CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — "We have to grow up," N.C. State football coach Tom O'Brien seethed after watching his Wolfpack suffer a frustrating 14-10 loss at Boston College on Saturday afternoon.
Time is running out, however.
Any momentum generated by N.C. State's satisfying victory over North Carolina the week prior wafted away in the crisp New England air as the Wolfpack dropped to 5-5 overall and 2-4 in the ACC. Boston College, which lost home games to Duke and Wake Forest this season, improved to 3-7, 2-5.
Because N.C. State has two wins this season over FCS schools, the Wolfpack will have to beat Clemson and Maryland over the next two weeks to reach seven wins and qualify for a bowl invitation. Both games are in Carter-Finley Stadium, and O'Brien and his team know they could have put themselves in much more favorable position with a win against the struggling Eagles.
"We have to win out; our backs are against the wall," O'Brien lamented. "We just stopped ourselves today."
N.C. State's final two drives were especially galling.
Trailing by four with 13 minutes, 32 seconds left, quarterback Mike Glennon directed the Wolfpack from its own 18 to a first-and-10 at the BC 23. At that point Glennon, who completed 28 of 40 attempts for 220 yards, misfired on a throw to T.J. Graham. BC's Donnie Fletcher made the interception while falling on his back in the end zone.
"That was a bad ball by me," Glennon said. "T.J. ran a good route and I missed him."
O'Brien said simply, "The ball needed to be thrown to the outside. That's where the receiver was."
After N.C. State's defense forced a three-and-out, Glennon and the offense got one final opportunity with 4:27 to go. The Wolfpack started at its own 39 with three timeouts and began pecking its way downfield. Glennon kept the drive alive at one point on a fourth-and-5 by connecting with tight end George Bryan for an 11-yard completion to the BC 45.
A few plays later, a 12-yard pass to Mario Carter gave NCSU a first down at the BC 32 with plenty of time left on the clock. But then the drive stalled. On fourth-and-5 from the 27, Glennon's pass toward the left flank was batted down by BC defensive end Max Holloway with 1:10 to play. BC ran out the clock from there.
"We knew we had to score a touchdown," Glennon said of N.C. State's final drive. "Things seemed to be going good for us, but we didn't finish the job."
Bryan added, "The kid (Holloway) made a great play on the ball. Credit to them."
That inability to finish the job on offense offset a remarkable effort by N.C. State's defense in the second half. After allowing the Eagles to roll up 192 yards en route to a 14-3 lead at the half, the Wolfpack held BC to minus 2 yards in the second half.
That wasn't much consolation for O'Brien, though.
"We have to grow up," he said. "It's a sign of immaturity in a lot of respects. You had a chance to do something and weren't able to do it.
"We are playing with basically two seniors on defense and three seniors on offense. We have to generate leadership from somewhere else on this football team. We have to play consistent from week in and week out. You can't just play a half. We played a half of football today."
N.C. State's eight penalties for 56 yards were evidence of overall issues, according to O'Brien.
"We're usually pretty good with penalties, but that's another sign of us panicking," he said. "Guys were pressing."
BC struck for touchdowns in the first and second quarters, the first on a 3-yard run by backup quarterback Josh Bordner and the second on a 17-yard scoring pass from Chase Rettig to Colin Larmond with 1:40 to go in the half. Those were sandwiched around a 32-yard field goal by State's Niklas Sade.
The Wolfpack's lone touchdown came at the 7:18 mark of the third quarter, a 3-yard run by James Washington. The key play of the 63-yard drive was a 32-yard pass from Glennon to Quintin Payton, down to the BC 6.
Up next for N.C. State is Clemson.
"We have a huge task in front of us," Bryan acknowledged.