Hokies Host NC State in Critical Game

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Dave Doeren has done a nice job at NC State. The former Northern Illinois head coach is now in his third year in Raleigh, and the Wolfpack have gotten progressively better.

2013: 3-9
2014: 8-5
2015: 4-1

NC State has won seven of their last eight games dating back to last season, though for the most part the competition hasn’t been strong. Here’s who they’ve played in that span…

Wake Forest: 42-13 W
North Carolina: 35-7 W
UCF (Bowl): 34-27 W
Troy: 49-21 W
Eastern Kentucky: 35-0 W
Old Dominion: 38-14 W
South Alabama: 63-13 W
Louisville: 20-13 L

The Wolfpack hadn’t played anyone with a pulse for awhile, and though Louisville didn’t have a great record heading into last week’s game, the Cardinals had played a very tough schedule and were battle tested. Despite last week’s loss, NC State fans have to be happy with how far they’ve come since Doeren was hired.

NC State Offense vs. VT Defense, Advanced Stats

Here are the matchups, from an advanced stats point of view. First, the NC State offense…

Overall: #50
Passing: #45
Rushing: #41
Success Rate: #24
Explosive Plays: #72

And now the Virginia Tech defense…

Overall: #55
Passing: #83
Rushing: #57
Success Rate: #18
Explosive Plays: #126

Overall, this is a pretty even matchup. I believe the key will be big plays. Teams haven’t been able to sustain drives on the Hokies this year, but Tech has one of the worst defenses in the country when it comes to giving up big plays. Meanwhile, NC State has been able to sustain drives, but they haven’t been particularly adept at hitting big plays. Something will have to give.

Brissett vs. the Virginia Tech Defense

Jacoby Brissett (6-4, 235, r-Sr.) is one of the best quarterbacks in the country that nobody has heard of. Check out his stats from last year and so far this year…

2014: 221 of 370 (59.7%) for 2606 yards, 23 TDs, 5 INTs
2015: 90 of 123 (73.2%) for 992 yards, 7 TDs, 0 INTs
Total: 311 of 493 (63.1%) for 3598 yards, 30 TDs, 5 INTs

Brissett hasn’t gotten on track in the running game like he did last year (529 yards last year, 39 yards this year), but it’s tough to argue with his passing numbers. He is currently #17 in the country in passing efficiency. He’s thrown just five interceptions since the beginning of the 2014.

He’s a big, strong quarterback with solid mobility. He’s watched film of the Virginia Tech defense giving up big yards to running quarterbacks over the last few years, and you can bet that the NC State coaches will try to make that part of their game plan. He has only run for 39 yards this season after running for 529 all of last year, but it’s quite possible that his 2015 number will go up significantly on Friday night.

As far as the passing game goes, Brissett makes the right decisions, he’s accurate, he can throw the ball on the run, and he doesn’t turn the ball over. Now that Greg Stroman has moved to wide receiver, Brissett will be facing a depleted and inexperienced Tech secondary…

Boundary Corner: Terrell Edmunds (r-Fr.)
Rover: Adonis Alexander (Fr.)
Free Safety: Chuck Clark (Jr.)
Nickel: Mook Reynolds (Fr.)
Field Corner: Brandon Facyson (r-So.)

The Hokies will be starting three freshmen in the secondary, and two of them are true freshmen. Here’s their competition…

Jumichael Ramos (6-2, 200, Jr.): 15 catches, 223 yards, 14.9 ypc, 1 TD
Bra’Lon Cherry (5-11, 191, Jr.): 9 catches, 114 yards, 12.7 ypc
Johnathan Alston (6-0, 203, Jr.): 7 catches, 61 yards, 8.7 ypc

NC State will also start true freshman Nyheim Hines (5-9, 190, Fr.) in the slot. Hines was heavily recruited by Virginia Tech before signing with the Wolfpack.

That’s not a lot of catches for the wide receivers, but NC State enjoys throwing to their backs quite a bit. In fact, the team’s leading receivers are running back Matthew Days (5-9, 203, Jr.) and fullback Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 236, So.). Days has 18 receptions, while Samuels actually leads the team with 25 catches for 300 yards and four touchdowns. It’s not often that you see a fullback catch that many passes and score that many touchdowns.

The Hokies will have to defend a number of viable targets, and they’ll have to do it with a bunch of freshmen in the secondary. They’ll also have to contain Brissett’s rushing ability. Both tasks will be easier said than done.

