From The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The Virginia Tech Hokies are starting to regain their swagger and they will try to continue their recent run by upsetting the 23rd-ranked N.C. State Wolfpack in ACC play this weekend at Carter-Finley Stadium.
The Hokies entered the season with their usual high expectations and a No. 10 ranking, but found themselves outside of the Top 25 after just a couple of weeks. A tough 33-30 loss to third-ranked Boise State to open the season wasn't the problem, it was a stunning 21-16 home loss to James Madison, a FCS program, the following week that raised a bunch of concerns. Tech though, responded with a 49-27 victory over East Carolina before posting a 19-0 shutout over Boston College last weekend in its ACC opener.
"Bud [Foster] and those guys are good at knowing what's going on," Tech head coach Frank Beamer said of his coordinator and defense. "They were good in the second half, but I thought they were good all day."
It marked the Hokies' first shutout in 45 games dating back to a 17-0 blanking of Virginia in 2006, as Tech appears ready to fulfill expectations.
NC State meanwhile, is enjoying a terrific start, as the program is 4-0 for the first time since opening the 2002 campaign with nine straight victories. The team most recently got its ACC schedule underway, coming away with a 45-28 victory over Georgia Tech last weekend.
"It certainly was a good day for us, and I'm very happy for our football team'" stated head coach Tom O'Brien. "Everybody contributed to what we wanted to get done. We couldn't have done this without a lot of effort on a lot of people's parts."
This is the 48th meeting between Virginia Tech and NC State in a series that dates back to 1900. The Hokies lead the series, 25-18-4, and that includes a 38-10 victory in Blacksburg last season.
Offensively, the Hokies did enough to beat BC last weekend, but the unit was average at best. Tech managed a modest 343 total yards and scored just one TD in four trips to the red zone.
"We didn't put up as many touchdowns as I would have liked," said QB Tyrod Taylor. "We didn't capitalize in the red zone."
Taylor though, displayed improved accuracy in the win, as he completed 16- of-21 tosses for 237 yards. A dual-threat typically, Taylor didn't rush for many yards last weekend, but he still leads the team with 201 for the season.
Speaking of the ground attack, which is averaging 180.2 ypg, it was minus starter Ryan Williams last weekend. Williams, who has a team-high three rushing TDs, was out with a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable for this weekend. David Wilson and Darren Evans shared the load in relief of Williams and they combined for 97 yards and a score.
Tech's defense was obviously impressive last weekend, holding BC to just 250 total yards in a shutout effort. The Hokies have now gone five straight quarters without allowing a score, as this young defense appears to be coming together.
"I honestly think we're starting to come around as a defense," said end Steven Friday, who had a nice game with two sacks, two tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles. "If we play our game from this point out, I think we'll be fine."
The Hokies added three takeaways and six sacks to their performance. They had just six sacks in the first three games combined. Bruce Taylor and Friday did most of the damage with two sacks and three TFLs apiece. Friday tops the roster with four sacks for the year, while Taylor has three sacks, to go with team highs of 32 stops and 9.5 TFLs.
QB Russell Wilson threw for a career-best 368 yards and three TDs, as NC State gained 527 total yards in a victory over Georgia Tech last weekend. He also added a TD on the ground.
"We talked about it the day he got back to school, what his goals and aspirations are, and we got together and worked it out. And I think it showed. A week ago on Thursday night and again today, and that's the Russell we're used to seeing. He's going to continue to get a lot better," said O'Brien.
It was certainly another strong performance for Wilson, who is averaging 278.0 passing ypg, with 11 TDs against just one INT.
Wilson has also done a nice job of spreading the wealth, as five players have caught double-digit passes thus far. The backfield even has a couple of nice options in Mustafa Greene and Dean Haynes, who have rushed for 242 and 213 yards, respectively. Though they are inconsistent at times, the duo showed up last weekend and combined for 143 yards and a score in the win over GT.
Facing an option attack is never easy, so holding Georgia Tech to 247 rushing yards was somewhat of a solid effort from the NC State defense last weekend.
"To keep them under 250 yards rushing is a great day," stated O'Brien.
Even with those yards allowed, NC State still only giving up 125.8 ypg on the ground this season and opponents are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. The Wolfpack have also come up with nine takeaways and 14 sacks, as the unit has more than held its own. Nate Irving, who missed all of last season with injuries following a car accident, appeared back to form last game, finishing with 16 tackles, 4.5 TFLs and two sacks. It was a remarkable performance by Irving, who now tops the club with 26 stops for the year.