Grant Carlson has been Boston College football’s go-to punter for the last three years. He averaged 42.4 yards per punt through BC’s first five games of the 2021 season, consistently pinning opponents inside their own 15-yard line. He’s earned a reputation as the pinnacle of consistency, game after game exceeding expectations.
But with 12 minutes left in the third quarter, he stood on BC’s sideline, helmet off, glaring at a ball spinning between his hands.
Moments earlier, the graduate punter had dropped a snap from Gunner Daniel, and NC State had carried it straight into the endzone. Carlson’s consistency had hit a snag, and down with it went BC’s chance at its first win over a ranked opponent since 2014.
The fumbled snap was the beginning of a collapse for BC, resulting in a 33–7 defeat for the Eagles (4–2, 2–2 Atlantic Coast) at the hands of No. 22 NC State (5–1, 2–0).
“It’s just for me, it’s one game,” BC head coach Jeff Hafley said in his postgame press conference. “It always has been since we started. And we just—we didn’t play well. We didn’t and that’s just the truth. And I don’t want to make anything bigger than that.”
It took NC State just five plays in its first possession to drive 75 yards to the house, aided by a horse collar flag against BC on the first play of the game. The Wolfpack capped the drive off on a 40-yard pass from Devin Leary to Devin Carter, who hauled it in off the back of Elijah Jones and waltzed into the endzone.
BC’s first two offensive plays, on the other hand, went nowhere. But on BC quarterback Dennis Grosel’s third snap of the day—a 3rd-and-9 situation—he sent a screen pass over the middle of Travis Levy, who took it for 27 yards. Four plays later, Pat Garwo III took it 18 yards, including a truck outside the hash marks, to set BC up in scoring position on its first offensive drive. The score ignited a crowd of over 40,000 people in Alumni Stadium.
“When we ran out of the tunnel, that was one of the best atmospheres I’ve seen,” Hafley said. “Students were there. It was loud, and I appreciate that, and I thank them. Our team thanks them. And I don’t want that to get lost.”
With a 6-foot-6 Trae Barry cutting across the middle, Grosel took a drop from the eight-yard line and dished a laser to Barry, who caught it to even the score at seven apiece. Though Barry earned credit for the score, the success of the drive was a testament to BC’s offensive line, which, as it has all season, paved the way for BC’s deep running back corps.
With scores on each of the teams’ opening drives, what looked like a barn burner quickly became a battle of the punters. After Barry’s touchdown, the next five drives for either team ended in punts.
On the sixth drive of that sequence, BC finally mustered an endzone shot, rather than bringing Carlson in to punt it away. But Barry couldn’t haul it in for his second of the night, and Connor Lytton, who hadn’t missed a field goal all season, came in for a chip shot—a chip shot that went wide to the left and left BC without any more points on the board once again.
A 15-play, 6:05 drive set up a short field goal for the Wolfpack as time expired in the first half, sending NC State into the locker room up by three. Jason Maitre nearly put a stop to it at the 11-yard line, as he appeared to cause a fumble that BC recovered, but on official review, it was ruled an incomplete pass, and NC State kicked a field goal just two plays later.
With momentum on its side coming out of the locker room, NC State forced a stop on BC’s half-opening drive, sending Carlson out for what would be his third punt of the night.
His foot never hit the ball, though, as Carlson fumbled the snap before he could get the kick off. NC State’s Devan Boykin picked up the loose ball, and with Carlson still reeling, had no challengers on his trip to the endzone. After a quiet first half, the Wolfpack suddenly held a 17–7 lead.
“These are two turnovers that lead to points, and we couldn’t recover from that,” Hafley said. “That was a 14-point swing, very quickly. Could never get in a rhythm really on offense.”
BC’s woes didn’t stop there, as after a 30-yard catch by tight end Joey Luchetti, Isaiah Moore grabbed a tip-drill interception on the NC State 39-yard line. Seven plays, 61 yards, and just under four minutes later, Leary hit tight end Dylan Parham over the middle to take a commanding 24–7 lead with 7:05 to play in the third quarter.
BC’s defensive effort became no less disastrous on its next trip onto the field, as a short screen pass to Thayer Thomas turned into a 79-yard touchdown run thanks to blown coverage in BC’s secondary.
NC State capped its night with a safety, taking down Peter Stehr as he tried to escape the endzone with 3:39 to play in the game.
Grosel finished with 21-of-39 passing for 194 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, and the Eagles totaled 291 yards of offense compared to NC State’s 381 yards. NC State also gave BC plenty of opportunities, totaling eight penalties for 76 yards, but as was the case all night, BC couldn’t capitalize.
“This team will bounce back and we’ll get better,” Hafley said. “I’m very confident in that.”
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Senior Staff