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2010 Virginia Tech Football: What to Watch at North Carolina State

Virginia Tech Hokies (2-2, 1-0) at No. 24 NC State Wolfpack (4-0, 1-0)

The Team

  • The Hokies will enter a hornets' nest that I think will be similar to the atmosphere they saw at Georgia Tech last year. Carter-Finley Stadium can be a loud place and they'll be ready when the Hokies come to town.
  • How the players react to that environment, particularly the young defensive players, will tell us a lot about what we can expect from them the rest of the year. I realize I said that last week, but I didn't realize that Alumni Stadium would be as empty as it was last week.
  • I'm torn about this game. It seems like whenever the Hokies have their most doubters is when they rise up and come away with a victory we don't think they can have. But because this is a road game against a team that matches up very well against the Hokies, I just have a bad feeling in general about it. This one could resemble last year's game in Atlanta when the Hokies played well in the second half, but were kept at arms' length by the Jackets.
  • A lot of stats are from

Virginia Tech Offense vs. NC State Defense

  • Quite frankly, there is nothing we have done so far this year on offense to prove to me that we can move the ball consistently against NC State's defense.
  • Our offensive line, which has been an unmitigated disaster thus far, will face an NC State defense very unlike the one it saw in 2009. It's a blitzing, attacking defense that is led by Nate Irving, who was also absent from last year's meeting.
  • Irving, who missed all of last season after a horrifying car accident, returned to his 2008 form against Georgia Tech by racking up a career-high 16 tackles and being a thorn in the side of Joshua Nesbitt for most of the game.
  • NC State's defense will look familiar to Tech fans. New NC State linebackers coach Jon Tenuta has brought a lot of elements from the blitzing style he used at Georgia Tech when he was there under Chan Gailey from 2002-07. It's a defense that Frank Beamer probably described best when he said something along the lines of "either they're going to get you or you're going to get them." Basically, each play has the potential to be a big one for the offense or a drive-killing sack or turnover.
  • This will be Tyrod Taylor's first look at the Tenuta defense. He was injured in 2007, when Sean Glennon went to Atlanta and systematically picked apart the Jackets en route to a 27-3 win. In fact, Glennon's two best games as a Hokie probably came against the Jackets.
  • Glennon combined for 49-for-85 for 635 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in two starts against the Jackets. However, he was sacked 10 times in those two games. The way Glennon was able to succeed in those games was by taking what the defense gave him and hitting short and intermediate passes that turned into bigger gains against and undermanned secondary.
  • Taylor needs to do that this week. With the blitzing from the NC State secondary, deep passes are not going to have much success. We need to work our slot receivers, including Danny Coale and Dyrell Roberts and take advantage of the vacated part of the field.
  • Another thing the blitzing does is help take away from the running game by filling running lanes with NC State's three exceptionally talented linebackers, Irving, Audie Cole and Terrell Manning. Cole might be the most underrated linebacker in the ACC, playing a role similar to Mark Herzlich (and Luke Kuechly in 2009) for the Pack.
  • The Hokies averaged 4.0 ypc against the Jackets in 2007 and 1.6 ypc in 2006. Success on the ground will have to measured in relative terms against NC State. They were great against WCU, UCF and Cincy and held GT well below their season average. Tech needs to be good in key situations, but I don't think it's possible to have a consistent ground game against these NC State linebackers.
  • David Wilson, a smaller, more agile running back, may be able to have more success against the Jackets because he'll be able to get to the line and react more quickly than Darren Evans or a hobbled Ryan Williams.
  • Those key situations will be tough for the Hokies. NC State is the best team in the ACC on third down, allowing opponents to convert on only 25 percent of third downs. The Hokies are seventh in the ACC offensively, converting on 41.9 percent of third downs. Tech has run the ball 25 times on third down and converted 11 of those attempts. Meanwhile, opponents have run on NC State on third down 30 times and have converted seven times.
Virginia Tech Defense vs. NC State Offense
  • Virginia Tech held NC State to 10 points last year in Blacksburg. But when you look at Russell Wilson's stat line, it's not like he was horrible. He was 15-for-26 for 234 yards, a touchdown and an interception. So how did the Hokies stifle the Wolfpack? The same way they have to do it Saturday.
  • Last year, the Hokies forced four turnovers and sacked Wilson five (!) times. So far this season, the Wolfpack haven't been turning the ball over often (four times in four games), but have been giving up sacks (11). They gave up three sacks against GT, UCF and WCU and two against Cincy.
  • Tech needs to get pressure on Wilson, particularly when they bring only four rushers. Steven Friday and Chris Drager played well in the second half against a very good BC OL last week, but had trouble getting pressure in the first half. They've shown they can play do well, the next step is consistency. That's something they'll need against Wilson.
  • The Wolfpack's offensive line has one senior at left tackle and four sophomores. R.J. Mattes, is now the starting right tackle as Mikel Overgaard is out with an injury he suffered about midway through the UCF game. If the Hokies are going to have success, we need the defensive ends to take advantage of the NC State line's inexperience.
  • Bother Wilson doesn't end and just getting pressure on him. He's a short QB (at 5-11, he's two inches shorter than Tyrod), meaning it's important to fill his passing lanes and not allow him to see downfield. Georgia Tech was able to occasionally pressure him, but they were horrible at filling his passing lanes and Wilson picked them apart.
  • Wilson has plenty of friends who are capable of being difference-makers Saturday. The Wolfpack have two freshman running backs who have played well this year in Dean Haynes and Mustafa Greene. Haynes is a speedy back who isn't exactly small, while Greene runs tough and with no fear, best exemplified by his touchdown run against Cincy.
  • The Pack, like the Hokies, are also loaded at wideout. Wilson has five talented, experienced targets in wide receivers Jarvis Williams, Owen Spencer, T.J. Graham and Darrell Davis and tight end George Bryan. Wilson distributes the ball well, as five Pack players already have more than 10 catches this season: Spencer, Williams, Greene, Graham and Bryan.
  • NC State excels on third down, converting on 46.6 percent of third downs (2nd in the ACC). The good news for the Hokies is that third down has been Wilson's worst down when throwing. He's converted on third down on 15 of 37 passing attempts, slightly less that the team's average. He averages 7.1 ypa and has a 132.18 rating on third down, lower than his regular 7.8 ypa and 149.8 rating.
  • That's good for the Hokies, who haven't been great on third down. They're fifth in the ACC on third down, allowing opponents to convert 37.5 percent of the time. But on third down, opposing QBs have a 140.5 rating, much higher than the regular 120.4 rating for opposing QBs. A big key for the Hokies will be stopping NC State on third down and getting the defense off the field.
  • I think the Virginia Tech defense has the ability to at least slow down the so-far high-flying NC State offense. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be enough unless they do something truly special.
Watch the Box Score
  • Turnovers
  • Virginia Tech YPC
  • NC State 3rd Down %
  • Virginia Tech Sacks
Virginia Tech Players to Watch
  • 19 - Danny Coale, Jr., WR
  • 4 - David Wilson, So., RB
  • 2 - Davon Morgan, Sr., ROV
  • 33 - Chris Drager, Jr., DE
NC State Players to Watch
  • 16 - Russell Wilson, Jr., QB
  • 33 - Mustafa Greene, Fr., RB
  • 56 - Nate Irving, Sr., LB
  • 28 - Justin Byers, Jr., CB
Final Score

NC State 21, Virginia Tech 10