The North Carolina State Wolfpack faces an important conference matchup this week as the Boston College football team enters Carter Finely Stadium. After starting off 4-0 with wins over Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, South Florida, and Presbyterian, NC State’s season has taken a drastically different turn. Two weeks ago, the Wolfpack almost took down the No. 1 team in the country, the Florida State Seminoles, even holding a 24-7 lead in the first half, before ultimately falling 56-41. After contending with the Seminoles, NC State was dismantled against Clemson last week, 41-0.
This week against the Eagles, the Wolfpack will look to get back to what has sustained its offensive attack, its rushing game, which is averaging 212.8 yards per game, ranking 32nd in the country. NC State’s offense lost its way last week against Clemson, gaining only 154 total yards, including an abysmal 35 yards through the air on 18 attempts. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett was under pressure all day, surrendering two fumbles on sacks in his worst performance of the season. Brissett, who has had a solid season so far—passing for almost 1400 yards and rushing for almost 200 through six games—drew praise from BC head coach Steve Addazio.
“He [Brissett] reminds me of Jameis Winston,” Addazio said in his Monday press conference. “He’s athletic—he’s got good feet and agility. He’s not a blazer, but he’s a strong runner. He does a great job staying alive and looking to make plays down field. I really am impressed with him.”<
The 6-foot-4, 231-pound dual-threat is familiar with BC’s Tyler Murphy. For two seasons, the pair spent time on the bench as backup quarterbacks at Florida.
“We still talk to this day,” Murphy told ESPN in August. “We talk, if not every day then maybe every other day, just to check up on each other and see how things are going, because it can be a tough transition. And as friends you always want to see your other friend do well, and we both look forward to competing against each other when we do line up and play this year.”
Murphy’s NC State connection is not the only feature of the NC State offense, as it has a two-headed monster at running back in the form of Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes, both of whom yielded similar praise from Addazio.
Facing this multi-faceted Wolfpack offense will challenge the BC defense that has to rebound from its sub-par performance against the Colorado State Rams. The BC defense allowed 6.2 yards per carry against the Rams, a mark that will not get the job done against the offensive ability of the Wolfpack, an offense that is averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
NC State’s defense has allowed an average of 194 rushing yards per game in conference play and will face a BC offense that ranks sixth in the country with 317 yards on the ground per game.
This is perhaps the most significant matchup of the day for the Eagles, whose success this year has been derived from their success with running the football.
In their three wins this season, BC has gained at least 338 yards on the ground in each contest. The most notable of these efforts was their massive upset of the USC Trojans in which their offense amassed a whopping 452 yards rushing.
When the Eagles have been able to consistently run the ball with Murphy, Willis, and Hilliman, they have controlled the game.
The BC offense has been mediocre through the air and establishing the running game is a prerequisite for a successful game. As much as anyone else, Addazio is aware of the potential of NC State’s defense.
“On defense they returned six starters,” Addazio said. “I really think their interior guys are really strong, like [Art] Norman and [Thomas] Teal. They run to the ball well and have a good scheme, so I think they’re a strong football team.”
This front will need to step up for the Wolfpack to be able to combat BC’s offensive game plan.
Both teams are in search of their first conference win and the Eagles will have to do it with a very young team in its first true road test of the season.
“We have to go on the road for the first time this season with a young group,” Addazio said. “We have to handle the crowd and the noise and just everything that comes with being out of your comfort zone on the road. Our challenges are there for us, but we’re looking forward to it and we are excited to play.”
As the Eagles head to Raleigh as slight underdogs, they will look to prove themselves after a disappointing letdown game against Colorado State.
On the opposite sideline, the Wolfpack will look to prove that they are a legitimate team in the ACC, not just a team who beats up on weak, out-of-conference opponents.
Featured Image by Rainier Ehrhardt / AP Photo