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October 6, 2008

Monday morning quarterbacking: BC

NC State rallied with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to tie Boston College 31-31 with 3:33 remaining, but they were unable to get the stop they needed and senior Chris Crane's quarterback sneak from 13 yards out with 23 seconds left won the game. Here is The Wolfpacker's version of Monday Morning Quarterbacking.

Key moment of the game:

With the game tied at 31-31, Boston College started its last drive at their own 30-yard line with 3:24 left on the clock. Given that Eagles' kicker Steve Aponavicius is not know for his range, BC needed at least 40 yards to even think about a game-winning field goal. That would not be an issue however.

On 2nd and 10, Crane lofted a pass to reserve redshirt freshman tight end Lars Anderson over the top of the defense and he rumbled 36 yards to the NC State 34-yard line before junior safety Clem Johnson ran him down. Two players later on 3rd and 1, freshman running back Montel Harris ran three yards to the 22 and a first down. A pair of Crane rushes later, BC was in the end zone for the game-winner.

Three Things That Worked:

1. Russell Wilson
Simply put, the offense seems to be much more effective when redshirt freshman Russell Wilson is at quarterback. For his second consecutive start, Wilson was impressive. This time he completed 19 of 33 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown. If there were any lingering questions about Wilson's hurt shoulder, he put those doubts to rest with a beautiful pass in stride for 61 yards to sophomore Owen Spencer with 12:11 left in the game that immediately got the Pack back in the contest at 31-24.

2. Discipline
NC State did very little in the game to cost themselves an opportunity to win. The Pack had no turnovers, although they did put it on the ground three times only to have a State player recover all of them. NC State was penalized just once for 11 yards, and that was an iffy pass interference flagged on fifth-year senior Jeremy Gray. Conversely, BC had three turnovers and six penalties for 62 yards.

3. Kickoff returns
True freshman T.J. Graham was a star on kickoff returns, going 60 yards on his first runback and 100 for the score on his second. However, State had other good returns as well. Twice senior safety J.C. Neal took the handoff from Graham on kick returns and ran it back 36 and 19 yards. Johnson once took a short kickoff back 20 yards to the 39-yard line, setting up Wilson's touchdown bomb to Spencer.

Three things that did not work:

1. Pass defense
Boston College coaches Jeff Jagodzinski and Steve Logan both said after the game they decided to be aggressive because that's when they had their most success this year in the second half against Central Florida. They also probably saw South Florida's Matt Grothe carve up State's secondary last week. The result was 428 yards passing for Crane and two touchdowns. It was a rough day for NC State's back seven in coverage.

2. Running the football
To be fair, NC State's coaches probably knew before the game that running the ball was not going to be a huge part of the game plan. Boston College is notorious for being very tough to run against, in large part because of their senior defensive tackle tandem of B.J. Raji and Ron Brace, who rival most interior duos in the country. NC State's running backs ran just seven times for 31 yards.

3. Getting stops
Boston College started the game with a three and out. On its next drive, they faced a 3rd and 9 and was staring at another three and out. Instead, Crane completed a 24-yard pass to junior receiver Rich Gunnell. They would then score a touchdown pass, a 41-yarder to junior Justin Jarvis on a 3rd and 15 play. That would start a pattern. Boston College ended up converting 8 of 16 third downs and 3 of 4 fourth downs, helping them own time of possession 35:07 to 24:46.

Breaking down the position battles:

NC State's OL vs. Boston College's front seven
Boston College has one of the best front sevens NC State will face this year. Overall they were more physical up front, sacking Wilson five times and giving State no reason to think they could run the football on them. Raji in particular was tough to block. He had three sacks and also added a quarterback pressure.

NC State's front seven vs. Boston College's OL
Part of the reason Boston College threw so well was because Crane had a lot of time to throw the ball. NC State had no sacks and just four hurries on 51 pass attempts. They did a better job against the run, holding the foursome of Harris, freshman Josh Haden, sophomore James McCluskey and junior Jeff Smith to 18 carries for 69 yards.

NC State's WR vs. Boston College's DB
The wide receivers seem to be getting a little better each week. Spencer was the star with his 61-yard touchdown among his three catches for 102 yards. Redshirt sophomore Jarvis Williams had a couple of nice grabs among his four catches for 35 yards, and his classmate Darrell Davis finally had his name called with a couple of receptions for 26 yards. Overall it was a nice afternoon for the receivers.

NC State's DB vs. Boston College's WR
Boston College's receivers dominated this matchup. Gunnell alone had 11 catches for 123 yards and a score. Jarvis added five receptions for 74 yards. Senior Brandon Robinson hauled in four receptions for 67 yards. Simply put, for the second straight week, the wide outs got open against the secondary.

Quarterbacks
Both quarterbacks were pretty good. Crane was more spectacular, completing 34 of 51 passes for 428 yards and running 11 times for 42 yards and three touchdowns. He gets the edge since his team beat NC State, but Wilson was good, too, and one thing Wilson didn't do was make mistakes. Crane had two costly turnovers.

Running backs
Neither team's running backs were a focal point of the offense, but if you wanted to grade it, Boston College gets a higher grade, especially since Harris had a couple of nice runs while he was in the game.

Tight ends
Kudos to redshirt freshman George Bryan for a spectacular 20-yard catch and fifth-year senior Anthony Hill had a seven-yarder in his return to the lineup, but Anderson made arguably the play of the game with his 36-yard fourth quarter catch, and he combined with senior Ryan Purvis to make five catches for 85 yards.

Special teams
NC State had the big returns, and they would have won the special teams battle fairly easily had it not been for a well-executed third quarter fake punt by Boston College. Senior linebacker Brian Toal took a direct snap 39 yards from the BC 41 to the NC State 20. The play came at a crucial moment. Boston College led just 21-17 at the time. Boston College would go on to score a touchdown four plays later.




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