Keys To The Game
Help the quarterback: Rotating two quarterbacks in the lineup definitely did not work last weekend. The snaps were almost 50/50 between Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas against Duke, but the team still struggled through the air. After the duo combined to go 13-of-33 passing for 248 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, head coach Dave Doeren has said that this week the job will be Mitchell's to lose.
In his three starts since he returned from injury, the fifth-year senior has completed just 46.6 percent of his throws for 406 yards with one touchdown and six interceptions, while he has added 153 yards and a score on the ground. He does bring a different presence to the lineup than Thomas, but he's going to need some help from his teammates in order to get the passing attack on track.
The offensive line must protect Mitchell and give him time to throw, while the quarterback needs to make the right reads and cut down on his mistakes. The wide receivers are shorthanded without the services of redshirt junior Bryan Underwood, who still leads the team in receiving, so they need a complete effort from the able bodies and must hang on to the ball when they have chances to make plays.
The passing game should also benefit if the Pack is able to continue its emergence on the ground, where it has averaged 188.0 rushing yards per contest over the past three games.
Limit Andre Williams: Boston College's offense is reliant on two players — senior running back Andre Williams and senior wide receiver Alex Amidon. The latter just became the school's all-time leader in receiving yardage when he hauled in a 30-yard touchdown pass on Saturday, but the biggest threat to NC State is Williams.
He is coming off of a school-record 295-yard rushing performance in last weekend's 48-34 win over New Mexico State, and Doeren said earlier this week that he may be the finest back in the ACC, and possibly the entire country.
It's no secret that BC relies on a smash-mouth running game based on the incredible power that Williams runs with. He leads the nation with 1,471 rushing yards, while his 12 rushing touchdowns are tied for seventh in the land.
Control the game: Just as important as it is for NC State to stop the BC run game, it's equally important that its run game continues to thrive like it has in the past three weeks. NC State has actually won the time of possession battle in seven of the first nine games, but six times it was by an advantage of four minutes or less.
More importantly than the actual time of possession is the fact that the Pack controls the tempo of the game. It's extremely likely that this game features a lot of running, but winning the time of possession loses its importance if the team gives up monster plays that allow the opponents to be productive without controlling the ball. If those explosive plays are limited, winning the time of possession battle will be paramount.
Finish drives with touchdowns: The Wolfpack offense has scored just six touchdowns over the last six games, which obviously makes it extremely difficult to win. Meanwhile, Boston College is going to score — the Eagles average 27.0 points per game and have scored at least 24 points in three of five ACC contests so far. NCSU has not scored more than 20 points in a conference tilt this season and is averaging just 15.5 points per game versus ACC competition.
That has to change if State is going to pick up its first win in league play. The Pack offense has scored just six more touchdowns (18) than Williams has on the ground (12) this year. The most obvious area of improvement is in the red zone, where the Pack has scored just 10 touchdowns in 28 chances.
Game outlook: This game could fly by, thanks to both team's reliance on the ground game. NC State has not won in Chestnut Hill, Mass., since the two schools first met in 1936, losing all five road games at Boston College since.
This will mark the Pack's second road trip of the Doeren era that requires the team to board a plane, and they have not done well away from home. NCSU has won just twice in its 10 chances away from Raleigh over the past two years, including a pair of neutral-site games, and has been outscored 362-245 in such contests. State will need a complete team effort to pull this one out and change recent history.
Five Boston College Players To Watch
Senior wide receiver Alex Amidon — The 6-0, 182-pounder has caught 57 passes for 726 yards and four touchdowns this season, while notching three 100-yard games. BC's second-leading pass catcher has only 10 grabs on the season, a total Amidon eclipsed in the season opener when he hauled in 13 receptions for 146 yards and a score against Villanova Aug. 31. Amidon, who had six games in which he had at least 118 receiving yards his junior year, has 171 receptions for 2,494 yards and 14 scores in his career.
Senior defensive end Kasim Edebali — The gifted pass rusher leads the Eagles with 8.5 sacks (tied for third in ACC), 11.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. The 6-3, 246-pound native of Germany also has 43 total stops, three passes broken up and one interception this season. Edebali had seven tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one pass broken up against Virginia Tech Nov. 2. The co-captain has 10 sacks and 142 tackles in 45 games during his career.
Senior outside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis — The 6-1, 225-pounder leads the Eagles with 81 tackles (second in ACC), plus has six tackles for loss, two sacks and one interception, which he returned 33 yards for a touchdown in the win over Virginia Tech this season. Pierre-Louis racked up 18 tackles against Army Oct. 6, surpassing his previous career high of 17 set against Northwestern on Sept. 15, 2012. He has registered at least 10 tackles in three games this season and 13 times total in his BC career. Pierre-Louis has 333 tackles and 18.5 tackles for loss, and has been a four-year starter for the Eagles.
Senior quarterback Chase Rettig — The 6-3, 206-pounder from California has always had a strong arm and potential, but has settled into his role as game manager this season. Rettig has completed 122 of 190 passes for 1,463 yards with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. The four picks are down from the 13 he threw last year. The four-year starter has thrown for 200-plus yards in three games this season, but has proven he can sling it if needed, and has 7,716 passing yards and 49 touchdowns in his career.
