Ask Eli Manning about team consistency, and he’ll be the first to tell you that you’re only as good as your previous performance, that glory fades with each subsequent game. The only way to live up to that glory is to constantly keep producing, because if a team doesn’t, the happy feelings can quickly spiral into frustration. As Garrett Grayson’s pass fell into the hands of Charles Lovett for a knife-twisting touchdown in Boston College’s game against Colorado State, all of the glory of the Eagles’ stunning upset of the then-No. 8 University of Southern California Trojans just three weeks prior vanished as quickly as the fans’ enthusiasm in Alumni Stadium.
The Eagles now look to rebound on the road in an attempt to pick up their first ACC victory against North Carolina State, a team they handily defeated last year, 38-21. Despite its 4-0 start against mid-major opponents, the Wolfpack has dropped its last two, both to Atlantic Division foes. Though NC State gave No. 1 Florida State its most difficult test thus far, it comes into this game limping after a 41-0 shellacking from the Clemson Tigers.
BC will try to recapture its defensive prowess after giving up 430 yards, the most it has so far this season, in its 24-21 defeat to the Rams. The Eagles’ task doesn’t get any easier this week against NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett, but lineman Brian Mihalik says the defense understands the game plan against this versatile passer.
“He can scramble a little bit and he does a good job of staying on his feet,” Mihalik said. “We got to make sure we keep him in the pocket and not let him make big plays.”
Unfortunately for the Eagles’ defense, they had more to contend with over the bye week than simply recovering from a loss to a mid-major opponent. Senior defensive lineman Mehdi Abdesmad was ruled out for the year after another season-ending surgery to his left knee.
Despite last year’s surgery sapping much of his quickness, losing Abdesmad further exacerbated the Eagles’ lack of depth this year, which has already suffered major injuries, including offensive guards Harris Williams and the recently returned Bobby Vardaro. Additionally, starting cornerback junior Bryce Jones was kicked off the team after violating an unspecified team rule. Jones played an integral part to the Eagles’ secondary early this season, making 20 tackles—the fourth most on the team—and an interception in last week’s game against CSU.
“It’s a tough loss—he was a part of our team and we really needed him,” said cornerback Manuel Asprilla.
Despite this, Asprilla put forth his confidence in Jones’ replacements.
“We have players that are younger and they weren’t just sitting around doing nothing—they’re on their stuff,” he said. “His loss is tough but people are ready to step up.” Head coach Steve Addazio echoed Asprilla’s remarks, saying the defense will continue to dominate and is moving on.
Additionally, Addazio praised Jones’ replacement in the rotation, sophomore John Johnson, as well as freshmen corners Isaac Yiadom and Kamrin Moore. Addazio noted his cornerback’s enthusiasm for this opportunity. “[Johnson’s] probably excited he’s got the chance to be a starter—he wants to play,” Addazio said.
Addazio asserted the readiness of these young cornerbacks, as they have all seen playing time. He recognized the problems that come with the youth of his secondary staff, but did not deny their ability to improve.
“They’ll make their mistakes, there’s a learning curve in there but they’ll play hard, they’ll play physical, if you get beat you get beat, you roll up, get ready for the next snap and go,” Addazio said.
Expect more of the same from the nation’s sixth-best rushing offense. Freshman running back Jon Hilliman and quarterback Tyler Murphy once again turned in stellar performances on the ground, powering for 207 yards and three touchdowns against CSU.
They look to exploit a Wolfpack rushing defense that ranks 94th in the NCAA and second-to-last in the ACC, which should mean easy pickings for an offense that runs for an average 316.8 yards per game. If the running game does stall out, this could be the perfect opportunity for Murphy’s struggling aerial attack to break out, as the NC State passing defense ranks towards the bottom as well.
BC’s offense has the talent to overcome a weak NC State defense—the key matchup comes down to the defense regaining their dominating form as they had against USC’s rushing attack.
Preventing the Wolfpack read-option offense from taking over the time of possession battle, especially in late drives the way CSU did, will allow Murphy to run Addazio’s power-hitting, counter running game most effectively.
If they can do that, the Eagles may again capture some of their early-season glory to gain positive momentum heading into their heavy ACC schedule in the coming weeks.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor