10/17/2009 - Boston College 52, NC State 20 - 5-2 (3-2 ACC)
Brian: Raise your hand if you saw this coming. Montel Harris rushed for 264 yards and 5 touchdowns - both school records - as the Eagles ran wild over an outmatched NC State defense. The offensive line played well and the Eagles were able to successful utilize the wildcat formation (BC apparently refers to the wildcat formation as the "bazooka") to punish the Wolfpack on the ground. How were Harris and the offensive line able to run wild on an NC State defense that came into the week ranked 4th nationally in rush defense.
Jeff: Well, I did mention to you before the game to not read anything into them having the #4 rushing defense in the country going into the game. Prior to playing the Eagles the Wolfpack hadn't played any teams with a rushing attack other than Pittsburgh. But regardless of who it was against, Montel Harris had a spectacular game and nothing should be taken away from his accomplishments.
The Eagles had nice balanced play calling throughout the first half where the big play was certainly the long Montel Harris wildcat/bazooka run leading to his 2 yard touchdown. Shinskie did not have a spectacular day but he had a good day that could have been very good to great if his targets could've hung on to some of the passes he was throwing to them. NC State had to respect the passing game given what the Eagles proved they could do early on. Also because of the struggles the Wolfpack had been having, they simply could not just play run defense all game. They needed to help their secondary out and as we know the rest is literally BC history.
Brian: You could tell this game meant a lot to Frank Spaziani. Late in the fourth quarter, on fourth and goal from the 6 yard line, Spaz passed up the opportunity to kick the field goal and Dave Shinskie found Billy Flutie in the back of the end zone to stretch the Eagles lead to 52-20. After seeing leads disappear in the Eagles’ home games against Wake Forest and Florida State, you are loving the more aggressive play-calling with the lead, right?
Jeff: I completely disagree that this was aggressive playcalling for the Eagles. In a way, as the announcers alluded to, Spaziani was trying to not run up the score by going for it on 4th down. At the time, we were up 25 points with 6:30 to go. A field goal would've put us up 28 and regardless of what happened against Wake Forest, 4 touchdowns in 6 minutes just was not going to happen. The second half playcalling was still not as aggressive as I would've liked. But in this game it all worked out because the Wolfpack could not stop Montel Harris so running the ball time after time is not something I can get too upset about. Had the game turned out to be a little closer, it would've been the first thing I would've brought up today.
Brian: The game was already beyond reach for NC State and as you suggest, the Eagles continued to pound the ball drive after drive. On the touchdown drive to Flutie, however, the Eagles had run the ball on the previous 12 plays and could have easily run the ball or kicked the field goal. I think there was some urgency for Spaz to make a statement against his old boss and to pick this team up after the embarrassing performance at Virginia Tech.
I think you can look to the opening drive of the second half to show that the Eagles are opening it up more with the lead. Montel Harris rushed for 27 yards on 7 carries, but the Eagles stayed balanced and committed to throwing the ball with Shinskie connecting on passes of 23, 8, 5 and 19.
Jeff: In general though, it would be really nit picky to complain about anything that happened after halftime. Let's pretend the game was only 30 minutes long though. At halftime, when Boston College was up 11, you didn't think the Eagles could pull away. Did you expect the defense to get tired of chasing Russell Wilson around and this game going down to the wire? When are we going to be able to get some pressure on the quarterback early on in the game? What did you see in the first half you didn't like?
Brian: Given this team's recent history at holding second half leads, did anyone really think the Eagles were going to pull away at half time?
I felt that in the first half, this was yet another typical "bend but don't break" Spaziani defensive effort. Russell Wilson was able to move the ball effectively, going 19 of 30 for 187 yards and a rushing towndown in the first half. But when it counted, on third down in the red zone, the Eagles were able to manage stops and hold NC State to two field goals instead of touchdowns. BC held NC State to a mere 2 of 9 on third downs in the first half. I thought the defense did a reasonable job of containing Wilson and making him beat us through the air. Of course I liked our opportunistic defense intercepting Wilson late in the second quarter. We haven't gotten nearly as many turnovers on defense as we did last season and it's always good to see the defense come up big. Looking back on that turnover, that was a huge momentum swing for the Eagles. If the Wolfpack go on to score on that drive, what was an 11 point halftime lead could have very well been 21-21 going into the break.
The one thing I didn't like from the offense was the dropped passes. Shinskie had a good day managing the game, but his final line - 13-of-25, 187 yards, 2 TDs - could have looked a lot better with some additional catches. The other thing I didn't like, at least initially, was the Wildcat offensive playcalls. Through our first six games, we haven't enjoyed hardly any success running the Wildcat/Bazooka. Credit to Tranquill and the offensive line, however, for recognizing a weakness in the NC State defensive line and exploiting it for a career day from Montel Harris.
Jeff, what didn't you like on the day?
Jeff: For a game in which we scored 52 points, we sucked on 3rd down.
Brian: We weren't as effective on third down, true, but we converted on third down more than NC State, which is a testament to a strong defensive performance. We were also converted on a pair of fourth down attempts so it wasn't all bad.
Not to add insult to injury, but as Backing The Pack points out, when Montel Harris wins the ACC's offensive player of the week award this week, he will be the third straight player to win the award while playing opposite the NC State defense. In addition, with the win, Boston College moves to 25-10 since Tom O'Brien left the Heights. In that same time, NC State is 14-18 under O'Brien. Ouch.