Monday morning quarterbacking: Virginia Tech

NC State jumped out to a 17-0 lead, but Virginia Tech slowly rallied and eventually took a 28-27 lead in the fourth quarter. Fifth-year senior kicker Josh Czajkowski’s 42-yard field goal gave State a 30-28 advantage with 4:42 left, but the Hokies prevailed with two late touchdowns for a 41-30 win. Now it's time for some Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
Key moment of the game:
The key stretch of the game may have started when redshirt sophomore left guard Andrew Wallace left the game with an apparent leg injury late in the fourth quarter. NC State faced first and 10 at the Virginia Tech 23 when Wallace’s replacement, redshirt freshman Duran Christophe, was flagged for holding. State had a first and 20 at the 33. After a pair of incomplete passes, redshirt junior quarterback Russell Wilson connected with redshirt junior receiver Jay Smith for an 8-yard pass to the 24, setting up Czajkowski’s field goal.
Virginia Tech then made all the winning plays at that point. The Hokies went 76 yards in seven plays, including senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s 12-yard scramble on third and three at the Virginia Tech 47, and Taylor’s 39-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass to junior receiver Jarrett Boykin for the game-winning touchdown.
NC State started its next drive at their own 11 with 1:19 left, but Wilson was intercepted at the 48 on the first play by sophomore corner Jayron Hosley. Hosley’s third pick of the game sealed Virginia Tech’s win.
Three things that worked:
1. Starting strong
NC State had Virginia Tech on their heels for much of the first half. NC State jumped out to a 17-0 lead and dominated the action for most of the first 30 minutes. At the end of the first quarter NC State had outgained Virginia Tech 154 to 62, and at halftime those numbers were 299 to 187.
2. Moving the football
This is the third straight week we have mentioned this as something that worked for NC State. This week NC State’s offense was not nearly as efficient or pretty marching up and down the field, but they still piled up 507 yards of total offense. The Pack also had 24 first downs.
3. New punter
Junior Andy Leffler wasn’t pretty punting at times, but he was effective. He never got his punt blocked, and ended up averaging a pretty good 43.0 yards per boot in his four punts, including a long of 56 yards and two inside the 20-yard line.
Three things that did not work:
1. Defending the run
The numbers are not pretty. Virginia Tech ran 37 times for 317 yards and two touchdowns. That is an average of 8.6 yards per carry. Some will say Taylor’s scrambling inflated those numbers, especially his 71-yard scamper, but the combination of junior Darren Evans and sophomore David Wilson ran 21 times for 196 yards. Evans himself ran 15 times for 160 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown.
2. Stopping the big play
Once again the NC State’s opponent did most of their scoring with the big play. Tech’s first touchdown was set up by Taylor’s 71-yard run. Their second score was a 92-yard kickoff return for a score by Wilson. Evans’ 54-yard touchdown was their third time to the end zone. The final touchdown was a 39-yard catch-and-run play that featured several missed tackles.
3. Penalties/Turnovers
NC State had nine penalties for 61 yards, and many of them seemed to be costly. Wilson threw three interceptions, two of which were very costly. One came in the end zone shortly before halftime that prevented State from having an opportunity to go up at least 20-7 at the break. The other sealed the Pack’s fate late in the fourth quarter. NC State also fumbled twice but was fortunate to get the football back.
Breaking down the position battles:
NC State's OL vs. Virginia Tech's front seven
Virginia Tech was able to get consistent pressure on Wilson, sacking him just once but hurrying him four more times. State’s running backs duo of freshman Mustafa Greene and redshirt freshman Dean Haynes ran 22 times for 118 yards, but 49 of that came on one Greene rush.
NC State's front seven vs. Virginia Tech's OL
NC State could not stop Virginia Tech from rushing the football. State did sack Taylor four times and got good pressure on the quarterback, but once the Hokies got back into the game they were able to dominate the line of scrimmage with their running game.
NC State's WR vs. Virginia Tech's DB
It was clear that NC State’s offensive game plan was to exploit this matchup downfield, but credit the Hokies for standing tough. The duo of senior Owen Spencer (six catches for 145 yards) and fifth-year senior Jarvis Williams (four catches for 103 yards and a score) had big games, but Virginia Tech did not make it easy.
NC State's DB vs. Virginia Tech's WR
Other than Boykin’s touchdown catch, NC State’s defensive backs did a good job of containing Virginia Tech’s receivers and not letting them get open downfield, which is a big part of VT’s offense.
Wilson threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns, but he also had three picks and completed just 21 of 49 passes. Taylor was more efficient, completing 12 of 24 passes for 123 yards and three scores with only one pick and rushing 16 times for 121 yards.
Running backs
Evans may have been the best player on the field Saturday. Even if you take out his 54-yard touchdown run, he still averaged an eye-popping 7.6 yards per carry. Wilson was solid as his backup. For NC State, Greene had a couple of really nice runs and ran 10 times for 91 yards, but Haynes struggled to get loose, finishing with 12 carries for 27 yards.
Tight Ends
The middle of the field seemed to be there for the taking for both tight ends, but neither team used it. NC State redshirt junior George Bryan caught two passes for 24 yards and a touchdown. Virginia Tech senior Andre Smith hauled in a pair of passes, both of them touchdowns, for 14 yards.
Special teams
Both special teams kicked well, but the big play was Wilson’s 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, tilting the edge in this matchup to the Hokies.