RALEIGH, N.C. – The weather couldn’t have been any sunnier or warmer for a late-October Homecoming game when the N.C. State Wolfpack hosted the Boston College Eagles at Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday.
The last time the Wolfpack played at home, the conditions were quite different, playing through not only Hurricane Matthew, but against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish – a combination that required a diligent, rushing offense to gain field position and put points on the board in order to win.
Though not playing in eight inches of water with rain carried by 20-plus mile-per-hour winds, the calm breeze, warm temperature, and clear and sunny skies didn’t make it easy for quarterback Ryan Finley (23-41, 307 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) and the Wolfpack offense to score against a stingy, nationally-ranked top-10 Eagles defense.
N.C. State suffered its third loss in a row, falling 21-14 to the Eagles (4-4, 1-4), and dropped to 4-4 overall and 1-3 in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play.
Highlights: ACC Digital Network (TheACC.com)
While receivers Bra’Lon Cherry (3 catches, 105 yards) and Kelvin Harmon (5 catches, 80 yards) made the catches necessary to score for the Wolfpack, it wasn’t enough.
Boston College quarterback Patrick Towles (18-33, 204 yards) navigated his offense through an equally tough N.C. State defense led by safety Josh Jones (15 tackles) and linebacker Jerod Fernandez (12 tackles), before an Eagles trick play ultimately decided the game.
Coming into the matchup, both coaches knew that it would be closer than many might have expected.
“I think that we’re a team that is closer than people think, and we’re developing,” Eagles coach Steve Addazio said during the ACC Coaches teleconference earlier in the week.
Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren concurred.
“They are going to hold onto the ball and your possessions are limited on offense. You have to do things right to beat them.”
It indeed was a battle for ball possession throughout, and one which B.C. won.
“There are always plays within a game that we have to play better,” Doeren said following the loss.
“We knew coming into this game that they were a good defense and we knew that we had to maximize our opportunities and when we could score we needed to, and obviously we didn’t do that enough.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the Wolfpack had rushed for minus-two net yards while the Eagles gained 50.
It was a battle between the red zones as both teams combined for a meager 103 total passing yards.
It looked as though it would be a closely contested match-up, and a suffocating one at that.
It was, and one that Boston College preferred, having beaten N.C. State twice in the two teams’ last three meetings.
“NC State is a really good football program with a great defense, and we played them on the road,” Addazio said.
“We had time of possession for almost 35 minutes which is a critical stat…It was a hard fought game, and like I said I’m really proud of our team and the way they battled but more importantly I’m just proud of the resolve they had in each other in realizing how we had to win here.”
Trailing 3-0 midway through the second quarter, Finley connected with a pass to Cherry whose slant inside set the target for the catch and run that ended in a 79-yard touchdown and eventual PAT from Kyle Bambard.
The Wolfpack had finally nicked the Eagles defense with a deep swipe that ignited the crowd of 56,443.
However, they all fell silent quickly as Boston College answered back two plays later with a 60-yard scoring rush by Jeff Smith (5 carries, 70 yards).
N.C. State trailed 10-7 with 7:35 to play in the half.
While the Wolfpack found yards gained hard to come by, the Eagles threatened to score a few times before halftime, but were denied by an equally tough N.C. State defense that featured sacks from ends Kentavious Street and Damian Roseboro.
Boston College carried the three-point advantage into the halftime break.
Finley struggled at the start of the third quarter and fumbled the ball after being sacked on his own 21-yard line.
While Towles was unable to generate a touchdown-scoring drive, Eagles place kicker Mike Knoll converted his second field goal of the game to extend the lead to 13-7.
Both quarterbacks threw successive interceptions on their next possession with Towles’ pick off by Jones resulting as the most costly of the two at the time.
Starting on the Boston College 23-yard line, Finley connected with Harmon for a touchdown pass that gave the Wolfpack the lead again, 14-13, following Bambard’s PAT.
N.C. State carried its lead into the final quarter, and scored early as Finley connected with Stephen Louis.
However, the Wolfpack was flagged for having an ineligible receiver down field and negated the touchdown.
While neither team scored on their next possession, the Eagles subsequently put together a nine-play, 63-yard drive that ended with a touchdown to re-take the lead 19-14 with 4:43 to play.
A successful two-point conversion extended the advantage to 21-14 and pushed the Wolfpack to start its most critical possession of the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, returner Nyheim Hines did his part by finding open space and running the ball 56 yards to the Wolfpack 42-yard line.
From there, Finley went to work and threw a 32-yard pass to Hines that ended at the Boston College 10-yard line.
After successive hand-offs to Dayes, and earning yardage on a defensive pass interference call, the Wolfpack offense stalled at the three-yard line.
With intended receiver Louis with his back to him, Finley put a pass towards the corner of the left end zone, but as Louis turned he could only watch the ball fly over his head and into the arms of Eagles corner Kamrin Moore.
“I think we left a lot of plays out on the field,” Finley said.
“I had a miscommunication on the one step and that’s all of our faults. We’ve gotta be able to communicate the plan.”
The interception finalized the result in the Eagles’ favor, and emphasized that the Wolfpack still had work to do.
“There were plays that we could have made and didn’t; there were calls that we could have done better and didn’t; and it always comes back to me,” Doeren concluded.
“I know this – I’m not going to walk in there and point fingers at anybody – we’re going to go back to work. We’ve got four games left and we’ve got Florida State here next week and we’ve got to play a lot better – a lot better.”