Nov. 15, 2013
Thursday Football Notebook
Game 10: NC State Wolfpack at Boston College Eagles
November 16, 2013 • 12:30 p.m.
Chestnut Hill, Mass. • Alumni Stadium (44,500)
TV: RSN | Radio: Wolfpack Sports Network | Live Stats
Game Notes | NC State Twitter | Ask the Analyst
RALEIGH, N.C. - The current college football landscape features a plethora of fast-paced, spread systems that often make offenses look more like video games. On Saturday, however, NC State will be facing an exception to the modern day rule.
By employing a throwback, smash-mouth style of run-first football, Boston College is one win away from bowl eligibility in coach Steve Addazio’s first year on the job. The formula has been simple, yet quite effective: take a talented runner, tuck him behind massive linemen, tight ends and fullbacks, and see if anyone can stop it.
After erupting for a school record 295 yards on 30 carries at New Mexico State last week, Boston College tailback Andre Williams is now the nation’s leading rusher with 1,471 yards.
State knows what’s coming on Saturday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. The question is can the Pack handle the inevitable physical test that awaits?
“We are getting ready for a very physical Boston College football team that maybe has the best back in the country and definitely in our conference,” said NC State head coach Dave Doeren. “Andre Williams leads the league in rushing, carries, yardage and touchdowns. He’s a really, really physical tailback. Coach [Steve] Addazio, is a former o-line coach, and you can see his personality in their run game. They have a lot of powers and counters that lead their schemes.”
In a league that features a few of Marquee quarterbacks, Williams has emerged as one of the ACC’s most unlikely all-star candidates. A 6-0, 227-pound senior, Williams was a mere afterthought last year when he rushed for 604 yards in nine games. But under Addazio, he has flourished, rushing for better than 200 yards three times, and more than 250 yards twice. With an average of 6.0 yards per carry, he has already assembled the seventh most productive season in ACC history.
Williams’ success has allowed Addazio to adopt an old-fashioned philosophy of football that often seems obsolete in this day and age.
“People nowadays seem to be wired into statistics. What I’m wired into is winning,” he said. “The plan to win is play great defense, run the football, score in the red zone, don’t turn the ball over and run it.”
Among other things, the approach has allowed Boston College to limit mistakes. With just nine turnovers in nine games (four interceptions and five fumbles lost), the Eagles own a plus-six turnover margin.
“They kind of try to make it a four quarter football game and let Williams win it,” Doeren said. “That’s their formula.”
Doeren’s hoped for formula for winning this season has been sabotaged by key injuries, untimely turnovers, red zone difficulties and inconsistent quarterback play. In last week’s 38-20 loss at Duke, State outgained the Blue Devils 412-321, won the rushing battle 164-123, and passed for more yardage (248-198).
Duke won on the scoreboard because it scored three non-offensive touchdowns, including a pair of pick-six interceptions by safety Devon Edwards in the fourth quarter.
“Normally in a football game, if you force four turnovers, are 62 percent effective in the run game on first and second downs, run for nearly 200 yards, and return a punt for a touchdown, you would feel like you would win,” said Doeren. “That didn’t happen because we allowed a kickoff return to them and two interceptions returned for touchdowns.”
Doeren rotated both quarterbacks Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas at Duke, with Mitchell taking 44 snaps and Thomas 39. The two of them combined to complete just 39 percent of their throws (13-33) with three interceptions.
Mitchell was announced as the starter on Monday, but that was before he was listed as questionable on Thursday’s injury report.
NC State’s best player on offense in recent games has been sophomore tailback Shadrach Thornton, who has run for over 100 yards in two of his last three games. Averaging 4.7 yards per carry for the season, Thornton has impressed teammates and coaches alike with his determined, relentless effort level, both in games and in practice.
“We love it,” said offensive tackle Joe Thuney. “He runs hard on every play no matter what. He plays hard whether it’s play-action, it’s pass routes or he’s in pass protection. It’s that added enthusiasm that he brings that encourages us to block a little longer.”
With Boston College yielding an average of 164 yards per game, there may be more running room available for Thornton on Saturday. And with NC State’s quarterbacks struggling, the compliment of a strong running game would, at the very least, take some of the pressure off.
And while it sounds like a broken record, the Wolfpack will need to overcome its proclivity to get bogged down in the red zone, a reoccurring theme that has forced the Pack to rely much too heavily on the field goal kicking of Niklas Sade this season.
“Our guys know how close we are,” Doeren said. “In every loss but one, the Florida State game, we were either tied, ahead by a field goal or behind by just a touchdown in the fourth quarter. We just haven’t finished games.”
It would certainly behoove the Wolfpack to carry a lead into the fourth quarter at Boston College, otherwise, the bruising Williams will likely get plenty of opportunities to shorten the game and make it difficult for NC State to stage a comeback.
“The tough thing about him is he gets better as the game goes on,” said Doeren. “You can get a false sense of security that you’re playing him well and then he busts one out on you late in the third quarter and early fourth quarter. Last week, he played his best in the last two drives.”
The Wolfpack Sports Network begins pregame coverage on Saturday with the Mathews Motors Countdown to Kickoff starting at 10:30. In hour number two of the pregame show, former NC State All-American Johnny Evans takes your question on Farm Bureau’s Ask the Analyst. Questions to Johnny about NC State football can be sent through Twitter-@packradio or here.