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Mental errors, turnovers, doom Virginia in 38-21 loss to NC State

billy kemp
Billy Kemp IV records one of his 10 catches. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

Little things – needing to burn two timeouts on punts because somebody who was supposed to be out there had a brain cramp.

Failing to get either third and goal from the 1 or fourth and goal from the 1.

What else …

One punt was blocked. Another went 19 yards.

A kickoff went out of bounds, giving up field position.

What else …

Of course, the four turnovers, leading to 17 NC State points.

What else …

Oh, yeah, so, UVA also lost its starting quarterback, Brennan Armstrong.

I could go on – the seven penalties for 81 yards, the 82 yards on the ground against a run defense that gave up 314 in a bad loss two weeks ago to Virginia Tech.

Point being, it could have, and should have, been worse, a lot worse, than the 38-21 final.

The Pack had an apparent 34-yard first-quarter TD pass to Porter Rooks overturned, and, looked to me like that was a catch.

And State placekicker Christopher Dunn, who had made 14 straight field goals coming in, doinked one from 51, yanked one from 37.

And, let’s be honest here, the Pack, after going up 24-0 in the second quarter, sat back and played soft zones once Armstrong was out of the lineup.

God love Lindell Stone, who put the ball up an ungodly 54 times after entering the game with 5:40 left in the second quarter, but he’s not leading the offense on three touchdown drives if State is playing D straight up.

Stone threw for 240 yards and three TDs, but had one picked off – by 330-pound nose tackle Alim McNeill, who rumbled, bumbled, stumbled his way to an 18-yard picksix in the fourth quarter, after the ‘Hoos had clawed their way back to 24-14, in spite of it all.

It’s not polite to speak ill of the dead, but that laid egg was Mike London-esque, in terms of how things played out.

For all the talk all spring, summer and into the fall about how hard the team was working to get back on the field in this Year of Our COVID 2020, this one smelled of lack of preparation, focus, something.

The timeouts ahead of the punts – again, two of them, both in the first quarter – that’s the tell.

The blocked punt seemed to be a personnel issue that manifest in what it became.

The botched kickoff was special teams coach Ricky Brumfield getting too cute and calling for a squib kick that Brian Delaney clearly can’t execute – he botched the same kick last week in the loss at Clemson.

There’s no shame in losing a game.

The other side gives out scholarships, too, and they’re paying their coaches a ton of money more than any of this is worth in the real world to try to figure out ways to score more points than the other team.

It’s one thing to lose; another thing entirely to allow yourself to be defeated.

That’s what this one felt like, as the outcome started to sink in, after the fat man touchdown in the fourth quarter.

It’s rare to see a Bronco Mendenhall-coached team make the kinds of just dumb mistakes that we saw on Saturday.

Again, it’s a little thing, but not having all your guys on the punt team, and having to call a timeout – twice! – in one quarter.

Credit to Stone for stepping in and getting the score to some level of respectability.

Credit also to Billy Kemp IV (10 catches, 82 yards) and Terrell Jana (9 catches, 111 yards).

JMU grad transfer D’Angelo Amos had a team-high 10 tackles in place of Joey Blount, who was on the sidelines in street clothes.

Noah Taylor had a couple of nice pass breakups and tackles for loss.

The rest of the bunch – players and staff all – might want to check with the man in the mirror.

They’re all giving up an awful lot to be able to play football in 2020.

Win or lose, you can’t go out like that.

Story by Chris Graham

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