The Running Game

NC State’s second leading rusher – Shadrach Thornton – was recently dismissed from the team. His loss hurts the Wolfpack depth at tailback, and in particular it robs the team of a power presence between the tackles. He ran for over 900 yards a year ago.

Still, NC State has recruited well in the backfield, and they should be able to field a good rushing attack this season. Matthew Days leads the team with 552 yards and 10 touchdowns on 95 carries. He’s averaging 5.5 yards per carry.

Jaylen Samuels, the fullback who leads the team in receptions and touchdown receptions, has 12 carries for 103 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. I can’t go through the statistics for every single team, but I doubt there’s any fullback in the country who is more productive than Samuels. Nine touchdowns on 37 touches through five games is as good as it gets for a fullback these days.

Despite Days and Samuels, the loss of Thornton will be felt.

Overall Offensive Thoughts

On the whole, I feel like NC State’s offense is solid, but they’ve been propped up by their level of competition. They played nobody before Louisville, and then only managed to gain 228 yards of total offense against the Cardinals.

Still, this isn’t your typical Virginia Tech defense. The Hokies aren’t anywhere near as good as Louisville’s defense at this stage. Because of Tech’s past struggles with mobile quarterbacks and the fact that they are starting three freshmen in the secondary, NC State should feel good about taking a step forward offensively this week.

NC State Defense vs. VT Offense, Advanced Stats

First, NC State’s defense…

Overall: #59
Passing: #100
Rushing: #11
Success Rate: #15
Explosive Plays: #95

Now, Virginia Tech’s offense, which dropped considerably after last week’s disaster against Pitt…

Overall: #78
Passing: #30
Rushing: #86
Success Rate: #79
Explosive Plays: #16

The Tech offense hasn’t been consistent moving the football this year, but they kept their heads above water in the first four games by hitting a lot of big plays. The NC State secondary gives up a lot of big plays. The Hokies have to take advantage.

Stop Penetration

NC State has a fast defense that has 34 tackles for loss on the season. They don’t sack the quarterback a lot (10 sacks), but they do play in the backfield. By contrast, the higher-touted Tech defense has 31 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. The Wolfpack are doing it despite being extremely young up front. Here’s a look at the youth of their defensive line…

DE Mike Rose (6-3, 270, r-Sr.)
DE Bradley Chubb (6-4, 260, So.)
DE Pharoah McKever (6-6, 260, r-So.)
DE Darian Roseboro (6-4, 287, Fr.)
DT Kentavius Street (6-2, 290, So.)
DT BJ Hill (6-4, 300, So.)
DT Justin Jones (6-2, 300, So.)
DT Monty Nelson (6-2, 310, Jr.)

There is just one senior and one junior among those eight players. Five of those eight guys have been recruited in the last two recruiting classes. Dave Doeren has certainly done a lot over the last two years to improve the talent level up front, including beating out Virginia Tech head-to-head for Kentavius Street.

The top playmakers are senior end Mike Rose (5 TFL, 2 sacks) and sophomore defensive tackle BJ Hill (5 TFL, 2 sacks). However, the penetration comes from everywhere. 20 different players have been credited with at least 0.5 TFL. The Wolfpack have solid playmakers throughout their entire front seven.

Virginia Tech can’t afford to play behind the chains like they did against Pitt. They have to gain solid yardage on first down, and they can’t let NC State tackle them numerous times in the backfield. They have to stay in third and manageable situations; otherwise the offense will have little chance to succeed.

How Good is NC State’s Secondary?

The Wolfpack secondary has not been tested so far this season. Here are their starters…

CB Michael Stevens: 5-11, 190, So.
FS Hakim Jones: 6-2, 200, r-Sr.
SS Josh Jones: 6-2, 215, r-So.
NICK Dravious Wright: 5-10, 208, Jr.
CB Justin Burris: 6-1, 207, r-Sr.

Despite being more experienced in the secondary, this group hasn’t performed all that well so far according to the advanced stats, right? In this particular case, I don’t think we can trust the advanced stats though. Here’s a look at their game by game totals…

Troy: 14 of 21, 184 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
EKU: 7 of 21, 77 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
ODU: 11 of 23, 151 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT
South Alabama: 16 of 35, 213 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Louisville: 10 of 27, 103 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Total: 58 of 127 for 728 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs

That looks pretty good to me, and I’m not sure how they are ranked #100 in pass defense according to the S&P+ model.

