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October 19, 2009

Monday morning quarterbacking: Boston College

It's hard to imagine that NC State's season could get much worse after being shellacked by Boston College 52-20 at Chestnut Hill last Saturday. Hardly anything went right for the Pack, but as always we try to do our best and digest the action. Here is Monday Morning Quarterbacking.

Key moment of the game:

Twice NC State reached the red zone when Boston College led 14-7 in the first half. Instead of coming away with touchdowns though and potentially a first half lead, twice the Pack had to settle for field goals. Boston College took advantage. Leading 14-13, the Eagles scored a touchdown, then intercepted redshirt sophomore quarterback Russell Wilson off a deflected pass at the Boston College 24 with just 1:02 left in the half.

Instead of sitting on a 21-13 lead, Boston College drove down the field aggressively. They converted a 3rd and 10 at their own 42 with a 18-yard run on a draw play to sophomore tailback Montel Harris. Freshman quarterback Dave Shinskie completed an eight-yard pass to senior receiver Rich Gunnell on 4th and 4 from the NC State 34. That got the Eagles in range for senior Steve Aponavicius for a 37-yard field goal as time expired in the half, giving BC a 24-13 lead at the break.

Boston College then took the opening drive in the second half 72 yards for a touchdown. Along the way they converted a pair of third downs, including a 3rd and 8 from their own 30 with a 23-yard pass from Shinskie to a wide open junior tight end Lars Anderson. The drive was 11 plays and took 7:54 off the clock. More importantly, it turned the game into a blowout.

Three things that worked:

1. The offensive start
After going three and out on its first possession, NC State moved the ball well on four of its next five possessions, but they only got a touchdown on one of them. State went 73 yards for a game-tying touchdown on its second possession. Boston College answered with a touchdown and then the teams traded punts after that. NC State then drove 54 yards and 46 yards on its next two possessions, but had to settle for field goals. They were driving 33 yards before Wilson was picked off on the Pack's final first half possession. Although the Pack would certainly have liked more than 13 points at halftime, they were driving the ball well enough.

2. Lack of penalties/good ball security.
What was an issue earlier this season appears to have settled, for the time being. Last week NC State has no penalties, and this week only three for 30 yards. NC State also did not have a single fumble Saturday.

3. Offensive line
The offensive line was fairly solid Saturday. Wilson had pretty good time to throw. One of the two sacks Boston College had was more on fifth-year senior tailback Jamelle Eugene whiffing on pass protection.

Three things that did not work:

1. Defense
Across the board the defense was simply bad Saturday. They gave up 52 points, and there was nothing fluky about it. Boston College had 480 yards of total offense, including an astounding 293 yards rushing. The numbers are telling.

2. Halftime adjustments
NC State was hanging around in the first half. They did not convert a couple of deep drives into touchdown, but the wheels did not come off until the second half. Boston College had 21 third quarter points while shutting out the Pack. Boston College also had the ball for 19:33 compared to NC State's 10:27 in the second half.

3. Offensive consistency
The bottom line is that the defense just is not good right now, meaning that the offense has to be on its game for 60 minutes. That did not happen Saturday. Wilson struggled to get into the rhythm that made him an All-ACC quarterback last year, the running game never got churning and receivers dropped passes that should have been caught.

Breaking down the position battles:

NC State's OL vs. Boston College's front seven
Boston College did not apply a ton of pressure Saturday. They only had two sacks, and there was time Wilson had more than ample protection and time to throw. The run game though only averaged 2.9 yards per rush.

NC State's front seven vs. Boston College's OL
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the game Saturday was how NC State's front seven was manhandled by Boston College's offensive line.

NC State's WR vs. Boston College's DB
When Wilson is running around looking for someone to throw, and on at least one occasion having 10 seconds to throw the ball, and no one is getting open, the receivers are not doing their job. Part of that could have been BC flooding the zone with defensive backs and linebackers.

NC State's DB vs. Boston College's WR
Freshman Rashard Smith had a costly slip that set up a touchdown for Colin Larmond Jr.. Gunnell got open a few times, but for the most part the defensive backs had a much improved effort in pass defense.

Quarterbacks
Statistically Shinskie did not do a whole lot of damage, but he managed the game well. He completed 13 of 25 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. The duo of Wilson and redshirt freshman Mike Glennon completed 31 of 55 passes for 315 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. Wilson did run 11 times for 35 yards and a touchdown.

Running backs
Harris ran for a school record 264 yards on 27 carries and five touchdowns. That would have been good for a two-game stretch much less one afternoon, and it easily overshadowed anything anyone on NC State's offense did Saturday.

Tight Ends
The BC duo of Chris Pantale, a freshman, and Anderson did its damage Saturday. They combined for five catches for 63 yards. NC State redshirt sophomore George Bryan had four catches but for just 25 yards. On this afternoon, BC's tight ends were better.

Special teams
The one area where perhaps NC State was even with Boston College Saturday. The coverage units were good for both teams except for one long return by both sides. Neither side missed a kick. Boston College though did punt the ball better.


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