Notebook: Pack Ready for Boston College

NC State (0-1) returns to the gridiron this weekend against Boston College (1-0). Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

After spending 10 years on the home sideline at Boston College, NC State head coach Tom O'Brien will have a new perspective on Saturday as he returns to stand on the visitor's half of the field. O'Brien served as the Eagles' head coach for a decade - from 1997 until last year. He is the winningest head coach in BC history (75-45), led the Eagles to eight consecutive winning seasons and six consecutive bowl victories (BC won a seventh bowl game last year after O'Brien had come to NC State).

O'Brien's 2004 Boston College squad won the AFCA Academic Achievement Award for posting the nation's highest GPA - his teams won honorable mention seven others times.

Tom O'Brien's 10 years isn't the only connection between Boston College and this year's Wolfpack coaching staff. Four members of the coaching staff played for the Eagles and graduated from Boston College, while 10 members of the coaching/support staff also spent time with the BC football program.

Although the two teams are now conference rivals, NC State and Boston College have played just four times. The meeting in Chestnut Hill in 2005 was the first meeting ever between the two schools in almost 70 years. The Wolfpack and Eagles met in back-to-back years in 1936 and 1937, with the first game being hosted by BC at Boston's Fenway Park, and the second at the old Alumni Stadium.

The Wolfpack won in Fenway, 12-7, and lost the next year, 7-3. For the last two seasons, the two teams have met as conference and divisional rivals. In 2005, the Eagles handled the Wolfpack, 30-10. Last season, the Wolfpack won 17-15 in dramatic fashion with a touchdown pass with eight seconds left on the clock. The 2005 contest was the first meeting between the two teams as members of the same conference. BC handled the Wolfpack in that contest, 30-10, in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Last year's contest with Boston College (Sept. 23, 2006), came to one of the most dramatic conclusions in Wolfpack history. The Eagles came to Carter-Finley Stadium ranked 20th in the AP poll in a visit that was Tom O'Brien's first to NC State since September of 1995 when he was an assistant coach at Virginia.

Daniel Evans made his first career start at quarterback in the contest, completing 12 of 27 passes for 107 yards, no touchdowns and one interception heading into the last 46 seconds of action, with the Wolfpack down 15-10. On that last drive, however, Evans made his mark, driving the Pack down the field before hitting John Dunlap in the corner of the north endzone on a 34-yard throw with just eight seconds remaining on the clock.

Two years ago in Chestnut Hill, NC State jumped out to a 10-0 lead on Boston College thanks to a 96-yard strike from quarterback Marcus Stone to wide receiver Brian Clark, the second longest pass play in school history. Stone, now the Wolfpack's starting tight end, threw for a career-high 247 yards in the loss, but the Eagle defense held tailbacks Andre Brown and Toney Baker to 18 and 12 yards, respectively, on the ground. Stone was sacked eight times, while the highly-ranked Wolfpack defense managed just one sack and allowed 335 total yards, the third highest total allowed in 2005.

The Wolfpack posts a 30-23-1 record in its 54 ACC openers. When NC State opens its conference slate at home, the team posts a 12-11-1 record and is 18-12 when it plays its first league game on the road.

NC State passed for 272 yards in the season opener (207 by Harrison Beck and 65 by Daniel Evans). That passing tally was highest for a Wolfpack squad in 23 games (since a 286 yard total against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 17, 2005).

The Wolfpack's 24 completions was the most since the season opener versus Virginia Tech in 2005 (27).

Six weeks before the season started, the two deepest positions on the 2007 Wolfpack squad were tight end and fullback. Now just one week into the season, that is no longer true, as the Wolfpack has lost its leader receiver from last season AND its leading rusher.

In the last week of July, tight end Anthony Hill underwent reconstructive knee surgery for a torn ACL, just a few days after he was named to the preseason ‘watch' list for the John Mackey Award. On Saturday, just a few days after he was named to the preseason ‘watch' list for the Doak Walker Award, Toney Baker suffered a knee injury that also brought his season to a close. Baker will undergo reconstructive surgery at a later date.

Hill, a senior, was a second-team All-ACC selection in 2006 after leading the Wolfpack in receptions with 45. He ranked fifth in the league with 3.75 receptions per game a year ago and was NC State's most experienced returning player on offense – tallying 1,038 snaps for his career. He has played in 27 career contests and started 20. Baker, a junior, has rushed for 1,272 yards in his career. He has played in 24 career games with a dozen starts, including Saturday's contest.

Fortunately, both players still have a redshirt year remaining and hope to be back in action next season.

The point of most concern on this year's Wolfpack squad is undoubtably the offensive line. Of the 10 players on the two deep, FIVE had never player in a collegiate game heading into the season opener with Central Florida, while another had just seen action in two career contests. Two of those five are true freshmen this year - Jake Vermiglio and Desmond Roberts.

Only four players had ever started a game before Saturday and those four combined for just 38 starts. The 10 players on the two-deep at offensive line had only played in 72 career games combined heading into the opener.

It took the Wolfpack a while - in fact a whole half - to get rolling in the season opener, but hopefully the momentum of Saturday's second half performance against Central Florida will carry over to the game at Chestnut Hill.

NC State was sluggish on both sides of the ball in the first half on Saturday, allowing 25 points while scoring three, rushing for -14 yards while giving up 169 and tallying just 62 yards in total offense. After the break, however, the State offense tallied 295 yards, while the defense allowed just 38 total yards (just seven yards in the third quarter!).

The most important stat, however, was that NC State scored 23 unanswered points in the second half. The Wolfpack ended up with 357 total yards to Central Florida's 299.

Prior to Saturday's game versus Central Florida, the Wolfpack coaching staff had planned to play backup quarterback Harrison Beck in the second quarter. He got the nod at the 4:05 mark with NC State down 22-3 and moved the offense nine yards before falling short on a 4th-and-1 play. UCF got the ball back and drove for a field goal putting the score at 25-3 at the halftime break.

In the second half, however, Beck settled down and led the Pack to 23 unanswered points. He threw 16-26 (.615) for 195 yards and two TDs in the half (his one interception was on his last pass of the game) and drove State down to the UCF 40 before the clock ran out.

The game marked Beck's first ever in action in the red and white and his first of any kind since the 2005 season, when he played in two games (Kansas State and Colorado) for Nebraska. Beck is listed as the starter for Saturday's contest at Boston College.

Only one true freshman saw action in the season opener - wide receiver Owen Spencer. And although Spencer is listed as a true freshman in eligibility, he has been with the team since January and had the advantage over other rookies of going through spring drills.

Although Spencer was the only freshman to play, three other newcomers did play. Steven Hauschka, who graduated from Middlebury College and came to NC State for graduate school and his final year of eligibility, started at placekicker. Two junior college transfers also saw action. R.J. Armstrong played two snaps at tight end, while Antoine Holmes, was in for a dozen snaps at right defensive end.

Three true freshman are listed on the two-deep, but did not see action in the season opener: Jake Vermiglio (left offensive tackle), Desmond Roberts (right offensive tackle) and Markus Kuhn (defensive left tackle).

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