by Joe Schwartz
TV/ABC11 - Due to the late-running, and excruciatingly slow-developing Texas-Oklahoma contest, today's N.C. State-Boston College matchup wasn't available on local channels until the 3:15 to go mark in the first quarter. Most folks, Wolfpack fans included, probably wish the game stayed that way, as N.C. State went down 52-20 at Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Viewers were greated by a 59-yard Dave Shinksie touchdown lob to Colin Larmond Jr., the first images ABC provided after waiting for the Red River Shootout to end. Wolfpack freshman cornerback Rashard Smith was beat on the play. After running step-for-step with Larmond, he misjudged the ball's flight, jumped and spun helplessly out of bounds. Larmond offered a salute to the camera, a harbinger of things to come.
This was an N.C. State defense that had been torched for 840 passing yards in the last two games, both ACC loses, and stopping the throwing game was an emphasis all week. Surprisingly though, it wasn't Boston College's aerial prowess that decided the game. Perhaps anticipating that N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien would have stressed laying back in coverage to his team, BC offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill went to the wildcat offense, which frustrated N.C. State would-be tacklers all day. When the dust settled, sophomore running back Montel Harris had a school record 264 yards on the ground and five touchdowns, also a record.
N.C. State offensive coordinator Mike Archer now is left with a defense vulnerable both by air and ground, an achilles heal for a team that's opened conference play 0-3. The unit was among the nation leaders in total defense after holding South Carolina to a single touchdown in the season opener and dominating against two Football Championship Subdivision opponents. That all seems distant now for a team that's given up an average of 40.5 points in the four games since.
Also faint is the memory of Russell Wilson's record interception free streak, which ended at 379 in the ACC opener against Wake Forest. The sophomore, who's the Wolpack's most prolific man under center since Philip Rivers, now has been picked off four times in three games, and he probably should have been intercepted several more times in this contest.
It's all unraveling for the Wolfpack (3-4, 0-3 ACC), who now must win four of five to make a bowl game, as only one win against FCS Gardner Webb and Murray State counts toward eligibility. With trips to Florida State and Virginia Tech left on that schedule, that's improbable at this point. This team has done it before, but bowl talk will be the last of O'Brien's concerns as the Wolfpack regroups on the bye week. As for now, the question has got to be if they'll win another game at all.