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    Tony Haynes: Wolfpack, Eagles Look for the Truth

    By Tony Haynes


    Raleigh, N.C. In the climactic scene from the movie “A Few Good Men,” Jack Nicholson barks to Tom Cruise “you can’t handle the truth!” Chances are, Chuck Amato and Tom O’Brien can handle the truth. The problem is, neither coach knows it yet.


    They’ll likely get a few more answers on Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. when O’Brien’s Boston College Eagles (3-0, 1-0) face off against Amato’s NC State Wolfpack (1-2, 0-0) in a key ACC football game at Carter-Finley Stadium.


    The current truth is that Boston College probably shouldn’t be 3-0. Ranked 20th this week, the Eagles opened by edging Central Michigan on the road before pulling off the first back-to-back double overtime wins in ACC history. They’ve won in spite of the fact that they have a negative turnover margin through three games. They’ve also bucked a trend by winning a game in which they allowed an opponent to pile up more than 500 yards of total offense. With quarterback John Beck passing for 436 yards last week, Brigham Young had 547 total yards, yet still somehow lost to B.C.


    And what’s that age old football adage? The one that says “those missed extra points will come back to haunt you.”


    To this point, the Eagles have survived their kicker’s yips. Ryan Ohliger, who has missed two key extra points the last few weeks, is 4-of-7 on field goal attempts.


    Now to NC State’s truth: the Wolfpack probably should be 2-1 instead of 1-2. After taking a 17-14 lead with just over a minute left in a home game against Akron a few weeks ago, the Wolfpack allowed the zips to zip down the field and score the game-winning touchdown as time expired. NC State helped Akron’s cause by being penalized 15 yards for an excess celebration violation following its go ahead touchdown, a foul that forced John Deraney to kick off from his own 20 yard line instead of the 35. In a game that came down to inches and precious seconds, the penalty made a huge difference.


    Will the real Boston College please stand up? And what are we to make of this NC State team?


    Three games into the 2006 campaign, the Wolfpack is starting over. The theme this week: It’s a new season. The Pack has lost to Akron out of the MAC and last week to Southern Mississippi from Conference USA. This week, however, NC State finally gets the chance to play a team from its own conference.


    “We are not in the MAC conference, nor are we in Conference USA,” said Wolfpack defensive tackle DeMario Pressley. “We’re in the ACC and that’s what we need to focus on right now. We’re 1-2, but we still haven’t played a conference game. We just need to focus on the ACC and strive to be ACC champions.”


    Eight of the Pack’s last nine games will be against ACC opponents, including a tough stretch of three straight contests at home starting with Saturday night’s tilt. NC State’s next three foes Boston College, Florida State and Wake Forest are currently 8-1 between them.


    And adding to the suspense this week is Amato’s decision to make a quarterback change. Daniel Evans, son of former NC State All-American and current Wolfpack Sports Network color analyst Johnny Evans, will make his first college start on the same field where his father had so much success as a quarterback and punter 30 years ago.


    Contributing to the irony will be the names on the back of the jerseys in NC State’s backfield on Saturday night.  The starting quarterback will be Evans. The starter at tailback will be Brown. Sound familiar?


    Thirty years ago, Johnny Evans teamed up with Ted Brown in the Wolfpack’s split-veer option offense. In 2006, the offensive approach is entirely different, but the names will be eerily similar when Daniel Evans and Andre Brown work together. 


    “We’re very aware of what kind of athletes NC State has and that they are a good football team,” said O’Brien, who picked up his 69th career victory to become Boston College’s all-time winningest coach last week. “Their situation is not dissimilar from where we were last year. We had lost two straight games and made a quarterback change when they came to Boston. We have to make sure we’re ready to play a great game because that’s what it’s going to take to give us a chance to win.”


    Boston College did seem to be on the verge of a late-season free fall last November when the Wolfpack traveled to Chestnut Hill. The spark O’Brien was looking for came in the strong right arm of Matt Ryan, who scored a pair of touchdowns in the Eagles’ 30-10 victory over the Pack.


