In a game characterized by kicking woes, it was only natural that it came down to a field goal. But a bad snap, a bad play call, and an even worse attempt at a game-winning drive sealed Boston College football’s fate against No. 23 North Carolina State on Saturday, spoiling another impressive defensive performance in a 17-14 loss.
In the first quarter, both teams traded mistakes, but each were bailed out by their respective defenses. After forcing a three-and-out on the first drive of the game, the Eagles marched down the field behind chunk runs from A.J. Dillon and Anthony Brown. In the red zone, though, BC went to the air, where a pass intended for Kobay White was intercepted in the end zone.
Ryan Finley responded with some clutch throws on third down that brought NC State into field goal range. But following back-to-back penalties, Kyle Bambard’s 54-yard attempt fell a few yards short of the uprights.
On the ensuing drive, the Eagles ran a wild double reverse flea flicker that found Travis Levy for an 18-yard gain. With a mix of trick plays and designed runs for Dillon, the offense was humming—until Brown tried to scramble for a first down and appeared to injure his knee as he made a cut. The redshirt freshman headed to the locker room on crutches and did not return.
On the next play, a 4th-and-1 in the red zone, head coach Steve Addazio called a Jonathan Hilliman jump pass play, akin to Tim Tebow, that couldn’t connect with Chris Garrison in triple coverage, and BC came up empty again.
“It’s feast or famine,” Addazio said of his decision to go for it. “The safety didn’t take the cheese, and it is what it is. That’s directly on me.”
Midway through the second quarter, Dillon finally broke the scoreless tie with an electric 66-yard touchdown run, in the process becoming the program’s all-time freshman rushing leader. He scampered to the end zone untouched, a testament to the hole created by the offensive line, an injury-ridden unit that has improved every week this season.
NC State answered with an 11-play, 87-yard drive, capped off by a Jaylen Samuels touchdown run, to even the score. For the first time all day, the Eagles’ vaunted front-seven looked vulnerable.
When BC tried to respond before halftime, it shot itself in the foot. Wade held the ball for too long in the pocket and Bradley Chubb made him pay. The projected first-round draft pick forced a fumble that gave NC State fantastic field position. The Eagles nearly got away with it, too, when Ty Schwab picked off Finley. But Mike Knoll’s punt was blocked three plays later. The sequence set up a 41-yard field goal and gave the Wolfpack a 10-7 lead entering the locker room.
Two consecutive lengthy drives ate up most of the third quarter, with neither team getting any points to show for them. Dillon continued his ground assault and Wade found some rhythm, too, completing passes to Jeff Smith and Tommy Sweeney. But as soon as they crossed midfield, the drive stalled and NC State’s defense forced a Mike Knoll punt. The Wolfpack, on the other hand, relied on Finley to carry them down to BC’s 20-yard line, where BC’s defense finally forced a big stop. Then, Bambard missed another field goal, this time from 37 yards out. It was NC State’s 17th missed or blocked field goal in the past two years, most in FBS.
After a three-and-out for the Eagles, another Wolfpack miscue gave them life. A failed trick play resulted in a fumbled lateral that Kevin Bletzer scooped up and returned deep into NC State territory. Four plays later, Thadd Smith ran his signature jet sweep into the corner of the end zone and reclaimed a 14-10 lead for BC.
But the Wolfpack went back on top midway through the fourth quarter thanks to a dazzling 50-yard touchdown run by Nyheim Hines. That lead looked to be in jeopardy on the next possession, when Wade found Sweeney for a 20-yard gain and Dillon rumbled his way into field goal range. The game-tying field goal would never be attempted, though, as a bad snap caused a turnover on downs.
With three minutes remaining, the stage was set for a potentially game-winning drive, the likes of which haven’t been seen in Chestnut Hill for years. But the climactic finish never came, as Wade tossed four-straight incompletions and the offense—without Dillon on the field, oddly, for the biggest series of the game—turned the ball over on downs. With zero timeouts remaining, the game was effectively over.
The 17-14 loss denies the Eagles the chance for four-consecutive wins for the first time since 2010, and even the potential opportunity to be ranked. With Brown and Kam Moore injured in the defeat and Landry still questionable, they’ll head into next week’s matchup with lowly UConn hobbled and hopeful.
Featured Image by Keith Carroll / Heights Staff