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Virginia Tech Football: Another tough loss for struggling Hokies squad

Chris Graham
virginia tech brent pry
Virginia Tech football coach Brent Pry. Photo courtesy Virginia Tech Athletics.

Being honest here, when the replay review told us that Grant Wells had scored on a 20-yard run, I thought Virginia Tech had it wrapped up.

The TD made it 21-3 Hokies with 4:03 to go in the third, and NC State, ranked 24th, but not at all the same team without Devin Leary at QB, seemed lifeless.

State coach Dave Doeren was shuttling in two QBs – Jack Chambers and MJ Morris – and neither was effective.

Chambers was 6-of-13 for 31 yards, Morris a little better, 8-of-14 for 81 yards.

The Pack had 169 yards of total offense; the only score came on a field goal in the two-minute offense on a short field just before halftime.

Doeren ended up going with Morris, a freshman who had thrown five passes in two mop-up appearances coming in, looking for a spark.

Things escalated quickly from there. Morris completed 12 of his 15 passes for 184 yards on State’s final three offensive possessions, all of which ended with TD passes, keying the come-from-behind 22-21 win.

“The kids just don’t quit here,” Doeren said after the game.

The feeling in the other locker room was – we’ve been here before.

The Hokies have now lost five straight games, the first time since 1992 that a Virginia Tech team has had to endure such a losing skid.

First-year coach Brent Pry has tried to keep a positive focus for his team, and there is evident improvement – the first two losses in the streak were by final scores of 33-10 (West Virginia) and 41-10 (UNC); the 45-29 loss at Pitt was a two-point game in the fourth quarter that got away, followed by a 20-14 loss to Miami.

But they’re still Ls.

The difference after Tech took the 21-3 lead, to Pry, a defense guy, was his defense.

“Yeah, we have to cover better,” Pry said. I thought we let the quarterback have a little bit too long down the stretch. But, their kids made some plays. As good as Mansoor (Delane) and Arman (Chatman) played, they took a couple shots, and their kids converted. We had some coverage changeups. But they did a nice job in the fourth quarter of airing it out. We got to obviously do better.”

The State comeback obviously overshadowed the nice adjustments made by the Tech offensive staff after a scoreless first half.

Wells was 6-of-12 for 61 yards in the first half, in which the Hokies had four punts and a fumble on their five offensive possessions.

On the first three drives of the second half, Wells was 4-of-6 for 176 yards, with an 80-yard TD pass to Kaleb Smith and a 50-yarder to Smith that set up another scoring drive.

“NC State gave us a little bit of a different look. They were being aggressive with their pressures. I thought the guys did a nice job with some misdirection and some formation things that helped us and gave us a chance to move the ball. We got to take shots to Kaleb, and we did that. There were some chances for some explosive plays that we weren’t getting in the first half,” Pry said.

“But we can’t lay an egg like we did in the first half, when you play so well defensively,” Pry said. “You talk about complementary football, if we just done a little more and be able to do some things in the first half like we did in the third quarter offensively. I think it would have looked a little bit different.”

The chance to pull an upset on the road against a Top 25 team left on the turf, the mood in the locker room was sullen afterward.

“This was a tough one, you know, fighting for bowl eligibility right now, you have to keep pushing for those seniors,” said Chatman, who had two tackles and a pass breakup in the defeat. “Everybody is trying to keep their head up, keep pushing and keep that mindset that we still have work to do and the season is not over. We have more games left on the table, and you definitely have to play for one another. Coach Pry is definitely making us, as a team, stick together and keep our heads up. So, you know, it’s not dead in there, it’s just not what we want.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].