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Hokies Try Friday Night Lights to Turn the Corner: The Wolfpack visits Lane

It's been five seasons since we have played a game against NC State. The two programs are looking for their first ACC win. Both risk going 0-2 in the conference. There are lots of chips on the poker table for this one. Tech needs to find its 'A' game and bring it. Friday Night Lights in Blacksburg and it's not the High School.

Wild Card - will Brewer Play?  NC State vs Virginia Tech
Wild Card - will Brewer Play? NC State vs Virginia Tech
Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

We have not seen the North Carolina State Wolfpack since their Russell Wilson days.  The last time the Hokies played NC State, October 2, 2010, we were treated to an exciting Tyrod Taylor and special teams engineered comeback win 41-30.  It's been a long time (5 years is a ‘generation' of football players) since these two teams have faced each other.  Too much has changed to compare the efforts, but the contests over the years have been hard fought, and though not of rivalry level, have been exciting viewing.  All in all since 2000, we have faced the Wolfpack four times and won 3.  The loss was a one point squeaker in 2004 at 16-17; no offensive slug fest that game.

Well, for whatever reason probably mostly money, NC State shows up on a Friday night of all things to try to put a dent in this century's win/loss balance.

The North Carolina State Wolfpack

The Wolfpack's record is two games better than Tech's and its offensive numbers look impressive, enough.  There is one small cloud on their past horizon; however.  They have beaten; Troy (FCS), Eastern Kentucky (mid major), ODU (C-USA), and University of South Alabama (new program mid-major).  NC State lost to Louisville last weekend, in a game they didn't play very well.

NC State stepped back a bit offensively against a peer opponent.  Their inability to run the ball on first down definitely affected their game plan, and they are going to look to improve that number against Tech on Friday evening.  Defensively NC State held Louisville to 20 points, and kept the game within reach; but with no real offensive success, they just couldn't make up for the single touchdown/PAT gap at the end.

Let's check out the season's ESPN* offensive statistic grid, to get a feel for what sort of numbers and personnel are starting to rise to the top of the 2015 NC State program:

Passing Statistics

NAME

Complete

Attempts

Yards

Percent

Yards per

TD

INT

Rating

Jacoby Brissett

90

123

992

73.2

8.07

7

0

159.7

Jalan McClendon

8

14

69

57.1

4.93

0

0

98.5

Totals

98

138

1061

71.0

7.69

7

0

152.3

Rushing Statistics

NAME

Carries

Yards

Average

Long

TD

Matthew Dayes

95

522

5.5

77 (TD)

10

Shadrach Thornton

30

203

6.8

39 (TD)

3

Reggie Gallaspy II

28

113

4.0

12 (TD)

2

Jaylen Samuels

12

103

8.6

17

5

Dakwa Nichols

11

53

4.8

14

0

Jacoby Brissett

35

39

1.1

24

1

Johnathan Alston

2

19

9.5

12

0

Nyheim Hines

6

18

3.0

8

0

Jalan McClendon

4

17

4.3

7

0

Brady Bodine

3

3

1.0

4

0

Totals

229

1081

4.7

77

21

Receiving Statistics

NAME

Receptions

Yards

Average

Long

TD

Jaylen Samuels

25

300

12.0

42

4

Jumichael Ramos

15

223

14.9

44

1

Matthew Dayes

18

158

8.8

26

0

Bra'Lon Cherry

9

114

12.7

33

0

Johnathan Alston

7

61

8.7

25

0

David J. Grinnage

4

45

11.3

20

0

Cole Cook

3

34

11.3

12

0

Gavin Locklear

3

33

11.0

15

0

Nyheim Hines

4

29

7.3

12

0

Maurice Morgan

2

21

10.5

15

0

Reggie Gallaspy II

2

19

9.5

21

0

Benson Browne

3

13

4.3

7

2

Maurice Trowell

2

8

4.0

7

0

Stephen Morrison

1

3

3.0

3

0

Totals

98

1061

10.8

44

7

By the first four games, it's obvious that Jacoby Brissett is the lead quarterback with Jaylen Samuels and Jumichael Ramos as his lead wide receivers.  Matthew Dayes looks like a legitimate candidate as a dual threat running back/receiver with respectable numbers for both roles.  Given the first four games level of competition those numbers might be a slightly optimistic extrapolation into the ACC stretch, but numbers are what they are, and the loss and underperformance with Louisville is going to put a certain amount of heat under the Wolfpack offense.

I don't see anything outstanding about the defense, but it looks like it has performed enough to either dominate the opponent, or keep NC State in the game.  It doesn't look as good as Pitt's D and has an opportunity to step up a notch against a struggling Hokie offense.

The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Fighting Gobblers

The Hokies have issues.  That's the polite way to put it, but Virginia Tech is struggling.  Both the offense and defense have had been plagued by injury, lack of depth, and the 2 and 3 record is suddenly becoming a negative feedback loop, in a hurry.

