Hokies' Game Preview & Prediction: NC State Wolfpack (with special guest Plyler Hunter)
NC State (+3) @ Virginia Tech (-3); o/u43.5
Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-3, 4-2)
This week, we bring on North Carolina native and avid N.C. State fan, Plyler Hunter, to help us preview the upcoming Virginia Tech – N.C. State matchup. Plyler is a high school classmate of mine at Norfolk Academy, an Albright College baseball commit in the class of 2024, and most importantly, a lifelong Wolfpack fan.
The Wolfpack has quietly found some success in 2023, boasting a 7-3 record led by a talented defense. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, has found its own form of success, especially on the offensive side of the ball as of late.
With that being said, let's get into this week's preview…
Sam: M.J. Morris has decided to redshirt, meaning that former UVa QB Brennan Armstrong will get the start against Virginia Tech. What should Hokies fans expect from Armstrong (who they’ve already seen twice, but at UVa)? Biggest strengths? Weaknesses?
Plyler: Since the redshirt decision by M.J. Morris, Brennan Armstrong has regained the title of QB1 for the Wolfpack. In his 6 starts with the Wolfpack this season he has thrown at a rate of 59.8 percent, with 6 touchdown passes and 6 interceptions. While Armstrong has struggled through the air, he is the Wolfpack's leading rusher with 433 yards and 4 touchdowns. Hokie fans should expect him to continue running, while occasionally throwing a deep ball. The majority of Armstrong's passes will be bubbles and slants. He has reunited with Robert Anae from UVA, who will throw in some funky schemes to try to throw off the Hokie defense. The weakness of this offense has got to be their line. Throughout the season Morris and Armstrong have had to flee the pocket way too many times due to poor blocking assignments from the line.
Sam: The Wolfpack don’t seem to necessarily have a premier back. Who should we expect to get most of the carries on the ground (other than Armstrong)?
Plyler: The Wolfpack has a unique rushing game this season. After running back Jordan Houston decided to redshirt, the Pack has relied heavily on Sophmore running back, Michael Allen. In the Wake game last Saturday Allen suffered what the team called an "upper body" injury and was sidelined for the rest of the game. Head Coach Dave Doeren said in a press conference that Allen was working out with the team this week. It seems like he will be a game-time decision. This means the Pack will use Freshman running back Kendrick Raphael, who scored on a 33-yard run to seal the win for the Pack over the Miami Hurricanes to get the bulk of the carries. The Pack's third-down and "power" back, Delbert Mimms has scored 7 touchdowns this season, most coming from inside the 5-yard line. Anae may have freshman sensation Kevin "KC" Concepcion line up at running back a few times throughout the game. Last week on the first play of the game Concepcion had a 68-yard run, which eventually led to a score. The Pack has a very thin running back room, therefore, they recently converted Jordan Poole from linebacker to running back, but he is mainly used as a blocker.
Sam: Other than Kevin Concepcion (50 catches, 573 yards, and 6 TD’s), who is a threat through the air? What is the best trait of this WR room?
Plyler: The second weakness of the Wolfpack offense has been their receiver corps, minus Concepcion, who has consistently put up outstanding numbers. In Anae's offense, the ball has been spread out to 16 different receivers. That being said, the second biggest threats to Concepcion are the deep ballers, Terrell Timmons Jr. (Sophomore) and Julian Gray (Redshirt-Sophomore). A transfer from Rice, Bradley Rozner (6 '4, 200lbs) is a red zone threat due to his size, however, recently he has not been getting as much playing time compared to the first 5-6 games of the season. Senior captain, Keyon Lesane, has been disappointing for the Wolfpack with 21 catches for 159 yards. Tight-end Trent Pennix was a bright spot for this receiving corps during the Marshall game where he had 3 catches for 99 yards and 2 touchdowns. Besides Concepcion, there have not been any other standouts from the receiver/tight-end position for the Wolfpack this year.
Sam: Is LB Payton Wilson 100%? What should Tech expect out of this N.C. State LB unit?
Plyler: As Hokie fans may know, the best player on this Wolfpack team is Payton Wilson (Grad), who is a Bronko Nargurski finalist, which is the award for the best defensive player in college football. He was banged up in the game against Clemson, three games ago. He was hurt in the fourth quarter and did not play in the remainder of the game. Since then he has had a knee brace on his leg, which has not seemed to affect his play. In the two games following his injury, he has had 23 solo tackles (12 solo and 3 pass deflections). The Wolfpack play a 3-3-5 defense meaning they have 2 other linebackers in, Jaylon Scott (Senior) and Devon Betty (Junior). Those 2 are a big part of this Wolfpack defense and have accounted for 92 tackles. However, recently, Caden Fordham (Redshirt-Sophomore), has seen more time than Betty and has accounted for 44 tackles. This linebacker unit plays hard, tough, together (The Wolfpack's motto), while also playing very fast.
Sam: Other than Wilson, who is one player on this Wolfpack defense who Hokie fans need to know the name of?
Plyler: The Wolfpack's strength is their defense and they rely heavily on it to win ball games. Davin Vann (Junior captain) is a notable player for this defense. He is an edge rusher for the Wolfpack and has 34 tackles to go along with 5.5 sacks. The most surprising player on this defense for the Wolfpack has been Sophomore safety, Sean Brown, who has 52 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 interceptions. He plays downhill and has filled former safety, Tanner Ingle's shoes very well.
Sam: Currently, what is the overall vibe within the N.C. State fan base surrounding the program?
Plyler: Wolfpack fans are feeling pretty good about where they currently stand. However, the news of the M.J. Morris' redshirt decision has really aggravated the fanbase. There is an excitement going around for Wolfpack fans because if the team wins out, they can achieve a 10-win season, which has not happened since 2002 when Philip Rivers was quarterback.
Sam: What scares you about the Hokies? What do you feel good about?
Plyler: I can't wait to see how my Wolfpack play in Lane Stadium. I think it will be a great environment, which will potentially be tough for the Wolfpack and will definitely be the hardest environment they have played in all year. Kyron Drones has looked very good for the Hokies, especially at home, since being the starter. The Hokie defense has also looked solid and will be a challenge for the Wolfpack offense. The thing that scares me most about this game will definitely be Lane Stadium. It is one of the toughest places to play in the entire ACC and has been historically one of the hardest places to play in the entire country.
Regardless, I think we will see inspired football from both squads as the Hokies are playing for a bowl-birth and even ACC championship aspirations, while the Wolfpack are playing under a fiery Dave Doeren, with a potential 10-win season on the line.
Plyler: N.C. State 24 – Virginia Tech 20
Sam: N.C. State 14 – Virginia Tech 21