That being said, the Wolfpack have yet to face a passing offense that is dangerous. Tech’s passing offense struggled last week against Pitt, but it still features more talent and more ability than any of the five the Pack faced in previous weeks.

Overall Defensive Thoughts

Who will play quarterback for the Hokies? We don’t know. I wish Michael Brewer was coming back, because I think he can process things more quickly and efficiently than Brenden Motley. However, my gut tells me that we’ll be without Brewer for another week.

I think NC State is a much better matchup for the Tech offense than Pitt was. The offense line can’t play any worse than they did last week. Unfortunately, the film is out on Motley. Defenses know his strengths and weakness, and unfortunately his weaknesses are exactly what offenses need to have to counter blitzes. He doesn’t have good timing and he’s inaccurate. I would expect NC State to bring the house on Friday night.

The Hokies badly need to establish a running game, and I think we’ll see the offense try to attack more inside the tackles this week.

Special Teams Notes

I want to highlight two guys for NC State, and then I’ll lowlight another. First off, NC State’s return game is very good thanks to these two guys…

PR Bra’Lon Cherry: 14 returns, 246 yards, 17.6 ypr, 51 long
KR Nyheim Hines: 14 returns, 386 yards, 27.6 ypr, 90 long

Besides his impressive punt return work, Cherry also has one kickoff return for 37 yards. Tech’s punt coverage team needs to be on point, and this would be a good week for Joey Slye to start kicking the ball out of the end zone again.

NC State’s placekicker is true freshman Kyle Bambard, and he’s having a rough season. He is just 1 of 4 on the year, and one of those kicks was blocked. It’s still a very small sample size, but if this becomes a field goal battle on Friday night, the Hokies will have the advantage.

Final Thoughts

I feel like NC State is a bit of a better matchup than Pitt. They weren’t battle tested until last week, and they aren’t as physical as the Panthers. I’ve given some serious thought to picking Virginia Tech this week, until I remembered this…

Pitt: L
Miami: L
Maryland: L
Duke: L

Those are Virginia Tech’s last eight home games against Power 5 competition. You’ll note that they have lost all of them except for last year’s UVA game, and the Hoos barely even count as Power 5 competition these days. Even then, it took a near-miracle to win the game at the end. Point being, Tech hasn’t beaten anybody with a pulse in Lane Stadium in a long time.

I’ve reached the point that I’m not going to pick us to beat anybody decent at home until I see us do it. I hope to see that on Friday night, but recent history tells us that the Hokies will drop this one. I’m going with the Wolfpack, and that’s probably a good thing for the Hokies. I picked Tech to barely beat Purdue, and they blew them out. I had the Hokies beating ECU by 16, and they lost. Likewise, I picked them to win a close one against Pitt. They are starting to do the opposite of what I predict each week, so take that as a good sign.

Prediction: NC State 24, Virginia Tech 17

Will Stewart’s Take: I’m starting to hate writing this part of the game preview, because I know a lot of people just open the article, scroll down, and read this part. And this part has been making all of us look silly for several years now.

I wrote in Monday Thoughts after the ECU game that I was going to pick the Hokies to beat Pitt, lose to NC State, and then lose at Miami. In the larger context, I wrote that the Hokies were starting to look like a .500 football team to me, and I laid out some W-L predictions that had the Hokies ending up 6-6. And that was with a win over Pitt. Hmmm.

Things have looked really grim in the last two weeks. Virginia Tech looked like a bad defensive football team against ECU, and then the offense joined in against Pitt. And you find yourself asking, “Can it get much worse?”

I don’t know. But until the Hokies show me some evidence that they have shifted momentum back in the other direction …

Will’s Prediction: NC State 24, Virginia Tech 17

(Remember … I do my picks without reading Chris’ pick first)

Who will win the Virginia Tech-NC State game?

  • Virginia Tech by 1-9 (26%, 438 Votes)
  • Virginia Tech by 10-19 (7%, 123 Votes)
  • Virginia Tech by 20+ (3%, 50 Votes)
  • NC State by 1-9 (27%, 453 Votes)
  • NC State by 10-19 (29%, 487 Votes)
  • NC State by 20+ (6%, 103 Votes)
  • I dont know/no opinion (2%, 38 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,692

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40 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. How to sum it up so far?
    “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your stewardess speaking… We regret any inconvenience the sudden cabin movement might have caused, this is due to periodic air pockets we encountered, there’s no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you enjoy the rest of your flight… By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?”

