College Sports

Game review: Key plays cost NC State in its loss at Boston College

Boston College completed six passes in a college football game in 2019 and won by three touchdowns.

How does that happen?

The Eagles ran for 429 yards against N.C. State on Saturday in a 45-24 ACC win. A.J. Dillon (223 yards) and David Bailey (181 yards) each had their way with N.C. State’s defense, which entered the game first in the ACC in rushing defense.

Before the game got away from the Wolfpack (4-3, 1-2 ACC), three key plays that turned the game in BC’s favor:

1. Hidden yardage

Score: Boston College 0, N.C. State 0

Time: 6:32, first quarter

Field position: fourth-and-8 at the N.C. State 37

Former N.C. State coach Chuck Amato loved to point out the “hidden yardage” of the kicking game. There wasn’t much hidden about the situation N.C. State was in after a perfect punt by Boston College’s Grant Carlson.

The Eagles’ drive stalled out after a nice pass breakup by safety Jarius Morehead on a downfield shot to tight end Chris Garrison. The Eagles came out to punt and instead of booming the ball into the end zone, which happens too many times, Carlson took something off his punt. It bounced at the 8-yard line, and there were five BC players waiting to down the ball before it got to the end zone.

On the first two series of the game, N.C. State’s offense ran six plays for a total of minus-15 yards. On quarterback Bailey Hockman’s first pass attempt of the game, the BC defender dropped an interception.

So on first down from its own 1-yard line, N.C. State played it safe and Hockman ran a sneak for 2 yards. On second down, Hockman overthrew receiver Thayer Thomas on an out route toward the N.C. State sideline.

On third down, Hockman tried to compensate for the previous throw by taking a little off an attempt for receiver Devin Carter. BC’s secondary didn’t drop this interception. Cornerback Jason Maitre stepped in front of the soft pass and walked into the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown return and a 7-0 lead.

2. Red-zone woes

Score: Boston College 7, N.C. State 0

Time: 1:02, first quarter

Field position: fourth-and-goal at the BC 2

Hockman and the N.C. State offense had a great response to the “pick-six.” Hockman hit receiver Emeka Emezie for an 11-yard gain and Carter for a 22-yarder on a nice third-down conversion.

Thomas also provided a spark with his pass to Carter for 24 yards on a trick play. Thomas, by the way, has completed 3 of his 4 pass attempts this season for 74 yards and two touchdowns.

On first-and-goal from the BC 6, Trent Pennix ran for 3 yards. On the next play, Bam Knight got down to the 1-yard line. Then N.C. State looked like a team missing its two starting tackles and its best run-blocker in tight end Dylan Autenrieth.

Knight was swarmed by three BC defenders in the backfield on third down. On fourth down, Hockman had Thomas open on an out route but overthrew it.

3. More red-zone woes

Score: Boston College 7, N.C. State 0

Time: 13:52, second quarter

Field position: first-and-10 at the BC 16

N.C. State’s defense forced a three-and-out on the next series to give the ball right back to the offense and in good field position (at the BC 41).

Quarterback Devin Leary came off the bench to replace Hockman and hit Thomas for a 23-yard pickup (a one-handed snag by Thomas) on his first pass attempt.

But on the next play, Leary bobbled the shotgun snap and lost 4 yards. The second-down call, a read-option to running back Jordan Houston, was uninspired and left N.C. State’s offense a third-and-long.

Leary wanted to go to Thomas on third down, but the Eagles had him covered and were able to pressure Leary and force him to scramble for an 8-yard gain.

Sophomore kicker Chris Dunn came out and made a 31-yard field goal to cut BC’s lead to 7-3. Two trips inside the BC 20 and N.C. State had three points to show for it. That has been a season-long problem for N.C. State’s offense.

It has scored on 28-of-31 red-zone trips (inside the 20) — mostly thanks to Dunn (who is 14 of 17 on the season) — but has only 17 touchdowns. That TD-conversion rate (54.8 percent) ranks only ahead of Syracuse in the ACC.

This was a problem last year for the Wolfpack, too, with an NFL quarterback and former offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz. N.C. State had a 60.6 TD-conversion rate (43 of 71) in the red zone in 2018, which ranked No. 90 in the country.

N.C. State would obviously need the points. Bailey broke a 54-yard touchdown run and an 48-yarder before the end of the half to put BC up 24-3 and effectively put the game away.

Joe Giglio has worked at The N&O since 1995 and has regularly reported on the ACC since 2005. He grew up in Ringwood, N.J. and graduated from N.C. State.
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