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October 2, 2010

Big plays spark VT past Pack

The NC State Wolfpack (4-1, 1-1) got off to an ideal start Saturday afternoon against the Virginia Tech Hokies (3-2, 2-0), jumping out to a 17-0 lead behind two touchdown passes from Russell Wilson. The Pack would not be able to take advantage of their quick start, though, and Virginia Tech triumphed over their hosts by a final of 41-30, thanks to a 317 yard rushing effort, led by Tyrod Taylor and Darren Evans.

NC State got off to a fast starter behind the raucous crowd at Carter-Finley Stadium, marching 80 yards down the field on the opening drive. Wilson found Jarvis Williams on a 31-yard completion on the Pack's first play from scrimmage and the home team punched it in on a seven-yard pass from Wilson to tight end George Bryan.

The Pack defense was also firing on all cylinders out of the gate, forcing a quick three-and-out on the Hokies' first possession. However, the Pack's offensive drive could not pick up a first down, either, and gave the ball right back to Virginia Tech. The Hokies' offense appeared like it finally got in gear, but an interception by Brandan Bishop ended the visitor's hope and he returned it 39 yards to set up a two-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Dean Haynes.

The Hokie offense appeared to be in good position for their first points of the night on the ensuing possession, but again stalled after picking up two first downs. Virginia Tech was forced to punt the ball, but placed the Red and White deep in their own territory, with the Pack taking over at their own six-yard line.

Completions of 29 and 28 yards from Wilson to Owen Spencer put the Pack in position to extend their lead to three scores, and Josh Czajkowski converted on a 37-yard field goal. The Pack traded three-and-outs with the Hokies and their next possession started with a 49-yard gain on the ground by freshman Mustafa Greene. Unfortunately, it ended three plays later with Jayron Hosley's first of three interceptions on the night.

The Pack's first turnover opened the door for the Hokie's, who were greatly aided by Taylor taking off on the first play of the drive for 71 yards. Taylor would cap the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andre Smith.

After Wilson hit Spencer for a 35-yard strike, the Pack drive stalled and ended with an unsuccessful fourth-down attempt from the 31-yard line. Virginia Tech would not close the gap any further at that point, though, and lost eight yards on three plays before punting the ball back to NC State. The Pack would drive 60 yards in 13 plays with less than a minute remaining before halftime, but Hosley picked off Wilson in the end zone and returned the ball to the seven. The Hokies would enter the half losing 17-7, but gained some important momentum before the break.

That momentum would immediately be amplified for the visitors when David Wilson returned the second-half kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. Kicker Chris Hazley would miss the extra point, making it a four-point game, but the Hokies were pouring the pressure on the home team.

Wilson would respond quickly, leading the Pack on a six-play, 66-yard touchdown drive. Three catches by Williams would keep the drive alive and also provide the score, a 34-yard completion from Wilson to widen the gap to 11 points.

Virginia Tech would immediately respond, as well, thanks to two rushes from Evans that went for a total of 75 yards, including a 54-yard ramble that scored the points. Virginia Tech would convert its two-point conversion on a pass from Taylor to Danny Coale to cut the Pack lead to a field goal.

NC State would respond once again, but the trend would not continue for long. Greene began the drive with a 17-yard run, but he fumbled at the end of the play, and Spencer happened to be in the right place at the right time to pounce on the loose ball and avert disaster. Spencer followed that up with a huge 29-yard catch on third down and the offense would eventually give way to Czajkowski, who was successful on his try from 32 yards out. The kick pushed the Pack lead to six, but the Hokies would come to life after the teams traded punts and the fourth quarter began.

Taylor started off the final frame by completing the team's current drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to Smith, who found the end zone on both of his pass receptions. Hazley's successful point-after gave the Hokies a one point lead, which stood for over four minutes as the teams exchanged punts. After the Hokies gave the ball back to the Pack, though, Wilson guided his team 37 yards down the field in just six plays to give Czajkowski a chance to take the lead with a 42-yard attempt. A week after missing two kicks from 31-yards, Czajkowski was true and put the Pack back on top with four and a half minutes left in the game.

However, the NC State defense could not find an answer for the Hokies' rushing attack after kicking off. Runs by Evans and Taylor both gained first downs and the quarterback capped the drive with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jarrett Boykin, who made some nifty moves en route to the end zone on his catch-and-run. Virginia Tech would again fail on a two-point conversion, but the damage was done and they had a four-point lead with just over one minute left in the game.

On the first play from scrimmage, Wilson made another uncharacteristic decision and it resulted in Hosley's third pick of the day. The cornerback returned the ball 42 yards to the six, and Evans would take it in for the score from the three after an offside penalty. Hazley's final point-after gave the Hokies their final margin of victory.

The Pack controlled the time of possession and outgained the Hokies, 507 yards to 440. However, the Hokies' big plays proved to be too much for the home team to overcome in their first chance as a ranked team since 2003. Wilson finished with 362 yards through the air and three touchdowns, but was picked off three times by Hosley. Greene saw his streak of games with a rushing touchdown end, but racked up 91 yards on the ground, in addition to hauling in three passes for 30 yards.

The Hokies, who struggled in the red zone against Boston College last week, were perfect on all three opportunities in Raleigh while Taylor totaled 121 yards rushing and threw for three touchdowns.


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