There is just no way to sugar coat it, the offense barely generated a pulse last week against Pitt.  We couldn't run, we couldn't block, and our passing was limited in both patterns and targets. If you take a look at ESPN's cumulative stats to date, and compare them against the totals from last week before the Pitt game, you will be challenged to find any sort of bright spot.  We barely registered a tick up in the run game, and managed just 91 yards passing.  Pitt has a pretty good defense, but NC State is going to be emboldened by the complete lack of any sort of movement on our side of the ball.

Defensively Tech wasn't horrible for the Pitt game, but it had challenges.  We were gashed by both quarterbacks running the ball, and the pass rush just didn't contain or put enough heavy pressure on the Pitt offense to get enough critical stops.  That's not a big hook to hang your hat on.  When the defense comes up with enough leverage to hold the opponent to 17 points, and your offense can't find a way to cross the goal line one more time the whole team suffers.  Tech's O absolutely must play better on Friday, and that leads to the last wildcard we might see for a while.

Michael Brewer has been practicing this week.  He is by far the better quarterback when he's healthy, but it begs the question; "is he healthy enough to play with our predictable game plans and shaky offensive line?"  There is no predicting the outcome; the coaching staff has put the decision off until game time.  Brewer is a tough young man, but loading an entire offense on his back when he's barely out of physical therapy (if he's even released from that, yet) and five weeks from playing a snap is a serious inflection point.  Guess right, and be a hero.  Guess wrong and possibly set back the program for the entire season.

Just to highlight what we are talking about here are the ESPN totals:

Passing Statistics

NAME

Complete

Attempts

Yards

Percent

Yards per

TD

INT

Rating

Brenden Motley

64

112

861

57.1

7.69

7

5

133.4

Dwayne Lawson

3

8

51

37.5

6.38

0

0

91.1

Michael Brewer**

11

16

156

68.8

9.75

2

0

191.9

Totals

79

137

1081

57.7

7.89

9

5

138.3

Numbers before the Pitt Game:

Totals

70

117

990

59.8

8.46

8

2

150.1

** Brewer is practicing this week, but whether or not he plays is supposedly a game day decision.

Rushing Statistics

NAME

Carries

Yards

Average

Long

TD

Travon McMillian

32

223

7.0

63

0

Brenden Motley

62

150

2.4

22

3

Trey Edmunds

36

149

4.1

35

2

J.C. Coleman

37

120

3.2

10

1

Dwayne Lawson

14

55

3.9

10

1

Shai McKenzie

13

50

3.8

11

0

Sam Rogers

10

48

4.8

16

1

Chris Durkin

4

25

6.3

9

0

Isaiah Ford

2

17

8.5

10

0

Michael Brewer

4

0

0.0

6

0

Totals

216

832

3.9

63

8

Numbers before the Pitt Game:

Totals

183

823

4.5

63

8

Receiving Statistics

NAME

Receptions

Yards

Average

Long

TD

Isaiah Ford

24

382

15.9

61

3

Cam Phillips

16

214

13.4

60

1

Bucky Hodges

12

174

14.5

46

2

Ryan Malleck

9

120

13.3

40

2

Sam Rogers

7

89

12.7

51 (TD)

1

Kalvin Cline

1

31

31.0

31

0

Travon McMillian

6

30

5.0

9

0

Brenden Motley

1

13

13.0

13

0

Kevin Asante

1

13

13.0

13

0

Trey Edmunds

1

8

8.0

8

0

Demitri Knowles

1

7

7.0

7

0

Totals

79

1081

13.7

61

9

Numbers before the Pitt Game:

Totals

70

990

14.1

61

8

The IFs and Wrap (some might say ‘rap', but that's a play on words for another day.)

NC State wins IF they get their offense back on track, challenge the Hokie defense under the zone where we have no linebackers to cover, and get their athletic quarterback plays that he can make.  If they can run the ball on first down for something close to schedule, they can control the tempo of the game, and take chances in the gaps in coverage.  Their defense needs to be competent, and put pressure on Tech's offensive line, and make Motley or Brewer uncomfortable.

Tech wins IF the defense can get to the quarterback, stuff the run, and make NC State pass on third and impossible.  (just like they need to do with us, BTW).  The Hokies need to make the Wolfpack make mistakes, over commit, and forget about covering our bigger receivers.  The biggest goal must be to generate offense.  We must move the ball avoid third and long, of course.  However; we absolutely have to have a game plan that uses the personnel that are on the field, and gives them a chance to succeed, instead of fail repeatedly.

Friday is coming fast.  This is going to be a game of teams absolutely needing the win.  The one that needs it more is more likely to walk off the field with the ‘W'.

Sources:

* http://espn.go.com/college-football/team/stats/_/id/152

* http://espn.go.com/college-football/team/stats/_/id/259/virginia-tech-hokies