    Since that chilly night in the Boston suburbs, Ryan hasn’t really looked back. Through three games this season, he’s throwing for an average of 297 yards per game, a figure that leads the ACC. He’s also engineering the only offense in the league that’s averaging better than 400 yards per contest.


    “He has confidence in his ability,” Amato said. “He puts the ball on the money. He sees a whole lot and he can throw it; he’s very accurate.”


    But after watching the NC State defense surrender 281 yards rushing to Southern Mississippi last week, O’Brien may be tempted to fall back on his power-football roots and test the Pack’s manhood up front. The average weight of Boston College’s massive offensive line is 306 pounds.


    “I said after that game last week, you think [Southern Mississippi] was physical, wait until this Saturday,” said Wolfpack middle linebacker Pat Lowery, who leads the ACC in tackles with an average of 9.7 per game. “[Boston College] won’t stop running the ball. If they run for four yards every carry, they’ll run it 70 times on Saturday. Like coach [Amato] says, we’ve got to play with lower pads and just be tough.”


    Both teams figured to go through some growing pains on defense after sustaining so many losses following last season. The Wolfpack had to fill the void left by six starters, including first-round NFL Draft picks Mario Williams, Manny Lawson and John McCargo.


    Boston College lost five starters off of its 2005 defensive unit. The biggest and best fish to get away was athletic defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who was a one-man wrecking crew against NC State last year with 3 and sacks and 12 tackles.


    “We lost a lot of kids off of our defense who had played a lot of football for us,” O’Brien said. “We knew that we were going to be young, inexperienced and somewhat immature coming in. We weren’t particularly happy with our tackling against BYU. I think a lot of that had to do with some mental tiredness and physical tiredness after the double-overtime game with Clemson. We have to tackle better. We’re still learning on defense. Things happen out there with all the young kids still seeing things for the first time. We’re still a work in progress but we’ve made plays when we’ve had to make to plays to win games and that’s the best thing we’ve done right now.”


    There are indeed lingering questions for both teams. Can Daniel Evans provide the consistency in the passing game that NC State so desperately needs? Can the Wolfpack’s rebuilt defense put together a strong 60-minute performance against a productive offense? Will Boston College remain a top-25 caliber team if its kicking game remains unpredictable? And how many other teams will carve up the Eagles youthful defensive unit?


    Stay tuned. The truth eventually comes out.


    More NC State B.C. Notes: The first time NC State and Boston College matched up in football, the game was played at Fenway Park back in 1936. The Wolfpack prevailed 12-7. Although no football games are scheduled there, Fenway will be available this October. The two schools met again in 1937. It took 70 years to get to last season’s rematch’....Boston College’s Jeff Smith is No. 1 in the ACC and No. 3 in the nation in kick off returns. The true freshman averages 36.3 yards per return....Wolfpack kicker/punter John Deraney has converted 69 straight extra points. The senior is 7-for-7 this season. Both B.C. and the Wolfpack have been loose with the ball so far. The Eagles have seven turnovers and a turnover margin of -1. NC State’s margin is -7. The Pack has turned the football over 10 times. Receivers Donald Bowens and Jarvis Williams are the only true freshman to see game action for NC State this season.


    Injury Update: After missing the Wolfpack's first three games with a concussion, center Luke Lathan has been cleared for action this week. Lathan worked the entire preseason as the Pack's starting center before sustaining a concussion in the team's final scrimmage. The injury forced center Leroy Harris to move from guard to center. On his weekly radio show on Wednesday, Amato said Lathan probably wouldn't start. Cornerback A.J. Davis, who has missed most of the first three games with a pulled hamstring, is listed as questionable for the B.C. game, while receiver/kick returner Darrell Blackman has been ruled out after spraining the MCL in his right knee last week at Southern Miss.



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