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To put it succinctly, the battle between N.C. State and Boston College on Saturday will be decided in the trenches. That applies to both sides of the ball.
The annual matchup between the Wolfpack and the Eagles usually is determined by who wins the battle up front. In Dave Doeren’s first season at N.C. State in 2013, his team traveled to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and was trampled by an astounding 339-yard rushing effort from Andre Williams as Boston College won the game comfortably.
Last season it was Reggie Gallaspy II and Ricky Person combining for 196 of N.C. State’s 225 total rushing yards as the Pack held off the Eagles, 28-23, at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“I think you have a similar mindset between the two teams and we respect them a lot,” N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren said. “In talking with (Boston College head coach) Steve (Addazio), I think both of us really respect line of scrimmage play.”
N.C. State will be without Person on Saturday but the Wolfpack will have Southern Nash High alum Zonovan Knight and freshman Jordan Houston. The duo has combined for 634 yards rushing this season and each player averages at least five yards per carry.
The Eagles have size up front defensively once again this season, but it is not quite as experienced as the seasons past.
“They’ve had some elite defensive players the last couple of years, guys drafted in the first and second round (of the NFL draft), and now they are kind of like how we were a couple of years ago when we replaced guys.” Doeren explained. “They have a younger group in there. Not to take anything away from their talent, but they are not as experienced as they were before. It seems their D-line was together for three years in a row so you have new faces, but their body types are still big. They have a lot of mass in the box.”
Conversely, N.C. State’s defensive line will have to deal with a solid offensive front that Addazio has put together. The Eagles have allowed only three sacks this season.
“Our guys know and we respect them up front,” Doeren said. “We know it’s a battle. This is an old-school game in the trenches, but there’s no doubt they are good at running the football, we are good at stopping the run. They are good at protecting the quarterback. We’ve been good at sacking the quarterback.”
Meanwhile the Pack has sacked the opposing quarterback 16 times in 2019, led by Larrell Murchison’s seven. The Elizabethtown native has the most sacks in the conference despite playing defensive tackle.
“We’re all having fun as a team,” Murchison said. “When one person makes a play, we’re not selfish. We’re not saying, ‘Aw, I wish I’d gotten it.’ We’re like, ‘Let’s go. Next person up.’ We’re having a lot of fun right now, and I feel like we’ve got to continue to have fun.”
It may not have the allure of N.C. State’s annual matchups with North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State or even Wake Forest but when the Pack lines up against Boston College the expectation is there will be some good hard-nosed football.
“They are good at taking away the football, we’ve been good at protecting,” Doeren said. “There’s a lot of things at play where you have strength on strength.
“We are playing a really good football team in Boston College who is coming off their bye week. Boston College has had two losses recently by a total of five points. They are one of the top teams in the country in creating explosive plays. They are 13th nationally with 19 plays of over 30 yards.”
Rob McLamb of Inside Pack Sports has covered N.C. State athletics and recruiting since 2012. You can follow him on Twitter @RobMcLamb.