After a disappointing loss last Saturday, the Virginia Tech Hokies are looking to begin salvaging what they can from this season in what feels very much like a must-win game against the N.C. State Wolfpack. The Wolfpack are also coming off a loss in their ACC opener, and will be looking to get a big road win in a tough environment.
Now, here are our keys to the game for the Hokies against the Wolfpack.
Offensive Line Must Step Up
Virginia Tech's offensive line had a nightmare of a game against Pittsburgh last Saturday as they allowed seven sacks while the Hokies also had only a total of nine rushing yards. Pat Narduzzi's defense was able to get plenty of pressure on Brenden Motley and shut down an offense that had put up over 400 total yards of offense each of the three previous weeks.
This week, the Hokies take on another good defense in the N.C. State Wolfpack that has only played one FBS team in the Louisville Cardinals. N.C. State's defense did contain Louisville's passing attack, but Louisville QB Lamar Jackson was able to do plenty of damage still with 121 rushing yards, but Louisville's top 2 running backs both average just over 3 yards per carry.
This week, the Hokies may use that template some with Brenden Motley whether Michael Brewer is able to start or not. However, the Hokies need to make sure they can create the holes to open up the play action passing game after struggling last week against the Panthers.
The Wolfpack have recruited well over the past few years on the defensive line, and Virginia Tech's offensive line will need to step up. Expect the Hokies to use Yosuah Nijman a lot at left tackle tonight with Jonathan McLaughlin potentially being the guy losing playing time if he struggles early as he did last week against Pittsburgh.
If the Hokies' offensive line doesn't step up at least a little, it will be a long night for whoever is the quarterback out there.
Prevent Big Plays
The Virginia Tech defense actually wasn't that bad against Pittsburgh, but a couple big plays proved to be costly for Virginia Tech against Pittsburgh including two big runs by Qadree Ollison to start the second half to get a quick touchdown that turned out to be the winning touchdown.
Virginia Tech's defense has played tough for most of their games over the last two seasons, but the Hokies have had an issue giving up big plays.
N.C. State kicked running back Shadrach Thornton off the team due to off-the-field issues, but the Wolfpack still have Matthew Dayes has had a run of over 25 yards in every single game this season along with 10 rushing touchdowns. However, Dayes did struggle some against Louisville with an average of 3.6 yards per carry in that game.
Tonight, the Hokies need the defense to step up at every level and avoid giving up the big play whether it be on the ground against Dayes or through the air against one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC, Jacoby Brissett. Brissett will be ready to test Terrell Edmunds and Mook Reynolds with Kendall Fuller done for the season, and Edmunds and Reynolds will need to step up.
If the Hokies can avoid giving up big plays, Bud Foster's defense could have one of its best games in the last few seasons.
Time To Step Up
The Virginia Tech Hokies have been disappointing to say the least over the last four weeks, but now is time for the Hokies to stand up. Virginia Tech has struggled at home despite the fact that fans have kept showing up in droves ready to make Lane Stadium as tough of an environment as possible.
This team seems in trouble, and a loss tonight could cause things to start unraveling.
Fans are frustrated and optimism about this season has steadily been decreasing. Throughout the last couple of years, many had been talking about this season as the year when the Hokies would definitely make a return to national prominence, but the chance of that happening now is shrinking rapidly and instead, this could be the year the Hokies miss a bowl game.
These fans want to see a good product, and will keep showing up wanting to see this team take that step and be as good as they were expected to be. However, there is a certain point where frustration will really start to boil over and that is already beginning to happen.
Lane Stadium is one of the toughest places to play in college football and usually, the road team's are playing up against the wall for 60 minutes. Even with the loud environment, the Hokies seem to be the team with their backs against the wall entering tonight's matchup.
Will the Hokies step up tonight and get a much-needed home win under the lights at Lane Stadium? If they don't, things will unravel quickly, and the Hokies will likely be headed for a very long offseason.