When Myles Willis was pushed back four yards—the ball forced from his hands by a North Carolina State defender, then recovered by the Wolfpack on BC’s 15 yard line a few minutes into the second quarter—it looked like things could be going downhill for the Boston College football team.
Up until then, only one offensive drive had failed to end in a touchdown, with the Wolfpack punting on its last possession, stalling the score at 21-14, with BC on top. The game had been digressing into a shootout, and it looked like the last team with the ball would come out on top. This turnover, deep in BC’s own territory, would most certainly hurt the Eagles in the long run when NC State would inevitably put up seven.
That didn’t happen, though. Somehow, the BC defense woke up and realized that they had a game to play. After the Eagles finally managed to exert some pressure on quarterback Jacoby Brissett, which resulted in two incompletions, the Wolfpack missed a 31-yard field goal and the Eagles came away from that potentially devastating turnover unscathed.
With the defense finally clicking, the Eagles would hold on to their lead through the end of the game, topping the Wolfpack on the road by a score of 30-14.
“The big point of that game was when we turned the ball over and we stopped them and held them to a field goal which they didn’t make,” said head coach Steve Addazio. “That was kind of when all of a sudden our defense dug in a little bit. That was the start of it.”
Up until that point, the offense had been thriving, putting up a quick 21 points in the first quarter as Tyler Murphy and the Eagles brought a more diverse strategy onto the field.
Since the beginning of the season, Addazio has stressed the fact that the passing game is a work in progress. While he wasn’t going to force it when it wasn’t there, the Eagles have been slowly developing, and it showed against NC State—BC was running the ball efficiently, with its usual collection of backs, but also making more pass plays and using more play action.
“We had a great mixture—run, pass, play action, with three great drives that led to touchdowns, which was terrific because we were struggling on the other side of the ball early in the game,” Addazio said.
The 84 passing yards in the first half, while still overshadowed by the 198 net rushing yards, signified the Eagles’ effort to diversify on offense. Meanwhile, though, the defense was failing to do its part. While NC State had significantly less total offense, at 161 yards, the points were still going up on the board as the Eagles’ five-man pressures failed to get to Brissett—another Florida transfer quarterback and a former teammate of Murphy’s who is similarly tough to get on the ground.
“We had to get six-men pressures,” Addazio said. “We couldn’t get there with five-man … With [Brissett], you’ve got to get to him, you’ve got to hit him, and you’ve got to get him on the ground. He’s hard to tackle, he’s elusive, he’s strong … if you let him stand back there and throw it, you’re going to have a long day at the office. In the first half, that’s what was happening.”
After BC held off the Wolfpack in the red zone, the scoring slowed, with both teams punting. A missed field goal from the Eagles added to the mix to bring the game to the half, and the score rested at 21-14.
As ominous rain clouds moved in and the floodgates began to open, the Eagles and the Wolfpack took to the field for the second half. BC immediately jumped defensively, tackling Brissett for a six-yard loss before Brian Mihalik snagged his first career interception, returning it 21 yards to the NC State 10, making huge strides in terms of defensive momentum.
After just those two plays, though, the game was suspended for 55 minutes due to lightning, sending both teams back into their locker rooms.
While this could have slowed the Eagles, the delay didn’t break their stride. Although BC settled for a field goal by freshman Mike Knoll off of the Mihalik pick, the defense continued the trajectory that it had started during the second quarter, keeping the Wolfpack off the board through the entire second half. Meanwhile, the offense marched downfield, managing to put up another nine points—though the Eagles botched an extra point—to wind the game down to its final score of 30-14.
“I think [Mihalik] did a great job, and we were getting to the quarterback. That’s what you need to do… That’s our style, that’s what we want to do on defense,” Addazio said. “If we don’t create havoc like that, we’re not going to do well. We’ve got to get to the quarterback. We’ve got a lot of different ways to do it, and in the second half, we started really getting to him.”
While the Eagles pulled together on defense during the second half, they face a greater challenge against Clemson next week, a team that demolished NC State 41-0 during week six. The momentum of an ACC road win serves as a good start to a week of practice, but BC will have to figure out how to get the ball rolling on defense from the very first snap of the game heading into its next, greater test.
Featured Image by Gerry Broome / AP Photo