#23 NC St. Spoils Senior Day for BC
By: Christophe Nabhan
The Wolfpack filed into Alumni Stadium on a clear, sunny Saturday at noon for Senior Day and the last Boston College home game of the season. Cloudless as it may have been, the weather was far from perfect as the temperature on the day was a brisk 32 degrees. In contrast to the temperature the Eagles were coming off a hot streak of games, winning their last three away at Louisville and Virginia, and home in a blowout over Florida State. In all three wins, BC scored at least 35 points against their opponents, an impressive feat considering Addazio’s run-heavy, low-scoring offense. The Eagles were searching for their 4th ACC win on the year against the 23rd ranked team in the nation.
The Wolfpack came into Chestnut Hill coming off two tough losses to highly ranked opponents Notre Dame and Clemson after a hot start to the season. They would be looking to bounce back on Saturday in a major way to get out of their mini losing slump. North Carolina State was favored in this game over Boston College by 3 points. This matchup featured almost everything, from records broken by AJ Dillon (BC) and Bradley Chubb (NC State) to homerun plays on offense and even to the multiple forced turnovers by defenses. In the end, this game would come down to the wire, but the deciding factor in who won this one depended on who made less mistakes.
With 33,242 spectators in attendance, the 1st Quarter got started when the Eagles deferred possession and kicked off to Nyheim Hines who returned the ball to almost midfield, giving the Wolfpack excellent field position to start off the game. Despite this, the Eagles defense forced a three and out, leading to BC’s first possession from the 20 yard line. The offense led by redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Brown picked up right where they left off from their last game with big runs by AJ Dillon and Brown to end up in the red zone. With momentum on their side and the crowd bustling with excitement, Brown faked a handoff and an ill-advised throw was intercepted by the Wolfpack after being tipped up into the air, this being the first of many offensive blunders to be had later on in the game.
The Wolfpack then mounted a march down the field led by grad student Ryan Finley and junior running back Hines. The offense converted 3 straight third downs to get into field goal range, where the drive came to an end on a turnover on downs when junior kicker Kyle Bambard missed a 54 yard field goal by a long shot. The offenses then traded punts leading into the start of the second quarter in which the Eagles found themselves in great field position after a short punt by A.J. Cole III. BC made their way into the red zone once again and on a third down QB run by Anthony Brown, a hard hit took him out of the game, which paved the way for quarterback Darius Wade to enter the game on 4th and 1. Instead of kicking the chip shot from the 13 yard line to take a 3-0 lead, Coach Steve Addazio opted to go for it and ran a fake run play for junior running back Jon Hilliman that ended in a poor pass thrown into traffic and hitting the turf to be called incomplete. Two trips to the red zone for the Eagles… Nothing to show for. Luckily for Boston College, NC State would have similar problems on the next drive after Hines would run the ball repeatedly until the Wolfpack reached the 19 yard line. On Bambard’s second kicking attempt of the day, this time from much closer, he missed short and wide to go 0 for 2 and continue the theme of sloppiness in the red zone.
The next possession for the Eagles would prove to be an important one in two ways: Boston College would get on the board with an electrifying 66 yard touchdown run on third down from A.J. Dillon, but also this specific play would place Dillon as the record holder for the most rushing yards all-time by a freshman at Boston College. Before the half Dillon had 137 yards on the game, and his exhilarating day wouldn’t end here. The extra point by Lichtenberg lifted the Eagles to a 7-0 lead. The ensuing possession, the Wolfpack would match the score with a touchdown of their own on an 8 yard run by Jaylen Samuels. On this drive, the Wolfpack faced three 3rd downs and converted them all after some great plays by Finley with his arm and his feet.
With 2 minutes and 26 seconds left in the half, Addazio put the ball in the hands of Wade to try to get into field goal range and take the lead. This plan backfired as Wade was blind-sided on a hit by Bradley Chubb and was forced to fumble the ball as he was releasing his throw. NC State recovered the ball in field goal range on the 23 yard line with 1 minute and a half to play in the half. Two plays later, senior Ty Schwab intercepted Finley, but this would not be the end of this strange stretch of events. The Eagles would run the clock down to 13 seconds and punt away in hopes to get to halftime, but Knoll’s punt was blocked and NC State took over possession on the 19 yard line with 8 seconds remaining. After Addazio used his three timeouts to ice Bambard, the kicker finally got his first points of the day after missing his first two kicks and sent the Wolfpack into the locker room with a 10-7 lead on the Eagles. Sloppy play in the first half led to missed opportunities on both sides. Going into the second half, the Wolfpack would need to find a way to stop Dillon and the 4th ranked running offense in the ACC in order to stifle the Eagles. On the other hand, BC would need to limit their turnovers and find a way to get timely stops on 3rd down as Finley had converted almost every one.
BC would get the ball to start the half and on this drive, Dillon would break the 1000 yard in a season benchmark and Chubb would get his 2nd and 3rd sacks on the day, making him the all-time sack leader at NC State, matching Mario Williams’ record of 26. The Wolfpack retrieved possession and kept their trend alive of completing passes on third down. They marched down to the 20 yard line where Bambard attempted his 4th field goal of the game. Another makeable field goal, but this one would hit off the upright for his third miss of the game. After a 3 and out by the Wade-led Eagle offense, the Wolfpack ran a screen pass that was thrown behind the receiver and picked up by junior linebacker Kevin Beltzer and returned to NC State’s 23 yard line. Points off turnovers proved to have a huge impact on the score line. This time, BC capitalized as they ran a 12 yard sweep play to senior receiver Thadd Smith that resulted in a touchdown and a 14-10 lead over the opposition as the third quarter came to an end. The start of the 4th quarter saw little action until Hines broke out for a big run from midfield and took it to the house giving NC State a 17-14 lead in a seesaw affair.
There was still plenty of time to play as the Eagles regained possession from the kickoff with 8 minutes left to play. This drive would mark another blunder for the BC offense, as an impressive march down to the 22 yard line culminated in a 39 yard field goal attempt to tie the game up with about 4 minutes left. On the snap, though, Jeff Smith, the holder, fumbled the ball, retrieved it, and went on to scramble and find a pass for the first down, but the play ended with an incomplete pass and disappointment again for Addazio’s men. Another golden opportunity was blown by making mistakes on routine plays. BC’s day still was not over though as the defense regained possession for Wade with 3 minutes and 9 seconds remaining and 0 timeouts. Addazio called for four straight pass plays in hopes of marching down the field to tie or win the game, but Wade was not able to convert on a single opportunity and turned the ball over on downs. BC would get the ball back with 28 seconds left and attempt a last second lateral play as time expired, but the game felt all but over after the failed field goal attempt earlier in the fourth quarter.
In a close and turnover-happy battle, the NC State Wolfpack found a way to leave Chestnut Hill with a win and 7-3 overall record as the Boston College Eagles dropped to a 5-5 record. Boston College will look to bounce back on November 18th at UConn in hopes of qualifying for a bowl game. North Carolina State will travel to Wake Forest that same day in pursuit of their 6th ACC win of the year.
Photo Source: AP Photo