    How I hope I don’t sum it up Saturday morning…
    “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue. “

  2. Will, I would not take people’s reaction to your predictions any more seriously than people should take your predictions. I don’t mean that as an insult. Predicting sports scores is like predicting the weather – except the weather is a question of science. We just don’t have the science down yet for being as accurate as people want. Sports scores is based on gut feelings and “A beat B and B beat C so A should beat C”, and comparisons of tons of statistics that mean nothing as soon as the teams step onto the field. Anyone who is upset with you because of your predictions either hasn’t figured out that the Oracle at Delphi was making it up, or is just funnin’ with ya.

    1. Predictions to a great degree are based on history and hope. I hope we win, but our history leads one to believe otherwise. The thing that leaves me cold is how we have consistently sleepwalked in games at Lane for the past two years. there seems to be zero embarrassment from staff or players, why would the people who pay actual money to see this crap be the focus of vitriol for not showing up, buying tickets or being less than enthused. If you can’t draw enthusiasm from students across the street in the dorms, what makes you think we ever have a chance to fill seats with HC level money anymore?

  3. why would anyone vote “i dont know/ no opinion” when picking a game. WHATS THE POINT IN VOTING!!!!???

  4. We do have a couple of secret weapons. At this time we have little to lose.

    Time to be bold! Losing is Old!

    Stay tuned:-)

  5. Here’s to “hoping” that 55% of the voters turn out to be wrong this week. I suspect that 100% of them would be more than happy to “lose” that wager!

  6. Without Brewer I agree with Will & Chris, this will be another loss. Unless Motley and the OL can create time to get one of our two receivers open, we’ll be looking at a 2-4 team. We HAVE to get the passing game going again to open up this offense. We simply don’t have the personnel to establish the pass via a punishing run game. It’s has to be the other way around. Without some threatening completions and conversions via the air, NC State will attempt to follow the Pitt plan and just beat us up at the line, confounding the run, confusing the OL and leaving Motley with nothing he can do. No matter how pissed he is. And I LOVE the fact that he gets pissed off by the way. Motley could be a great QB and he has obviously progressed through hard work and studying. Here’s hoping he can get er done somehow. It’d be a great story.


        1. beg to differ. Ford Bucky and Mallett can get it done. obviously, most of the time the OL doenst even give him a chance at a decent throw. BUT, Motley when he does have enough time to throw, he either holds the ball too long, stares down his receivers, or throws way behind them.

          1. he did two of three on that great 28 yard completion to Bucky on 3rd and 17 early against Pitt. Luckily Bucky was so wide open it didn’t matter

  7. JC Coleman will start the game with a first down run of 2 or less yards. It’s just so depressing thinking about that 1st run again. I’ve sat in the rain and watched games with a 101 fever. I won’t have much fever this time just a wet Hokie but I’ll be there every game. Win or Lose (voted the 10 to 19 loss however). I just wish for some sign of life in the program.
    I’m still going to support VT no matter what.

  8. Purdue gave Michigan State all it wanted in a close one. Hope the Tech team that thrashed Purdue watches that game film again and shows up. Don’t know who showed up last week.

  9. If Motley starts, it is bad news. I fear a deer in the headlights experience. Not much is worse for young QB than the 4th quarter experience against Pitt.

  10. Pollllyanna here… Also been in Denver all week on business.

    * Turnovers for touchdowns
    * Blocked punt (Peoples is due one)
    * screen or draw to help slow down their rush

    That gets the crowd into the game and helps our defense against their offense

    * Stiney gets into lefty’s head and we rediscover our tight ends from the two tight end set with 10+ catches
    * Running game goes North/south instead of horizontal.

    Time to create our own good luck with skilled playmakers stepping up in national stage.

    Let’s Go…Hokies!!!
    Smack Them Wolfpups back to NC

  11. How can anyone look at the record for the last 8 home games and argue it is not time to replace Frank?

  12. Sad statement from the poll that 61% of the Hokie fans who voted believe that we will lose at home to NC State. Jeeesh.

    1. The sad statement was our record at home the last 8 games against FBS opponents. 1-7. Win against UVA. How could you honestly vote for anything but a win by NC State?

    2. How the mighty have fallen. A decade+ ago I felt we could compete with anybody; now I don’t feel we can compete with any quality teams.

  13. NC State appears to be three years ahead of Tech’s schedule for being re-born. Tech will need to go through the same process once coaching changes are made this winter.

