Brenden Motley had his best game as a starter with three touchdown passes and Travon McMillian ran for 96 yards and a touchdown as Virginia Tech rebounded from an awful loss to Pittsburgh to defeat NC State 28-13.
Here are five takeaways from the Hokies' first ACC win of the season:
Flipping the switch: After gaining only 100 yards of offense last week against Pittsburgh, the Hokies offense needed a rebound in the worst way. Things did not start off well as Virginia Tech managed only 29 yards in the 1st quarter, punting on their first three possessions.
Then everything changed.
Down 10-0, Virginia Tech took their next three possessions for a combined 191 yards and three touchdowns.
What was the difference? One factor was Isaiah Ford who capped off each of those three scoring drives with a touchdown catch becoming the first Hokies player to catch three touchdown receptions in one game since Ernest Wilford in 2002. He is also the fastest player to reach 10 touchdown receptions under Beamer. It took him just 19 games.
Another factor was likely the loss of safety Hakim Jones. Jones is viewed as the leader of NC State's secondary and his absence showed you wh. He suffered a lower body injury in the second quarter and did not return. His impact on the secondary was immediately evident and the defense never looked the same.
Bottling up Brissett: Virginia Tech has struggled against mobile quarterbacks since...well, forever seemingly. Jacoby Brissett has been run sparingly this season, but it was clear early on that this was part of NC State's offensive game plan for Friday. After rushing for 40 yards on his first four carries, however, the defense bottled up the quarterback for -1 yard.
Brissett finished with only 39 rushing yards for the game.
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Curious call: Down 21-10 in the 3rd quarter, NC State took to the ground on offense. The Wolfpack ran the ball on 10-straight plays, marching the ball from their own 30 down to Virginia Tech's 14.
On 3rd and 2, Brissett lined up in shotgun formation and attempted a pass that fell incomplete. There was no play action, no fake, it was just a straight pass out of the shotgun.
NC State had found success running the ball on that drive. Of the 10 plays prior to the 3rd and 2, none of them went for less than three yards. Why the Wolfpack did not attempt a run on this critical 3rd down made absolutely no sense. Why they did not at least run a play action pass made absolutely no sense.
The Wolfpack had spent the entire drive establishing the run and setting up the play action and they took advantage of neither when they really needed to.
Give him the rock: If there was any question who the top running back on this team was, that question was answered Friday. McMillian is a stud and he needs to keep getting the ball.
For some reason, the team's reluctance to continue feeding one running back the ball continued as McMillian had only 11 carries, but he made the most of his opportunities turning those carries into 96 yards and his first career touchdown. The touchdown came in the 4th quarter as he took a sweep to the left 59 yards to the house, putting the game away for the Hokies.
Punching bag: One reason McMillian needs to keep getting the ball is so they can take it out of the hands of Motley who is taking way too many hits every game. Though he was only sacked once on the night, he took a lot of hits as the offensive line continued to struggle to give the Hokies quarterback time in the pocket. That was further compounded by offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler's insistence on having Motley run the ball.
More than once, Motley struggled to get to his feet after taking a big hit. He could be seen favoring his arm or his knee after a play and yet, there he was tucking the ball and running on the very next play.
If you see your quarterback getting beaten up, maybe it's not a good idea to put him in a position to get hit even more by calling a quarterback draw. Motley had nine carries on the night. It's a miracle he had to come out of the game only once considering the number of hits he took.
Having watched this offense all season, Motley does not seem integral to the team's rush attack. If anything, he's hindering the offense by taking carries away from McMillian. That's not to say he hasn't run the ball well, he has at times, but I do not believe this offense would take a step back if McMillian was getting 15-20 carries a game and Motley was getting only two or three.
At this point, it's obvious that Motley is taking too much punishment each game and I'm not sure he needs to be.
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