Virginia Tech started slow and couldn’t hang with NC State on Saturday afternoon in its home finale, losing 35-28.
The Hokies (5-6, 4-3 ACC) punted on their first four possessions while the Wolfpack (8-3, 5-2) found its groove and jumped out to a 14-0 lead. It was just the second time in six home games this season where Tech did not score first, and playing from behind the rest of the way was a challenge. The seven-point score made the game appear closer than it actually was.
The Tech defense couldn’t stop the combination of Brennan Armstrong and Kevin Concepcion as NC State put up 408 yards of total offense. Armstrong was 18-of-26 through the air for 220 yards and two touchdowns while he accounted for 89 yards and two touchdowns on the ground on 21 carries. He’s the third opposing quarterback with that stat line against Tech since 1987, joining Syracuse’s Garrett Shrader (2021) and UCLA’s Brett Hundley (2013).
Meanwhile, Concepcion had a great all-around day, catching two touchdown passes (seven catches for 63 yards) and throwing for one (a 17-yard trick play to Trent Pennix) while carrying the ball nine times for yards. He’s the first Tech opponent since 1987 with at least five rushing attempts, one passing touchdown and multiple receiving touchdowns in the same game, which shows how valuable he was for the Wolfpack in all facets despite accounting for just 128 yards.
That duo helped NC State start quickly after punting on the first two drives. The cushion was valuable and let Dave Doeren’s group be methodical and chew the clock. The Wolfpack ran 74 plays, almost 30 more than Tech’s 46 snaps, and had a 40:37 to 19:23 difference in time of possession. It’s the fourth-most time of possession by an opponent since 1987 and the second time this year an opposing team had the ball for more than 38 minutes (Purdue).
The first score of the game was a 3-yard reception from Concepcion from Armstrong at the start of the second quarter. It capped off a 7-play, 64-yard drive that was helped by a Tech pass interference penalty. Armstrong also had a 21-yard completion to Pennix on that drive.
That kickstarted a game that was filled with scoring the rest of the way. Armstrong ran for a score on the next NC State possession before the Hokies responded quickly. Bhayshul Tuten had a 50-yard kickoff return that sparked a Tech drive, and on the very next play, Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw took a reverse 47 yards to the house with 4:26 left in the first half.
The Wolfpack snuck a touchdown in before the break, though, off an 11-play, 75-yard drive. Armstrong found Concepcion over the middle for a 28-yard strike that made it 21-7 at intermission.
NC State received the second-half kickoff, too, and took its time before scoring, chewing almost six minutes off the clock before another Armstrong rushing touchdown. However, Tech fought back once again. On the second play of the following drive, Kyron Drones found a streaking Da’Quan Felton down the left sideline for a 42-yard touchdown, cutting the margin to 28-14.
Yet the Wolfpack had a quick answer. It only took four plays for NC State to extend the lead again. Armstrong had a 43-yard carry, which set up the trick play that Concepcion threw to Pennix. Every time Tech inched close, NCSU responded.
Despite trailing by three touchdowns, the Hokies continued to fight, and Drones and Felton connected again on a 12-yard pass that finished off a 10-play, 92-yard drive (3:49).
Tech had a few more chances after forcing NC State’s first three-and-out of the game, but Drones threw a pick to Bishop Fitzgerald, a pass intended for Felton. He finished the day 17-of-30 passing for 225 yards and accounted for the majority of the Hokies’ 349 yards of total offense. They finished with 124 rushing yards on 16 carries but didn’t put the ball on the ground much since they were playing from behind.
The Hokies scored again with 1:43 remaining as Drones connected with Stephen Gosnell on a 13-yard pass, but the ensuing onside kick failed and the Wolfpack ran out the clock to end the game.
Tech has one final shot at bowl eligibility against Virginia on Saturday, Nov. 25, in Charlottesville. As of 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18, it is a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff on the ACC Network.
Box Score: NC State 35, Virginia Tech 28