NC State’s Pratt makes a monster sack
Four turnovers, a blocked field goal and a blocked punt for a touchdown.
That’s a fine recipe for disaster.
For “old N.C. State,” there’s no doubt it would have been against Boston College, its inexplicable nemesis.
But for “new N.C. State?” No such problems on Saturday.
This new and improved version of Wolfpack football found a way to overcome its mistakes and bad breaks to beat Boston College 28-23.
Senior Reggie Gallaspy ran for 104 yards, junior Kelvin Harmon burnished his NFL resume with 128 receiving yards and senior linebacker Germaine Pratt led an inspired defensive effort against a BC team missing its best player.
“I definitely think it’s a game we probably would have lost in the past,” said receiver Jakobi Meyers, who led the team with 10 catches. “It shows a lot about the character of this team now.”
Too often recent versions of N.C. State (5-0, 2-0 ACC) found a way to lose games like this, to stumble with a major showdown with Clemson looming. The slightest bad break would have been construed as some sort of cosmic signal from the football gods.
But after the Eagles (4-2, 1-1) did their best to erase a 28-3 lead in the fourth quarter, there was nothing on the N.C. State sideline.
“There was no flinch,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said.
Not even a quiver. N.C. State recovered the onside kick with 3:33 left at the Boston College 46-yard line and then went about its business of grinding out the clock.
Offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz dialed up a surprise pass play on third-and-7 from BC’s 33 when everyone at Carter-Finley Stadium expected a run.
“I thought the play call by Eli was clutch,” Doeren said.
Senior receiver Steph Louis was wide open on the BC sideline and caught the pass from quarterback Ryan Finley (308 yards, two touchdowns) for a 21-yard gain.
Finley got into the “victory” formation and took a knee twice for N.C. State’s first 5-0 start since 2002 and the Wolfpack’s ninth win in 11 ACC games.
The last time N.C. State had that much success in ACC play? Lou Holtz won 14 straight conference games from 1972 to ‘74.
“It’s a great place to be right now,” Doeren said.
From the top-25 finish last year, to Doeren’s new contract, to the NFL draft bonanza and recruiting success and the unbeaten start, everything is coming up Wolfpack.
Doeren lost his previous two home games to Boston College. That 2016 loss to the Eagles, who were on a 12-game ACC losing streak, nearly cost him his job. So he owed BC one (in the least).
The Eagles, who certainly missed Dillon (who was out with an ankle injury), have had a knack (in all sports really), of ruining N.C. State’s big moments.
Maybe they could have again on Saturday after the Eagles cut N.C. State’s lead to 28-16 and forced a three-and-out.
BC’s offense got down the Wolfpack 5-yard line when Ben Glines, who scored a pair of touchdowns and ran for 90 yards in Dillon’s stead, was stood up on a second-down run.
The pile didn’t move for a couple of seconds but the officials never blew the whistle. Pratt, who finished with a team-high 13 tackles, found Glines in the scrum.
“I just ripped the ball right out of his hands,” Pratt said.
There were some tense moments during the replay review. Old N.C. State somehow has that call go against them.
But this is “new N.C. State.” The call stood and even a blocked punt for a touchdown 3 minutes later couldn’t change the outcome.
It is a new world for N.C. State, full of new possibilities.