When Boston College football sprinted into Alumni Stadium on Saturday night, the Eagles were greeted by more than 40,000 students, parents, and alumni belting “I’m Shipping up to Boston” under a maroon and gold fireworks display.
Prior to the game, BC head coach Jeff Hafley asked BC fans to be in the stands at the beginning of the game, citing the energetic student section in BC’s Week Four win over Missouri as a reason for the team’s success. Alumni Stadium was packed as BC (4–2, 0–2 Atlantic Coast) kicked off to No. 22 NC State (5–1, 2–0), but the only things left in the stands when the clock hit zero were crushed beer cans, puddles of rainwater, and shattered dreams of BC’s first win against an AP ranked opponent since 2014.
Both BC and NC State came out swinging on Saturday night. NC State scored on its first drive after a miraculous catch by Wolfpack wide receiver Devin Carter, but BC was quick to answer. With the support of 40,000 strong, the Eagles pushed downfield to even the score at seven.
Attempting to salvage the spirit of its first drive, BC soon found itself marching downfield again in the second half. The Eagles made it to the 14-yard line, where they opted for a field goal on 4th-and-3. When kicker Connor Lytton sent the ball toward the uprights, however, Alumni Stadium went quiet as it went wide. The referee signaled no good, and BC’s momentum was crushed as rain poured down onto players and fans.
The Eagles could never regain the momentum lost by their missed field goal. The first half ended at 10–7, but the damage had been done. The Wolfpack burst into the third quarter aided by a BC fumble returned for a touchdown on the first drive of the half. The Eagles’ next drive resulted in an interception, and NC State kept pushing, as the Eagles made mistake after mistake. NC State scored 21 points in the third quarter to push the score to 31–7, and a safety at the end of the fourth quarter moved the final score to 33–7. Momentum won BC its Week Four home game against Missouri. Three weeks later, momentum—or lack thereof—cost the Eagles an upset and resulted in a crushing defeat.
There was not one thing in particular that cost BC the game on Saturday, but its failure to show any grit on offense was a deciding factor. Before NC State, the Eagles had looked almost unstoppable with the ball in their hands. They had scored an average of 30.83 points per game and showed some consistency in both their ground and air attacks. NC State, however, seemed to have the answer for everything BC threw its way.
BC’s playbook lacked creativity on Saturday, but that was not the only thing keeping the Eagles out of the endzone. BC’s problems started with quarterback Dennis Grosel, who has proved himself able to compete with the best but also capable of breaking down under pressure. The latter was the case Saturday, as Grosel completed just 21-of-39 pass attempts for 197 yards and an interception. His quarterback rating of 40.7 was over 20 points worse than his previous low, although some of his struggles were the result of dropped passes.
Grosel was, however, just the start of BC’s offensive problems. The Eagles burst out of the gate this season with a ground attack as the mainstay of a BC offense that progressed almost entirely through the air last season. Its run game, however, has shown cracks in the last few weeks. The Eagles ran for just 46 yards against Clemson and managed just 97 against NC State—100 in the first half, and three in the second.
BC averaged 236 rushing yards through its first three games of the season but has averaged 66 rush yards per game since the start of conference play. With Phil Jurkovec sidelined with a hand injury, a successful BC run game is necessary to push downfield. The Eagles’ recent struggles by land do not bode well, and unless Pat Garwo III and Alec Sinkfield can replicate their first few weeks of play, BC’s offense will continue to struggle.
BC and NC State both played high-level football through the end of the first half. BC and the Wolfpack totaled 172 yards apiece on offense in the first half, and BC managed to convert four of its seven third downs, while NC State converted on just three of its eight. The Eagles were winning the penalty battle and averaging more yards per play than the Wolfpack through 30 minutes of play.
Where NC State head coach Dave Doeren beat Hafley was in halftime adjustments. The Wolfpack started the second half with a purpose, while the Eagles laid down in defeat.
BC and NC State’s offensive stats through the first half were nearly identical, but their second half performances could not have been more opposite. BC totaled just 119 yards, all through the air. The Eagles rushed for 100 yards in the first half, but NC State’s run defense woke up in the second. Through the second half, BC’s backs combined for a disastrous negative three yards. Although it managed positive yardage, BC’s passing attack barely fared better. Grosel completed 13 of 24 pass attempts for 122 yards while also throwing an interception.
Though they looked bad on paper, BC’s passing and rushing stats were not the worst part of its second half offensive shutdown. Instead, it was the Eagles’ inability to convert on third and fourth down. The Eagles converted 57 percent of third downs in the first half, but this number dropped off to a crushing 11 percent in the third quarter, as the Eagles only converted on one of nine attempts. BC’s fourth down success rate was not very much better, as it managed just one conversion on four attempts.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Senior Staff