BOSTON — Apt for the setting that it took place, the football game between Boston College and SMU, played inside of Fenway Park, turned into a pitcher’s duel for most of the contest. But just as the late innings of the game came to pass, Eagles quarterback Thomas Castellanos took the ball, threw strikes, intimidated his opponents in front of a partisan crown and shut the door like an elite baseball closer.
He even got a baseball bat to boot afterwards.
Castellanos ran for two fourth-quarter touchdowns, the first giving the Eagles the lead for good as Boston College defeated No. 24 SMU 23-14 to win the Wasabi Fenway Bowl on Thursday afternoon. On the day, Castellanos rushed for 156 yards while completing 11-of-18 passes for 102 yards through the air, while the Eagles defense also helped to close the deal by holding the Mustangs, who had averaged 43.7 points per game during their nine-game winning streak coming into today, scoreless in the second half and in three of the four quarters.
“I just can’t tell you how proud I am of our guys for how hard they played, how they brought energy and juice on the sideline,” Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley said. “That was as good as we’ve played, and we played with confidence.”
A steady rain made playing conditions, and the overall play, sloppy for most of the contest, and SMU held onto a 14-10 lead to start the final stanza. Castellanos completed a 15-yard pass to Kye Robichaux on the last play of the third quarter, and the momentum of that play carried over into the fourth as Castellanos soon connected on his longest pass completion of the day, a 32-yard catch-and-run by Jaedn Skeete. One play later, Castellanos ran up the middle and scored on a 15-yard run to give Boston College a 17-14 lead.
His run to paydirt took him directly toward the path of the Boston Red Sox bullpen area, where Castellanos thought of mimicking a baseball swing soon after what turned out to be the contest’s game-winning score.
“I was about to do it,” Castellanos said while holding a silver bat, the trophy awarded to the game’s most valuable player. “I didn’t want to get a penalty. I was about to but then I just walked away.”
Castellanos then provided some insurance runs, err, points, with a 14-yard run to the right on the next drive, leaping into the end zone just inside of the right pylon.
After winning on the road in New Orleans against Tulane to capture the American Athletic Conference title game, SMU was one spot away in the final College Football Playoff Ranking from playing in a different bowl game that starts with an “F”: Fiesta. The Mustangs showed their resilience in that game against the Green Wave, with quarterback Kevin Jennings playing admirably in place of an injured Preston Stone to lead SMUt to the win, and Jennings led the team back from an early 3-0 deficit today to propel the team to a halftime lead.
LJ Johnson Jr. scored on a 1-yard run for SMU’s first lead at 7-3 in the second, and after the Eagles responded with a Robichaux 6-yard touchdown run on the next drive, Jennings led a 55-yard touchdown drive right before halftime that was capped off by a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jaylan Knighton with eight seconds left in the first half.
Jennings finished 24-for-28 with 191 yards and the touchdown to Knighton.
The contest also was a prequel to life in the ACC for SMU, who accepted an invitation to join the conference for the 2024 season. The Mustangs will host Boston College in Dallas during conference play next season.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Thursday afternoon’s game, with all photos taken by Boston-area photographer Erica Denhoff. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 22 pictures in total.