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Virginia Tech football: 5 takeaways from Hokies’ disappointing loss to N.C. State

The Hokies didn’t show life until it was too late.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Virginia Tech Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Tech Hokies dropped to 5-6 (4-3 in ACC play) after Saturday’s 35-28 loss to the N.C. State Wolfpack. After the game started slowly for both offenses, the Wolfpack’s offense opened up in the second quarter, as freshman wide receiver/running back KC Concepcion became a headache for Tech’s defense.

Concepcion caught seven passes for 63 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 44 yards on nine carries. Concepcion even had a 17-yard touchdown pass. Former Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong had a stellar day, rushing for 89 yards and two touchdowns while passing for 203 yards and two scores.

Virginia Tech’s defense struggled to get stops until late in the game. At this point, it was too late. Quarterback Kyron Drones completed 17 of 30 passes for 225 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Replay officials should’ve overturned the interception.

Here are five takeaways from Sunday’s loss.

Hokies fail to show up for 2nd time in 3 weeks

The Hokies had massive opportunities in front of them in two of their past three games. First, it was against Louisville. Tech responded with a 34-3 loss. No one doubted the Cardinals were a better team, but that was two steps backward after a promising stretch. On Saturday, it was another sluggish start for the Hokies. While playing for an appearance in the ACC title game was out of reach as the game began, Tech was still trying to become bowl-eligible by winning its sixth game. The Hokies were flat — that’s on coaching.

Virginia Tech wasn’t playing a team with a significant edge in talent. While you could argue N.C. State has the talent edge; it’s close. And while the game ended with a seven-point loss, if you watched the first three quarters, this game looked like a blowout.

Defensive coordinator Chris Marve

Full disclosure: We know the Hokies still have some talent issues on defense. OK, now let’s talk about defensive coordinator Chris Marve. Virginia Tech fans love to blame the offensive coordinator for everything, and it doesn’t matter who that offensive coordinator is. During Justin Fuente’s years, Tech had arguably the worst offensive coordinator in college football. That’s a fact. For years, the Hokies never had to worry about pointing fingers at the defensive coordinator because they had the legendary Bud Foster.

Under head coach Brent Pry, he has two inexperienced coordinators in Tyler Bowen (offense) and Chris Marve (defense). Bowen has been a popular target of fans over the past two seasons. On some occasions, that has been justified. But Bowen has looked much better since Kyron Drones took over at quarterback. Yet, regardless of what the defense does — good or bad — we don’t hear the same criticisms of Marve.

That’s not fair. If you’re going to call out Bowen, you should do the same with Marve. One of VT’s biggest issues all season has been poor run fits by the linebackers. We are 11 games in and that hasn’t changed. That’s on coaching. Not only is Marve the defensive coordinator, he coaches linebackers and played linebacker. Fix this issue or play walk-ons. Do something. Anything.

N.C. State entered Saturday’s game No. 106 in total offense. That’s bad. While Concepcion looks like a future star, the Wolfpack had benched Armstrong, and he recently returned to the lineup only after MJ Morris decided to sit out the remainder of the season. To look this bad against this offense is a reflection of the coaching staff. The Hokies had no answers defensively until it was too late. That touchdown at the end of the first half was embarrassing and inexcusable.

We aren’t calling for anyone’s job, just stating the obvious. The defense needs to play better. And if you want to point fingers at Bowen for everything without knowing the circumstances of some of his decisions, you should do the same for Marve.

Why didn’t Brent Pry challenge that interception?

It was late in the fourth quarter, and the Hokies were driving. Drones was intercepted in N.C. State territory. It looked to be an excellent play from the defensive back. However, upon further review, it was not an interception.

Let’s set the scene: The Hokies had the ball at midfield with four minutes left and all three timeouts remaining. The offense was on a bit of a roll. At the time of the interception, Tech trailed 35-21. After the turnover, the defense forced a three-and-out but had to call two of their timeouts. When they got the ball back, Drones led the Hokies on a quick four-play, 56-yard drive that took only 1:11 off the clock.

Unfortunately for the Hokies, they had only one timeout left with 1:25 remaining in the game.

So, about that interception, why didn’t Pry challenge it? Call a timeout, talk to the officials, do something. But you need to ensure that the officials review that play whether it gets overturned or not. It should’ve been overturned, but we’ve all seen officials choose not to reverse some obvious mistakes.

Who knows what would have happened? The Hokies still may lose, but there would have been more time on the clock. Of course, there is no guarantee they score on the drive in which Drones was intercepted. But we’ll never know. That’s a mistake by Pry.

The lack of Tuten

How does running back Bhayshul Tuten finish with two touches on offense? Yeah, we are calling you out on this one, Coach Bowen. Tuten is one of the ACC’s top running backs. Yes, we know N.C. State dominated time of possession, and the Hokies almost exclusively threw the ball in the second half, but Tuten has proven to be an excellent receiver, too. He did have an outstanding kick return to set up a touchdown.

No one expected Tuten to have 20 rushing attempts in that game. The flow of the game dictated otherwise, but you find ways to get him involved.

More Holloway and Turner-Bradshaw, please

Offensive playmakers haven’t been an issue for the Hokies. Tech has some good ones in Jaylin Lane, Quan Felton, Dae’Quan Wright, the Gosnell brothers, Tuten and Malachi Thomas. But Hokie fans got a glimpse of redshirt freshman Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw’s blazing speed on his 47-yard touchdown run. We need to see more of that.

While you don’t need to sit Felton, Lane, or Stephen Gosnell at wide receiver for extended periods, you need to find a way to get Turner-Bradshaw some touches. Make the defense account for his presence on the field. If anyone watched him in high school, they’d know Turner-Bradshaw is a legit playmaker.

Also, let’s see more Tucker Holloway. We know he’s an electric punt returner. But as he proved on his lone reception Saturday, he can make plays on offense, too. There are ways to get these guys on offense without taking time away from the starters. Additionally, you can line up Turner-Bradshaw all across the formation and he could be lethal from the slot.