Frank Beamer knew the stakes for Friday’s game.
With both Beamer’s Virginia Tech team and N.C. State dropping their ACC openers, neither could afford another missed step.
“Some wins are bigger than others and this one was big and critical,” Beamer said.
The Hokies got three touchdown passes from backup quarterback Brenden Motley, all in the second quarter, to hand N.C. State a 28-13 road loss.
After his 15th loss in 18 ACC games, N.C. State coach Dave Doeren wasn’t so much at a loss for words as interested in the economy of them.
“Obviously, disappointment is an understatement,” Doeren said.
And that’s where N.C. State (4-2) is after another 0-2 ACC start, already squarely in the disappointment category in a season that promised to be so much more.
There were more defensive breakdowns and more penalties, two of the woes from the Louisville loss last week, and there was a shortage of production by the offense.
N.C. State has played two ACC games and scored 13 points each time. This after averaging 46.2 points per game against the likes of Troy, South Alabama and Old Dominion to start the season.
“We just have to make more plays,” Doeren said. “We have to get more points on the board and we can’t give up the big plays that are hurting us.”
After building a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter, the last 13 minutes of the first half couldn’t have gone much worse for the Wolfpack. Virginia Tech (3-3, 1-1 ACC), which was held to 100 yards of total offense last week in a 17-13 loss to Pitt, out-gained N.C. State 156 to 2 and out-scored them 21 to 7.
Motley, who had 93 passing yards last week, threw for 102 yards and three tocuhdowns, all to receiver Isaiah Ford, in the second quarter.
N.C. State helped the Hokies with four defensive penalties for 49 yards in the first half and its special teams added two penalties for 15 yards.
When Virginia Tech didn’t have receivers running free through N.C. State’s loose coverage in the secondary, the Wolfpack was getting flagged for either holding or pass interference. Doeren clearly wasn’t satisfied with the way the game was officiated.
“Are we off at times? Yeah,” Doeren said. “And at times we’re in tight coverage and we’re getting ‘PI’ calls. They’re calling everything.
“Some penalties hurt us. I mean nine penalties is going to kill you. It was just one of those games where everything was being called and it’s just how it is sometimes.”
A pass interference call on defensive back Dravious Wright on third and goal from the 11 in the end zone set up Ford’s third touchdown.
N.C. State’s defense played better in the second half until Travon McMillian busted a 59-yard touchdown run to put the game away with 6:54 in the fourth quarter.
McMillian finished with 96 yards on 11 carries but he was the least of N.C. State’s problems. Sophomore linebacker Airius Moore said the Wolfpack was too undisciplined on defense and not aggressive enough.
“We just have to get better, simple and plain,” said Moore, who finished with a team-best 10 tackles. “We talked all week about getting turnovers and we didn’t get one. We have to work on that.”
Motley, who has been subbing for injured starter Michael Brewer since the third quarter of the season-opener, threw three interceptions last week against Pitt and was sacked seven times. N.C. State didn’t force any turnovers and only sacked Motley once.
For the second straight game, N.C. State didn’t get enough from its quarterback. Brissett finished with 113 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception — his first in 241 attempts going back to the Georgia Tech game last year.
Brissett did run for 39 yards but couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm in the passing game.
“I have to do a better job of trying to make plays and getting us in the right situations at times,” Brissett said.
Doeren said he wasn’t concerned about Brissett’s production.
“He’s a tough dude,” Doeren said. “He’s going to fight. He’s disappointed and I’m glad we have a bye week and we can sit down and go through everything and try to make some good fixes.”
For N.C. State, it’s back to the drawing board. For Virginia Tech, it’s back to the Coastal Division race.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio