CHESTNUT HILL - That age old adage tells us that "defense wins championships," and while Boston College certainly won't be sniffing any sort of championship game in the next few months, the saying proved true again on Saturday.
Leading 14-10 with 4:27 left, the Eagles defense needed to keep N.C. State out of the end zone on their most important drive of the game. N.C. State opened the drive at their own 39 yard line, and BC's defense did bend, surrendering 34 yards in just over three minutes. Yet that didn't matter, as it was the final set of downs that were telling.
Mike Glennon opened with an incomplete pass to Anthony Creecy on first and 10 from the BC 32 yard line. On the next play, Glennon completed a four-yard pass to Creecy, setting up a crucial third down and six at the 28 yard line. After a timeout, Glennon was focred to leave the pocket and was taken down by Kasim Edebali after a one yard game.
It was then that BC's defense made the stop of the game, as defensive end Max Holloway tipped a Glennon pass to bring the drive, and the Wolfpack's chance of winning, to a grinding halt and preserve a 14-10 victory for the Eagles.
"We're obviously very happy to get a victory," said Eagles coach Frank Spaziani. "It wasn't pretty but we did make some plays. A lot of kudos go out to the players and to the coaches for getting them ready to play 60 minutes of football. We made a play at the end and we won. You usually have to play good defense to win and we played good defense today."
The Eagles held N.C. State to 267 total yards on 64 plays and only 47 net yards rushing on 24 carries. In the fourth quarter, N.C. State managed 40 rushing yards on 10 carries and 79 passing yards while controlling the time of possession (12:22 to 2:38), but it was the Eagles' strong stand at the end that gave them the win.
That late defensive surge was led by their star junior linebacker Luke Kuechly, who had nine tackles in the final quarter and finished with 18 tackles for the game, extending his stream of 10 or more tackles to an FBS-leading 32 games.
"He's the boy wonder," Spaziani said of Kuechly. "He's just a great football player. When tings get really tough he rises up. He makes plays and the tougher the situation gets, the better he gets. He's a great football player. I'm proud to be his coach."
Kuechly gave Spaziani and the 33,712 fans in attendance a scare early in the fourth quarter after he went down on a tackle. It was revealed that he suffered an injury to his left elbow, and after the game was wearing an ice pack but said he was feeling fine. His words affirmed his actions, as it was his defensive unit that saved the day in the end.
"I think I started to realize what was going on with where the were trying to tackle us and what they were trying to do. They come out in sets and you figure out this is where I have to go, and then you start figuring out how ou can beat blocks and get to the ball. It took a little while for me to get there, but I was able to get there and figure it out."
Boston College (3-7, 2-5, ACC) scored just two minutes into the game on a five-play, 66-yard drive capped off by a three-yard touchdown run from backup quarterback Josh Bordner on a wildcat run.
"We had a rhythm that we wanted to get into with it and when we wanted to use it," Spaziani said of his decision to play Bordner and insert the wildcat offense. "It's a good weapon to have, but you still want to keep your identity."
N.C. State answered with a field goal on its first drive, with Niklas Sade drilled a 32-yard field goal with 5:22 left in the first quarter. Rettig gave BC its second touchdown of the game on a 17-yard pass to Colin Larmond Jr. with 1:40 remaining before halftime. The Wolfpack tacked on their only touchdown on a three-yard run from halfback James Washington with 7:18 left in the third.
Rettig finished with 118 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception on 9-of-13 passing and Bordner, who did not throw a pass, had six rushes for 21 yards and a score. Andre Williams led the Eagles' rushing attack with 61 net yards on 18 carries, as he was BC's featured back this week.
"It feels good," Williams said about being the feature back. "I love to run the ball from that standpoint. I'm a competitor. I love to get on the field and compete. On the other hand, I love to see the other running backs out there. I want everybody to get their touches because we're all out there bleeding the same blood, sweating the same sweat on the same field, so it's good to see everybody else be able to get their chance."
Glennon has 220 passing yards in the loss and acknowledged BC's strong stand at the end.
"It was that part of the game where we needed to score a touchdown and converted some third downs, maybe a fourth down in there too, things seemed to be going good, but we just didn't finish the drive," he said. "They played good defense. A guy gt his hands on the ball and they had good coverage behind him. It was hard to tell what would have happened with the ball being batted down."
Boston College ends the season with a two-game road trip against Notre Dame and Miami, starting with next Saturday's rivalry game featuring the Battle for the Ireland Trophy against the Fighting Irish.