  14. I’ll have whatever the 19 people picking VT to win by 20+ are having. Must be some good stuff.

    1. Raging B*tch IPA by Flying dog. $1 off HH at Bungalow in Chantilly. Gotta get here by 7 though.

    2. It’s milk- the breakfast of champions… NCSU is like UGA- only p,ayes girls schools…

      Hope I am right but I think we right the ship with Brewer coming back..

  15. Pitt: L
    OSU: L
    UVA: W
    BC: L
    Miami: L
    GT: L
    Maryland: L
    Duke: L

    Those are Virginia Tech’s last eight home games against Power 5 competition. You’ll note that they have lost all of them except for last year’s UVA game, and the Hoos barely even count as Power 5 competition these days. Even then, it took a near-miracle to win the game at the end. Point being, Tech hasn’t beaten anybody with a pulse in Lane Stadium in a long time.

    I think this sums it up pretty well…..wow…I knew it was bad, but that is really bad. Far cry from a few years ago.

  16. Very glad to see you both picked NCSU to win. Now that means the Hokies have a better chance to get the W.

  17. Picked VT to lose last week. Somehow I think they might pull a rabbit out their hat this week. We’re Due… But it won’t save Beamer. Carry On

  18. A mobile QB and a passing attack that utilizes running backs out of the backfield – it could be a long night for the Hokie Defense.

  19. I will give you guys credit for picking NCSt (in the end, it’s either a win or a loss), but I think your projected scores are way too optimistic. This is a game where VT could easily get blown out. NCSt’s offense is eons better than Pitt, and I think their D is pretty good, too.

    There is no reason for me to believe that VT’s line will block better, no reason for me to believe that the running game will look any different (despite what Beamer says–seeing is believing), and no reason for me to believe that Motley will have progressed much if any (in one week) on things like pocket presence, decision making, staring down his receivers, etc. If Brewer is somehow miraculously back, that could change the calculus a little bit.

    The ONLY way I see a path to victory for VT is if the entire D (including Motu and the young secondary) plays the game of their lives. I think they will need to force TOs and give our offense short fields…more than once. Special teams will need to score at least once and bottle NCSt up on returns. Essentially, D and ST need to win the game (sound familiar?) bc I have zero confidence that the O will be any better than last week.

    Sorry for the negativity and I sincerely hope I am proven wrong (will be in the stands jumping for joy if I am wrong), but it’s just really, really, hard to watch the film on this team for the past 2 weeks and expect positive results. Something happened between Purdue and ECU (in addition to overall talent levels going up) and maybe ECU beat the Hokies twice, but this team looks like a shell of what it was against Purdue. I get it that we’ve had injuries too, but come on, this team does not pass the eye test right now. What in the WORLD happened to the OL last week? That kind of performance simply cannot be completely corrected in the span of 6 days. No way.
    GO HOKIES, please prove me very wrong!!

    1. I agree with you. Also even counting OSU, Brisset is the best QB we have faced all year. This game likely wont be close without Michael Brewer

    2. “There is no reason for me to believe that VT’s line will block better, no reason for me to believe that the running game will look any different (despite what Beamer says–seeing is believing)…”

      I would argue that you are taking the short term view when you make statements like this. In every game this year, the VT line has looked better than last week, and the running game has looked better than last week (though still not great). So what makes you believe last week is the new norm, as opposed to the 4 games that preceded last week?

      1. You are correct that they looked better in Games 2 and 3 vs Game 1. But that was Furman and Purdue after Ohio State. Those are two dreadful teams. I am not sure that the OL and RB units looked better against ECU. But clearly they took a big step back last week.

        I’m not saying they can’t improve (I wouldn’t have thought they would have regressed as much as they did), but I don’t know what the catalyst for improved performance would be. My personal view (and it’s only that) is that the coaches have kind of lost the team and team has become too accustomed to losing. I look at the fire, the emotion, all of the body language, and in the Pitt game it just screamed “apathy.”

        Some of the players and coaches see stuff that’s being written about them. If they really care they will work their tails off to prove us wrong, even if that means playing over their heads against a better team. I’m rooting hard for them, I’m just not optimistic.

    3. I hedged a little bit, because NC State hasn’t played tough competition yet, for the most part. And when they did, they lost. Other than that, I agree — if you look at their stats, the QB efficiency, etc., this could be a bad one for VT.

      But I’m still holding out hope that what we saw out of VT the last couple of weeks is the worst they’ll do.

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