovec since his early teens. The strength-and-conditioning expert has seen the talent, the work ethic, the competitive drive.
So Nichol, owner of Outer Limits Athletic Performance north of Pittsburgh, won’t be the least bit surprised if Boston College’s first-year starting quarterback brings it on Saturday afternoon against his old friends from Notre Dame.
“I think he’ll be fired up,” Nichol said this week in a phone interview. “He’s going to play his heart out and show what he’s made of. Upsets can happen.”
Twenty-seven years after a senior quarterback named Glenn Foley took the 18-point-underdog Eagles into Notre Dame Stadium and engineered a massive 41-39 upset of the nation’s top-ranked team, Jurkovec gets his own crack at sporting immortality.
Lightly used in two seasons in South Bend, including a redshirt year in 2018, the highly touted transfer will be at home in Chestnut Hill as the No. 2 Fighting Irish enter fresh off their 47-40 double-overtime upset of top-ranked Clemson.
Will there be a ‘93-style letdown that stirs memories of the week after Lou Holtz’s Irish knocked off top-ranked Florida State? That seems unlikely, especially with Jurkovec across the way, but it’s still a fascinating matchup and great theater.
Jurkovec enters with an ACC-leading 2,083 passing yards and 15 passing touchdowns. His ACC passer rating is two spots behind Notre Dame’s Ian Book, the record-setting incumbent he was unable to displace despite entering school with far more recruiting juice.
Two weeks ago, Jurkovec took the Eagles to an 18-point halftime lead on the road at Clemson. He was unable to complete the task, but perhaps he softened up the Tigers just enough for Book to finish the job in an all-time performance last Saturday.
“What (Jurkovec) is doing this year on film is he’s making plays outside the realm of the offense, which he was very accustomed to doing in high school and when he was here as well,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said this week. “Outside the pocket, he’s a great scrambler. He can throw on the run, he’s got a strong arm, great size and he’s a tough kid. The one constant is he can make plays outside the pocket.”
Jurkovec hasn’t been as productive with his legs as Book has this year. Jurkovec also has suffered as many losses though his first eight college starts as Book has in his 30.
Yet the redshirt sophomore, who was granted a waiver for immediate eligibility after his transfer, still has plenty of time to leave his mark in first-year coach Jeff Hafley’s program. A quantum leap could come Saturday as an 11 ½-point underdog.
“Ever since developing him in his early high school years, we always knew he was going to go far with it,” Nichol said. “I think even now, seeing the numbers he’s putting up, you’re going to see him play on Sundays. He’ll be in the NFL as long as he stays healthy. I think we’re just seeing the beginning of Phil.”