Previewing 2019 Football: North Carolina State

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After a much-needed bye week following a loss to Louisville in which Boston College football not only lost starting quarterback Anthony Brown but also gave up a program-record 664 total yards, the Eagles (3-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) return home for a matchup with North Carolina State. The Wolfpack (4-2, 1-1) has had an up-and-down season under Dave Doeren but enters as three-point favorites—although ESPN’s FPI pegs BC with a 50.7 percent chance to win.

These narrow margins are befitting of this Atlantic Division matchup. Eagles head coach Steve Addazio and Doeren both got their start at their respective schools in 2013, and have split the six matchups since. Doeren has had the edge in the last two years, with his N.C. State side winning, 17-14, in 2017 and taking last year’s meeting, 28-23.

Who is BC playing?
North Carolina State

When is BC playing?
Saturday, Oct. 19, 12 p.m.

Where is BC playing?
Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

How to Watch:
The game will be aired on ACC’s Regional Sports Networks and locally on NESN.

Series History:

All-time, BC holds a 9-7 advantage, but the Wolfpack has made a dent in that the last two seasons. Last year’s matchup was a particularly frustrating one for Eagles fans to watch, as an AJ Dillon-less team dug itself a 28-3 deficit and a 20-0 run in the second half just wasn’t enough. BC was without its lead back but Ben Glines stepped up to run for 90 yards on 16 carries. He fumbled on the goal line in the fourth quarter, though, and even a blocked punt on the ensuing N.C. State possession wasn’t enough to grind out a win. 

What to expect from N.C. State:

Offense:

Last season, with Ryan Finley leading the way, the Wolfpack ranked eighth nationally in passing offense. Finley departed for the NFL, though, and there has been a significant drop-off at the position. N.C. State has struggled to find a starting quarterback, using Matthew McKay as the starter for the first five games before trading him out for redshirt sophomore Bailey Hockman. Hockman took over from McKay in the loss to Florida State, then threw for 205 yards on 27 attempts without a touchdown or interception against Syracuse. It wasn’t an awe-inspiring performance, and the Wolfpack currently rank 60th in the country in passing offense.

Still, Hockman showed the ability to throw downfield, which McKay struggled with. The go-to target for N.C State—which is hurting from the loss of the talented duo of Jakobi Meyers and Kelvin Harmon—is Emeka Emezie, a junior who was third on the team in receptions last year. Emezie, a big 6-foot-3, 210-pound wideout, has 33 catches for 358 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles’ secondary could have a difficult time in coverage, as Devin Carter (6-foot-4) and Cary Angeline (6-foot-7) are big targets, with the former averaging 14 yards per catch.

The Wolfpack’s rushing offense isn’t necessarily eye-catching either. The departure of Reggie Gallapsy II hurt the position group, as N.C. State has now turned to three running backs—Zonovan Knight, Jordan Houston, and Ricky Person Jr. All three have at least 45 carries, and Knight leads the way with 354 yards and a trio of touchdowns. Knight is a playmaking freshman who mainly runs the ball up the middle, while Houston is used on the edge more and has six receptions out of the backfield.

Overall, N.C. State has struggled to score a lot of points, but it has been efficient when it gets to the red zone. The Wolfpack are 24-of-25 on such attempts, and if the Eagles let Doeren’s team drive and convert on third downs—which has been a problem the last few weeks—N.C. State’s offense could finally have a fine day at the office.

Defense:

The Wolfpack has gotten to four wins largely on the strength of its defense. N.C. State gave up 27 points to a shaky West Virginia side and was stomped to the tune of a 31-13 loss against FSU, but has otherwise been pretty stout. In the last two games, the Wolfpack has recorded an astounding 16 sacks, eight apiece against FSU and Syracuse. Those 16 sacks? More than the number that 103 teams, including BC, have recorded in the entire year. Larrell Murchison leads the conference with eight sacks, and the Wolfpack has no shortage of pass rushers, rotating multiple players through as it keeps quarterbacks uncomfortable. 

The highlight of this group is rushing defense, and while the Wolfpack hasn’t faced any terrific ground attacks, it’s still impressive that it ranks fifth in the country and is holding opponents to less than 70 yards per game. The team is anchored by a tough linebacking corps, with a group that has outplayed their recruiting ranks and rose to the occasion. Louis Acceus leads the way, while Isaiah Moore, Brock Miller, and Payton Wilson round out a talented group. 

Outlook:

If BC is going to become bowl eligible, this is easily one of the more important games on the back half of its schedule. Upsetting the likes of No. 3 Clemson or No. 8 Notre Dame won’t be easy, so the Eagles will likely need to take at least three of four against N.C. State, Syracuse, FSU, and Pittsburgh. 

The Wolfpack beat the Orange last week, so this will be a good barometer for the Eagles’ chances. On paper, the Eagles’ vaunted rushing attack is facing its toughest test, so the duo of Dillon and David Bailey will have to continue to step up in order to take some pressure off backup quarterback Dennis Grosel in his first career start. If Grosel can withstand the pressure and BC’s running game can be established, the Eagles have a much better offense than their visitors and should be able to move past the inevitable defensive breakdowns to grind out a win. If Grosel struggles, though, and the defense hasn’t made any progress since Louisville, it could be a frustrating start to the back half of the season.

Featured Image and Images by Ben McKeown / AP Photo

Bradley Smart
About Bradley Smart 409 Articles
Bradley is the sports editor for The Heights. He believes that America does truly run on Dunkin, baseball teams should always wear stirrups, you can't outrun a bear, and being down 3-1, in anything, is never cause for concern. You can follow him on Twitter @bradleysmart15.