Also, special shout out to a guy not in the key plays, but wow, Eddie Whitley, played the entire game hurt and was an absolute warrior out there, getting the defense aligned and leaving everything on the field for his brothers. That got recognized in the Tech locker room, believe me. I hope the Hokies hang 50 on Central Michigan on Saturday and give Whitley an early curtain call so he can heal up, but after JMU, nothing is taken for granted, so he may have to tighten the chinstrap again. Ok without further ado:
1) With 0:50 left in the first half, NC State had driven from their own 25 yd-line to the Hokie 15 yd-line and were facing a 3rd and 10. Already ahead 17-7, a score from the Wolfpack here, even a field goal, would provide momentum going into halftime. Russell Wilson escaped pressure and had a man open in the end zone. CB Jayron Hosley baited Wilson by pretending to sit on the flat early in the play but had drifted back in coverage, and then leaned over to snag the Wilson throw and returned it to the Hokie 7 yd-line ending the scoring threat. I usually say when a player had a game like Hosley (3 picks, 6 tackles and 4 passes defended) that they were playing out of their mind. The scary thing is that Hosley looked completely in control and actually could have had another pick. I daresay he has the ability to play at that level on a regular basis which basically means an entire quarter of the field would be off-limits to opposing offenses.
2) A ton happened in the 3rd quarter but it was all back and forth and heading into the 4th quarter, Tech still trailed 27-21 and had driven down to the NC State 4 yd-line. All week long, all we read anywhere was the ineffectiveness of the offense in the red-zone. Now, with all the chips on the line, a FG wouldn't do here. A TD was necessary to really apply pressure. And Coach Stinespring (who I am absolutely CONVINCED wants to do better if he just knew how), came up with a beauty of a play. Using 4 offensive linemen at the line of scrimmage and TE Andre Smith playing where LT Andrew Lanier usually lines up, Stiney had Lanier line up on the line of scrimmage out with the receivers. Lanier would not go downfield which avoided any ineligible-man-downfield type of penalty but he still attracted a LB in coverage. Meanwhile, Smith, who was uncovered by either receiver on his side of the formation was allowed to come off the line of scrimmage and ran a crossing route across the back of the end zone where Taylor found him and delivered one of the best strikes I've seen. It was thrown so hard, the LB was unable to reach out and disrupt the flight of the ball and Smith snagged it (or better yet, let the ball implant itself in his chest) to put Tech up 28-21. The play was so innovative and well-executed I actually have trouble believing Stinespring came up with it, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Enormous play.
3) The third key play may be a bit controversial but I believe it was made by Chris Drager at the end of the game. Remember that, even down 34-30, the Wolfpack had all their timeouts and 1:27 on the clock, which with Russell Wilson is an eternity. Against many defenses, a game-winning touchdown drive is likely a 50/50 shot in that situation for that offense. But Drager played his rush PERFECTLY, maintaining his outside contain and with Wilson unable to get outside of the pocket, he tried to make a heroic play, launching it downfield as Drager lunged for his arm. That disruption led to an easy pick for Hosley and there you have it- ballgame. The Hokie offense rising up to put the team ahead deserves a ton of credit, but that wouldn't have meant anything if the defense had given up another drive (like Boise State) at the end. Thanks to Drager they didn't. By the way, every time Drager makes a play, I stand up, take a shot, and say "I Vill BREAK you". I know, I know, it's Drago, but on gameday, that's close enough.