By blowing an early 10-0 lead that should have been 14-0, the Wolfpack put themselves into a very precarious bowl position.
"We have to win on out to get bowl eligible so we have to keep a confident attitude," freshman running back Andre Brown said after his team jumped ahead on struggling Boston College, only to see the home team, playing on Senior Night, score 30 straight points for an important 30-10 ACC win.
The loss left the Pack 4-5 overall – and needing to beat both Middle Tennessee State and Maryland at home the next two weeks just to become bowl eligible at a shaky 6-5.
"It's a difficult situation for a lot of teams in this league that are sitting in the same boat," said State coach Chuck Amato. "We just have to be concerned about who we play next week and get to 5-5 and then who we play the following week after that to get to 6-5."
With seven ACC teams already bowl eligible after Clemson and Virginia got there yesterday, State, Maryland and North Carolina all still have a chance to qualify. But 6-5 is no guarantee of anything.
After Marcus Stone hit Brian Clark with a 96-yard touchdown pass – the second-longest pass in school history – and State recovered a BC fumble, T.J. Williams dropped a touchdown pass that would have given the Pack a 14-0 lead. It was downhill from there.
"We were up, everybody was happy, but it ended up coming out otherwise," said Clark, who had his fifth touchdown catch of the season.
Stone, making his third start, was running for his life all night.
He was sacked eight times (a ninth was called back for a facemask), ran for his life on several other plays and took hits after other passes. He finished 13-for-31 for 247 yards, the score and a costly interception that led to a BC TD late in the first half. State had just kept the ball on a roughing-the-punter call but the break turned around on the Pack on a Ray Henderson interception and Amato thought his team might be able to move down for a field goal.
The BC sack parade was led by All-American candidate Mathias Kiwanuka, who, apparently finally healthy after the infamous cheap shot he took against Virginia back on Oct. 8, was in on five of them. He had two solos and was largely responsible for three others. He had another called back late because of the facemask.
"Is he a great football player?" said Amato. "There was a point that he took the game over."
Brown, who killed Southern Mississippi and Florida State the past two weeks to the tune of 427 yards and three touchdowns, was held to 12 net yards on 13 carries, injuring a hamstring early. On the other side, BC's L.V. Whitworth ran for a season-high 119 yards and a score on 25 tries.
BC quarterback Matt Ryan, who replaced deposed starter Quinton Porter and made his third start of the season (he was 2-0 when Porter was injured earlier), ran for two touchdowns and threw for another as BC raised its record to 7-3 (4-3 ACC) by ending a two-game losing streak. The seventh win assures BC of going somewhere at bowl time.
Will Blackmon, the former cornerback converted to wide receiver for this, his senior year, caught three passes for 151 yards, including a long of 61 that was called a touchdown until a review ruled his knee down at the State 3.
The Wolfpack struck for 10 points in a span of 3:25 to take apparent control.
After Stone hit Clark with the bomb that probably should have been knocked down by BC's DuJuan Tribble (the BC player mistimed a jump for the ball and Clark caught it and trotted some 45 yards for the score), Manny Lawson sacked Ryan and forced a fumble – recovered by the visitors at the home 34.
But the Williams drop forced the Pack to settle for a 48-yard John Deraney field goal and the 10-0 lead, with 6:48 left in the first quarter. State gained next to nothing the rest of the half as BC rallied for a 17-10 halftime lead. The Pack had allowed the Eagles to get up off the mat and the results were disastrous.
BC dominated the game defensively despite losing sophomore linebacker Brian Toal to a shoulder injury early.
"It's real easy – their defensive line came up and gave our offensive line a pretty good thrashing tonight," Amato said.
Now the Wolfpack must bounce back and win back-to-back home games to become bowl eligible.