Senior running back Andre Williams — The talented Williams burst onto the scene as a freshman, rushing 42 times for 185 yards and a touchdown in a 16-7 win at Syracuse Nov. 27, 2010, but he just never seemed to stay healthy. This year he has, and has responded with 246 carries for 1,471 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. The 6-0, 227-pounder has rushed for more than 200 yards in three games, including 295 yards and two scores on 30 attempts against New Mexico State last Saturday. However, he hasn't caught a pass all season.
Three Matchups To Watch
1. NC State faced a star wide receiver earlier in the season in Wake Forest senior Michael Campanaro, who had 12 catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-13 Demon Deacons win Oct. 5. Senior Alex Amidon is similar for the Eagles, and he will test the Wolfpack secondary on Saturday.
Last year, NC State shut down Amidon, holding him to three catches for 35 yards in a 27-10 victory on Nov. 24, 2012.
NC State redshirt sophomore cornerback Juston Burris and freshman cornerback Jack Tocho will be playing in the Wolfpack's zone defense, but if history is any indication Burris might follow Amidon around the field and focus his attention on him.
2. Boston College and Wake Forest have a lot of similarities, but the Eagles have a better running game with senior Andre Williams. Senior quarterback Chase Rettig is experienced like Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price, but a scrambler. Williams is the running game, and everyone in the stadium will know it Saturday.
Williams rushed for 204 yards against Wake Forest, 263 yards against Army and 295 yards against New Mexico State this past Saturday. He has tallied at least 114 yards in all but two games this season. USC shut him down, holding him to 38 yards on 17 carries, and Clemson had a solid effort in limiting him to 70 yards on 24 carries.
The Eagles have five linemen between 298 and 310 pounds, along with a good-sized fullback and tight end, to pave the way for Williams.
3. NC State sophomore running back Shadrach Thornton is similar in running style to Williams, but about 20 pounds lighter and a bigger factor as a receiver. Thornton will have a good challenge banging pads with BC's starting linebackers — senior middle linebacker Steele Divitto, senior strongside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis and sophomore weakside linebacker Steven Daniels.
The three linebackers are BC's top three tacklers. Pierre-Louis and Divitto are one-two in the ACC with 81 and 80 tackles, respectively, and Daniels had made 64 stops.
Thornton missed the season opener due to suspension, but has emerged the last three games to help him rank No. 9 in the ACC with an average 68.8 rushing yards per game. He has averaged 133 yards per game over the last three, including a career-high 173 against Florida State Oct. 26.
Three Questions With Boston College Head Coach Steve Addazio
Where is the program following the win over New Mexico State?
"We are sitting here at 5-4 right now, with an opportunity to accomplish one of our preseason goals. It's a chance to play at home here and Senior Day. That's a real important day for us.
"What I'm wired into is the plan to win. … Playing to win is play great defense, run the football and score in the red zone. [Also], don't turn the ball over and be able to run it."
What are your impressions of NC State?
"It is obviously a team with a lot of talent on it. [Former coach] Tom O'Brien did a great job recruiting there. And there is talent on that football team. That is a talented football team, make no mistake. Don't be misled by their record. If you watch the tape, you see it.
"On defense, they have some really good players. You start with up front, they have a really strong front seven. That is a strong operation. Up front you have [defensive end] Art Norman and [defensive tackle] Thomas Teal, and both have about five and a half sacks amongst them. Their tackle leader, [Robert] Caldwell, No. 48, their Mike, is a big strong guy."
How is NC State's offense this season?
"Their quarterback situation, Brandon Mitchell was banged up and he's back. The running backs, [Shadrach] Thornton and [Matt] Dayes, are a sophomore and freshman [respectively], they've got a combined eight touchdowns and have rushed for a combined 800 yards.
"Their receivers are pretty good with [Quintin] Payton, [Marquez] Valdes-Scantling and [Rashard] Smith. They have talent on both sides of the ball. They've got a good field goal kicker [Niklas Sade], and he has kicked a 48-yarder, and he has 27 touchbacks."
Three Questions With NC State Head Coach Dave Doeren
What are your expectations of Boston College's physical offense?
"We are getting ready for a very physical Boston College football team that has the best back maybe in the country, definitely in our conference, Andre Williams. He is No. 1 in the league in rushing carries, yardage and touchdowns. He is a really, really physical tailback.
"Coach [Steve] Addazio, a former O-line coach, does a very nice job and you can see his personality in the run game with the power and the counters, and the lead schemes, and multiple long surfaces that you get with extra offensive linemen and tight ends in the game.
"Alex Amidon, the wide receiver for them, is also having a nice year. He is fourth in the league and has 57 catches, and the next guy has 10, the fullback. You kind of know who the two weapons are."
How is Boston College on the defensive side of the ball?
"They are a low penalty team, No. 1 in the league in penalties. Aggressive defensively with a lot of pressures and a lot of looks. Very tall defensive ends, 6-6 and a 6-9 defensive end, so some real long guys up front.
"They have a linebacker that they use as a pass rusher in Kevin Pierre-Louis. He is a very active player on special teams as well."
Is playing Boston College a toughness game?
"Coach Addazio is an offensive line coach and he's a good offensive line coach. He's a good football coach. I think he is playing to the strengths of his team. They aren't trying to throw and are 14th in the ACC in passing offense.
"They have the best tailback in the conference, if not the country. They are feeding him the ball and playing sound football. It's a throwback game from that standpoint."