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Cheers and Jeers: Virginia Tech vs. NC State

By Justin Cates | November 19
Screen Shot 2023 11 19 at 9 08 59 AM
Will Trent/Sons of Saturday

Virginia Tech managed the rare feat of simultaneously getting roundly thumped while also somehow losing a nail-biter in a 35-28 loss to NC State. There were lots of highlight moments for Tech just as there were plenty of rough ones mixed in. A loss is always a bummer on senior day, but there's still plenty to play for after a series of stumbles in the final home game of the season.


Explosive Plays

Hitting big plays on offense has been a struggle for the Hokies much of the season. That's been improving recently, and there were some shining examples on display under the lights. Tech managed 7.59 yards per play which is outstanding. Trouble is that they only ran 46 plays and maintained possession for just over 19 minutes. It was a bit of feast or famine but let's focus on the good bits.

Despite only getting two touches on the night, Bhayshul Tuten had another electric kickoff return that gave Tech excellent field position and a spark that likely prevented a complete blowout.

They've also been trying to get Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw loose all season long and they finally hit it on the beautiful 47-yard reverse. The play was so well executed that two lineman downfield had absolutely no one to block as Xayvion cruised between them on a clear path to six points. He's a raw talent but an exciting piece of the puzzle for the near future. Da'Quan Felton added two more touchdowns to his total and led Tech in receiving with 87 yards.

There were some crucial drops that didn't help anything but Kyron Drones played well. Even though the Hokies were forced out of their comfort zone and into a pass-heavy attack, Drones tossed three touchdowns with a rare interception late. There were a surprising number of good plays mixed in considering the dud of a first half.

Another Hit of Nostalgia

I'm probably the only person who has gotten a kick out of Tech's schedule this season but it feels right to me by and large. Much like Syracuse, Rutgers, Boston College, and even Pitt, my idiot brain lights up with childhood enthusiasm at the sight of the Wolfpack. Some of my first specific memories of football are from early nineties Tech-State games, including October 17, 1992 when the Hokies put the "1" in their famous 2-8-1 season by tying the No. 21 Wolfpack 13-13 at home.

I'm sorry for all of the people with normal heads who don't care for the schedule, but hey, at least it's not Wofford right Whit?
Tech state
The Hokies laid the wood just enough to earn a 13-13 tie on October 17, 1992.


The World Needs Ditch-Diggers Too

Judge Smails would love this Hokies crew and their consistent ability to dig holes for themselves. We all know how important a fast start is for this team and it wasn't remotely in the cards Saturday evening. The team's tendency to get blasted for a quarter then spend the rest of the game fighting back to make it interesting is maddening. There's no quit in this group, that's for sure. It's pretty apparent however that they morph into long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs when they face a team with a pulse. This is admittedly a rude thing to say but it feels like a fair criticism after two full seasons of such behavior.

When you develop a consistent trait like this it's fair to say that it's a coaching thing. Season one was a lot of learning on the job. I think we've seen plenty of progress since then as far as the overall gameday operation goes. I remain a bit concerned about this tendency to start games as shrinking violets though, especially when the Hokies have usually shown within the same game that they can hang with the opponent.

This isn't meant as a condemnation of the staff. I like them and have generally been encouraged by this season. But fixing this issue feels like the top priority and I'm sure no one feels stronger about that then Brent Pry.

Yinging and Yanging

That was Coach Pry's term for how Tech got out of sorts on defense in the first half. Honestly, it was a master class by Robert Anae in how to use pre-snap motion to create favorable match ups. The Hokies were understandably focused on KC Concepcion who is a bit of a cheat code. He tossed a touchdown, caught two more, and added 44 yards on the ground. Adjusting to where he is on the field is the right move, it just seemed like there was one guy too many on most plays getting caught over-adjusting and out of position.

And man that Wolfpack defense is even better than I'd seen in their games previously. Payton Wilson instantly goes right up there with guys like Ndamukong Suh and Ray Lewis who've terrorized Tech on their own turf — though the Hokies managed to beat both of those guys. Wilson's speed and pursuit are truly remarkable and if he doesn't win all of the awards I'm not sure what the point of having them is. He loves to make that same point verbally after every play too. Actually, State as a whole seems to love chirping which is a bit funny from a program that should probably win 10 games nearly every season but is doomed to a ceiling of no more than eight or nine.

That's the Dave Doeren Experience™.

Final Thoughts

This column got pretty catty and I think it's apparent that I wrote it on an empty stomach. It doesn't help that as I wrap this up my SOS colleagues are in the group chat making plans to hit up Our Daily Bread. Come on! It's probably time for me to have a Coke and a smile and to shut the Hell up about it all. But before we do that...

As we all assumed before the season the battle for the Commonwealth Cup will have a bowl bid on the line for the Hokies. Despite some low moments along the way, it's tough to complain too much about having an opportunity like that right now. The cement hasn't even dried yet on the foundation this staff is building. That means that it's pretty unstable, but there's also still time to put our hand prints in it. This is a hand print game which is a concept I just made up. With a win the Hokies can further build their identity and take another step back towards respectability. This is a fine time to leave their mark.

UVA has figured some things out in recent weeks highlighted by a 10-point upset win over Duke Saturday. While I wouldn't say I'm actively rooting for Tony Eilliot's squad I'm perfectly happy for their recent success. They've been through an incredible amount over the last year and while I'd like to say I can't imagine their emotions, I think all Hokies know better than that. Much like the 2008 game in Charlottesville, I'm hoping for some good Commonwealth camaraderie and fellowship before the game with a whooping to follow. More likely, we're in store for a fun, wild, passionate game throughout that's truly a toss up.

But that's next week. I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving wherever your travels may take you. Enjoy the food and when a family member goes rogue on politics or just starts ranting about football games from 30 years ago, remember to just smile and then hand them an ice-cold soda pop.


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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