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Cheers and Jeers: Virginia Tech vs. NC State

By Justin Cates | October 28
Cheers and Jeers: Virginia Tech vs. NC State
Photo by Jackson Sirbaugh.

Have you ever seen The Hudsucker Proxy? It's a lesser known Coen brothers movie where Tim Robbins' character starts working in the mail room of a big company and becomes CEO climbing waaay up to the forty-fourth floor of the Hudsucker Building, and then literally falls all the way back down again by the film's end.

That's what the Hokies managed to do Thursday night in Raleigh in front of a packed house and a shocked television audience on ESPN.

The Sons of Saturday had a feisty and wildly entertaining internal dialogue amongst staff on our private channel afterwards. Needless to say, people are sad, mystified, angry, and somewhat bemused.

I can't speak for all, but I'll say that I talked myself down from going full heel and writing a pure jeers column to just doing the normal bit.

Cheers

The Hokie Defense

There are some glaring issues with this season's edition of Virginia Tech football, but once again you can't blame the defense for the overall result. Despite yet another wildly inconsistent effort from the offense, Tech's defense gave its best for most of the game but ran out of gas late. That's been the case plenty of times in recent years under multiple coordinators, though this one hurt a little extra without a doubt after briefly having an 18-point lead late in the third quarter.

Mansoor Delane continues to prove that he's going to be the next lock down corner for the Hokies. He nearly had an acrobatic interception in the end zone and showed some solid open field tackling throughout the game. He finished second on the team with 10 tackles, and led all comers with two pass breakups and a forced fumble.

The rest of the unit did what they could as well. A combination of blitzes helped the Hokies finally get back in the sack column with Jaylen Griffin and Alan Tisdale both notching take downs. There was solid pressure for much of the game on the NC State quarterbacks and Tech successfully stopped two two-point conversions.

There's plenty of room to criticize Brent Pry, but he does put together a fine defense.

The Third Quarter

Hey that part sure was fun wasn't it? For just over 10 minutes of game time the Hokies looked completely unbeatable even pulling things together on offense if only for a little while. Kaleb Smith and Grant Wells provided fireworks on a season-long 85-yard touchdown then added another impressive 50-yard bomb to set up another score. Dae'Quan Wright continued to show why he's an exciting young weapon in the passing game as well.

It was fleeting, but we saw what can happen when things come together on that side of the ball. After not showing a pulse the Hokies scored three touchdowns in a heartbeat. When Malachi Thomas went down with an apparent ankle injury it sure took some wind out of the sails though and...well you know the rest.

Jeers

Penalties

I'm not even sure what you can say on a night when you rack up 10 false start flags. Most of those can be attributed to one of the worst offensive lines in school history. But when even your best receiver (Kaleb Smith) and one of the best defenders (Chamarri Conner as a gunner on special teams) get in on the action it becomes clear the problem is across the board.

Flags have been a problem all season long. They've ended drives for the Hokies and extended them for their opponents. The field position swings have been massive. Yes it's on the players, but the coaches have plenty to answer for as well. It speaks to a lack of focus and attention to detail which is concerning to say the least. One week the issues appear cleaned up, only to pop up again at critical moments again the next.

This particular performance coming after a bye week just makes the look even worse.

Special Teams Still a Disaster

Stu Holt's end of season exit interview won't be a pleasant one. His unit has consistently struggled at every position outside of kickers on field goals and kickoffs. Tech can't cover, can't return punts or kickoffs and often can barely field them, and has committed a multitude of penalties on all sides. Even Peter Moore who was at one point a huge weapon for Tech is now struggling to consistently make solid contact on his punts. Everything has regressed to culminate in one utter failure under the bright lights.
That moment was a new low and Chance Black was promptly pulled from the return team. It was too little too late however and emblematic of a group that isn't pulling its weight and has been a shambles all season long. That the latest indignity happened at the worst possible moment just compounds the persistent issues.

Final Thoughts

There has been some progress this season but it's come in a painful one step forward, several steps back fashion. For the second consecutive outing the Hokies have lost a game they easily could have won over more talented teams. That's thanks to too many mistakes plus an offense that has come alive for just two quarters and has been held scoreless the other six. That means Tech has now posted zeroes in 13 of 32 quarters of football this season. That's a troubling pattern to say the least.

The book is still out on the Brent Pry era which is what you'd expect after eight games. It's far too early to completely throw in the towel based on the things he's done right and the current state of the defense. However, his offensive staff simply isn't cutting it and questions abound about his first-time offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen.

The Hokies have now gone winless in October for the first time since Harry Truman was in the White House. These are lean times and relief isn't immediately apparent. Brent Pry likes to scribble notes in red pen during games. Let's hope he has several boxes of them. There will be some tough conversations after this game and season, both in the football offices as well as behind the other desks in the Jamerson Athletic Center. Everyone wants —and needs— this to work. So far, for a multitude of reasons, it simply hasn't.

Justin Cates

Justin Cates

My Dad graduated from Tech in 1981 and I’ve been attending Virginia Tech sporting events since I first moved to Blacksburg in 1988. I myself graduated in 2008 with a Communication degree. During my time as a student I was the Sports Director for WUVT and helped establish and run Planet Blacksburg, an independent student-run news website. I’ve since written for numerous publications including SBNation, Inside The ACC, and Sports Illustrated's AllHokies. Currently, I host The Justin Cates Show in addition to other contributions here at Sons of Saturday and various other sites as the need arises. I now live in a fortified compound in upstate New York with my wife and numerous animals. The smell of popcorn makes me think of Cassell.

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