First-year place kicker Connor Lytton missed a 32-yard field goal. Graduate punter Grant Carlson muffed a snap. And true freshman wideout Jaden Williams dropped three passes, one of which resulted in an interception.
Boston College’s secret weapons, both young and old, were off their game Saturday night under the lights of a packed yet wet Alumni Stadium, and it cost the Eagles.
BC was in position to take a 10-7 lead in the second quarter. Instead, the Wolfpack finished the half with a field goal of its own. It was the first of four consecutive N.C. State scores that saw the Wolfpack stake itself to a 31-7 advantage and spoil BC’s Homecoming Weekend.
N.C. State added insult to injury in the fourth quarter with a safety and secured a 33-7 win, extending BC’s losing streak to AP-ranked opponents to 22 games.
Rather than storming the field, BC (4-2, 0-2 ACC) was hit with a terrible storm of drops, fumbles, non-fumbles and poor kicks. At first, however, BC was playing a game Eagles fans have become accustomed to watching during the first two years of the Jeff Hafley era.
Just like BC did against Missouri and Clemson, the Eagles responded to N.C. State (5-1, 2-0) throwing the first punch. Following a circus-like, 40-yard touchdown reception by Wolfpack wide receiver Devin Carter, who caught the ball behind the back of BC’s Elijah Jones, the Eagles strung together a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive.
Grosel completed 4-of-6 passes during the series, Pat Garwo III was barreling over the Wolfpack defense and Trae Barry hauled in an eight-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
“That’s a big answer,” Grosel said. “That’s a big drive to come back and even the score again. And then be able to settle into the game and not let it get out of control early.”
After forcing a three-and-out, the Eagles moved the ball pretty well on their second drive, too. Garwo had the Wolfpack shaking in its boots, and BC’s offensive line—even with Jack Conley in for Tyler Vrabel (knee)—was getting a great push up front against N.C. State’s top-ranked ACC rushing defense.
BC converted its first three third downs, which was impressive considering Dave Doeren’s Wolfpack entered the week tied for second in the FBS in opponent third-down conversion rate (23.9%).
Even so, the Eagles stalled near midfield, and Carlson trotted out to boot a 44-yard punt that BC cornerback Brandon Sebastian downed at the one. It was Carlson’s best play of the night, yet, despite another N.C. State three-and-out, the Eagles couldn’t do anything with good field position on their ensuing drive.
The teams continued to trade punts until Grosel piloted another 10-play drive midway through the second quarter. It was anchored by back-to-back 15-plus yard runs from tailback Alec Sinkfield. Patient running from the West Virginia transfer vaulted the Eagles into N.C. State territory.
From there, Grosel hit Jaelen Gill (five catches, 71 yards)—one of BC’s few bright spots Saturday night—on a slant for a gain of 10 yards. Shortly after, the redshirt senior quarterback drew a roughing the passer penalty. Grosel almost hooked up with Barry in the red zone for a second time, but Wolfpack freshman nickelback Devan Boykin got a hand in to jar the touch pass loose from the Eagles’ big tight end.
To make matters worse for BC, Lytton missed the short field goal, squandering an efficient drive. And then N.C. State came right back and marched downfield, in large thanks to a pair of receptions from H-Back Christopher Toudle and a critical 4th-and-1 conversion from running back Zonovan Knight.
But before the Wolfpack tied off the series with a Christopher Dunn field goal, there was the most controversial call of the game. On 2nd-and-10 from BC’s 11-yard line, N.C. State quarterback Devin Leary, who finished with 251 yards and three scores, fired a pass to his favorite target, Emeka Emezie. The 6-foot-3 senior reeled in the pass and appeared to take a few steps forward before being leveled by BC safety Jason Maitre and losing the ball.
It looked as if Emezie had made a “football move,” however, the officials ruled that he had bobbled the catch and, therefore, it was an incomplete pass. That allowed Christopher Dunn to drill a 27-yard field goal before intermission.
It was the beginning of the end for a BC team that, three weeks ago, started 4-0 for the first time since 2007.
Carlson fumbled the snap on the Eagles’ first punt of the second half, and Boykin was there to scoop it up and return it for a 34-yard touchdown that silenced the crowd of 40,349 people in Alumni Stadium.
Grosel kicked off the next drive with a 30-yard completion to tight end Joey Luchetti, but it was quickly forgotten after Williams dropped his third pass, which hit off his hands and landed in the arms of N.C. State linebacker Isaiah Moore.
The Wolfpack capitalized, going 61 yards in seven plays, the last of which featured a four-yard Leary touchdown pass to tight end Dylan Parham, giving N.C. State a 24-7 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.”
BC went three-and-out on its next drive. Grosel wanted to keep the offense on the field on a 4th-and-2 from the Eagles’ own 33-yard line, but Hafley elected to punt.
Three plays from scrimmage later, Leary connected with Thayer Thomas for a 79-yard, catch-and-run touchdown. Maitre tried to make a play on the ball, couldn’t get there in time and Thomas had a sea of green in front of him after making the reception.
Aside from a few chunk completions to Gill, Grosel and the Eagles could hardly do anything offensively from that point forward. BC mustered just 119 yards of total offense in the second half and -3 rushing yards.
“I thought we had one of the better gameplans coming into this week than we had all year,” Grosel said. “I was really confident in that. It showed in the first couple drives in the first half. … It’s tough to keep your gameplan going when you’re down that amount, that quickly.”
Meanwhile, N.C. State did all it could to milk the clock as BC’s once-electric crowd vanished, and the rain began to come down harder. Eventually, the Eagles put in backup quarterback Daelen Menard, but he didn’t throw a pass.
All he did was hand the ball off to Peter Stehr on BC’s own 2-yard line and watch the reserve running back get stuffed in the end zone for a safety.
It was a fitting ending to a 26-point, sobering defeat for the Eagles, who have now lost two straight. Hafley said that Saturday night’s game reminded him of BC’s 40-14 loss to a ranked Virginia Tech team last year. It was another mid-October embarrassment in primetime, where Murphy’s Law was in play: If anything can go wrong, it will.
Hafley said he also remembers how BC came back from that, though. And that was with three wins and two other valiant efforts against No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Notre Dame.
“This team will bounce back and we’ll get better,” Hafley said. “I’m very confident in that.”
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