Postgame Thoughts on Virginia Tech's 22-21 Loss to #24 N.C. State

Postgame Thoughts on Virginia Tech's 22-21 Loss to #24 N.C. State
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Oct 27, 2022

This was one of the most bizarre games that I've ever witnessed as Virginia Tech had only 46 yards of offense and no points at halftime, 251 yards and 21 points in the third quarter taking a 21-3 lead at one point, and then a collapse after that giving up 19 unanswered points to lose to #24 N.C. State 22-21.

So yeah, that game happened with Tech having 13 penalties including 10 false starts by 9 different players, 2 of which came of punts and at least 1 for each offensive lineman including 2 for veteran OT Silas Dzansi. Tech's had issues handling adversity with tonight being no different while their running game struggled all night outside of Grant Wells' scrambles and his QB draw TD run in the third quarter. VT's defense was strong early but faded as true freshman QB MJ Morris found his stride and picked Tech apart.

So with all that said, here are my 3 postgame thoughts on Tech's roller coaster 22-21 loss.

1. Tech Fails To Close 21-3 Lead When Adversity Hit

For the first time since their win over Wofford, Virginia Tech had a lead in the fourth quarter but similar to the only other time they seemed to truly be in striking distance in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh, Tech was unable to close the deal.

This one stings a little more because the fact is that Tech was in a fantastic position up 21-3 with just over 4 minutes to go in front of a completely shocked N.C. State crowd with the numerous Tech fans in Raleigh yelling "Let's Go Hokies" that were audible in a well-enclosed press box. Even with the clear talent disparity and being on the road, this isn't one you should lose.

Instead, adversity struck with N.C. State going on a 6-play, 75-yard touchdown drive right after Tech claimed a 21-3 lead. From there, we saw a familiar script of Tech not handling adversity well in the intermediate aftermath and in this case, Tech failing to close out a game that was theirs for the taking and then some.

We saw the defense crumble after 40 strong minutes of play while the offense stalled out completely having -4 yards of offenses on 2 fourth quarter 3 and outs after having 251 yards of offense in the third quarter. Tech's kickoff return issues seemed to epitomize the panic that we've seen hit at times and seem to reappear tonight with Chance Black having 3 muffs and fumbles on 2 returns before being pulled for Bryce Duke and Jalen Holston on kick return duties.

Brent Pry mentioned that he feels this team still has room to grow to learn how to win games and have a closer's mentality with players backing that fully. We'll have more on that soon, but it's clear that there's a whole lot of growth needed there.

There are some theories I have for the culture issues from the previous regime and the change Brent Pry is trying to make to fix it that may be causing the issue.

One of them is rooted in how there seemed to be a "fear of screwing up" sub-culture that Tech is trying to root out with roots of that being from things like Keshawn King being benched for weeks after one fumble, QBs not being allowed to make decisions on read options, etc. That's unhealthy on any level and breaking this requires space to give freedom and better motivation, with the motivation pushes being more positive especially from the indirect actions that are reflective of it with guys going right back in after mistakes (Dae'Quan Wright versus Miami after fumble, Brion Murray getting second chance after bad start vs Miami, etc) as they ought to be but the fear lingering seems to be in the way.

That's a working theory I have, but it's clear there are some deep-rooted issues here that Brent Pry and his staff still have lots of work to fix to get things turned around in Blacksburg.

2. Penalty Issues Linger For the Hokies

Penalties have been an issue throughout the season for Virginia Tech with some really bad moments against ODU and West Virginia especially, and some signs of improvement.

Put tonight down as a major step back.

Virginia Tech had only 69 penalty yards which is borderline incredible given that they had 13 penalties including an absurd 10 false starts. This includes each offensive lineman having at least 1 false start with captain Silas Dzansi having 2 plus 2 false starts on a punt and 2 false starts on receivers.

The penalty issues once again shot Tech in the foot and turned drives that had some promises into ones where punts were simply inevitable in most cases outside of the 85-yard TD pass to Kaleb Smith on 1st and 15 following a false start.

After the game, Brent Pry had this to say about the false start issues mentioning the factors of crowd noise and N.C. State calls at the line of scrimmage, but being direct in realizing the need for discipline to improve.

"I think it was loud on the field. They were making some calls at the line of scrimmage. They would move and they would say some things and we would flinch. Can't do it, got to be more disciplined then that. Couple of them got us off schedule bad, put us in a hole. We overcame a couple of them. But obviously, we got a veteran group up there for the most part, we got to be better than that. We're certainly going to take a hard look at that. I told the guys in the locker room after the game you can't absorb (13) penalties. You just can't. You look at the score and you say 'if we had 3, then we win the game.' You got to be more disciplined then that and that starts with me," Pry said.

That middle portion of his statement is a big part of the rightful frustration with this issue. The fact is that this starting 5 has four guys with extensive starting experience and a fifth who has gained lots of experience this season. To have these issues and to this extreme is bad to say the least.

There's a lot of work to be done on not only improving Tech's discipline which they've shown they can be better at, but also doing so on a consistent basis especially with two more road games including what should be a raucous environment at Liberty plus an emotionally-charged rivalry with UVA still to come.

3. Offensive Upside Is There But Consistency Is Lacking

Virginia Tech's offense was terrible for three-quarters of this game putting up 46 yards with only 2 first downs in the first half, and having 2 3 and outs with -4 yards in the fourth quarter.

But Tech showed in the third quarter what this offense has the potential to be even if the consistency still is lacking in an extreme way to say the least.

After a tremendous fourth quarter rally against Miami two weeks ago, Tech's offense showed life with an even bigger takeoff in the third quarter. Teams don't just happen to stumble into 251 yards of offense and 21 points in a single quarter against a defense that was ranked in the top 15 nationally in scoring defense entering a game by luck.

We've seen Kaleb Smith develop into a very good WR1 for this VT team while Dae'Quan Wright looks like a legit playmaker at the TE spot. Malachi Thomas continues to be a quality threat at RB who has shown his versatility as a receiver though his injury tonight is definitely a concern going forward to say the least.

We saw this offense decide to actually take some shots down the field in a playcalling sense and then pull the levers at the right time on things like the QB draw that Grant Wells ran for a 20-yard touchdown. Grant Wells showed the potential that he has when he adds the touch he needs on some of his passes as we saw on the two long completions to Smith.

However, we also saw the ugly from a running game that struggled most of the night outside of Grant Wells' scrambles and his 20-yard TD run as the offensive line issues continue. Wells has lots of room to grow in terms of his touch as a passer though the arm strength and other tools are clearly there. The vanilla offense showed up again for much of this game outside of the third quarter with play action not being used till the long gain for Dae'Quan Wright somehow despite their commitment to running the football early that was a perfect set up earlier on for play action.

There's clearly some talent here that has loads of upside, but also so much refinement and room for growth especially in consistency that is needed both from the players and also from Tyler Bowen and the offensive playcalling.