NC State football tops Virginia Tech. Pack wins in Blacksburg for first time in 19 years

The last time N.C. State won a football game at Lane Stadium: Ken Jennings made his major Jeopardy run, iPhones did not exist, Facebook was months old, and most of the current Wolfpack players were infants — assuming they were alive at all.

N.C. State ended its 19-year drought in Blacksburg on Saturday, picking up a 35-28 win over Virginia Tech. It was the first win in at Virginia Tech for coach Dave Doeren — and for graduate transfer quarterback Brennan Armstrong, who’d never won there while playing for Virginia, either. Coming into the contest, the Hokies had won five of the past seven meetings.

Offense led the way for both NC State (8-3, 5-2 ACC) and Virginia Tech (5-6, 4-3 ACC), surprising given that’s been an area of concern for both programs.

The Wolfpack finished with 408 yards of total offense, its second-best output of the season, and took advantage of a tough Hokies defense.

Here are three takeaways from the team’s road win:

Offense looked comfortable, confident

Even though the Wolfpack finished previous games with more points, its outing against the Hokies aced the eye test. N.C. State looked, arguably, the best it has all year.

K.C. Concepcion hauled in a screen pass and picked up a first down after finding a gap in coverage. Then, he picked up a first down with Armstrong blocking defenders. Oh, and he scored two touchdowns — both for at least 17 yards.

Tight end Trent Pennix added a 21-yard trick play catch. Running back Delbert Mimms gained 23 yards under pressure, advancing all the way to the 2-yard line.

In total, eight different receivers grabbed a pass and three — aside from Armstrong — rushed for positive yardage. This success translated to five straight touchdown possessions.

Everything seemed to click, even more so than in the team’s Wake Forest win, and it’s exactly what the Wolfpack needed.

KC Concepcion shines again

No one should be surprised by the true freshman’s abilities to positively impact a Wolfpack game. That said, what he’s doing week in and week out deserves a lot of credit.

This week, his big plays helped maintain the Wolfpack’s offensive momentum and directly helped secure the win. And, those plays came by way of smart decisions and maturity.

Concepcion stretched his arm during his first touchdown play, ensuring the ball broke the plane. It seems like an obvious decision, but when players don’t or drop the ball before crossing the goal line — see Alabama backup QB Ty Simpson — that wherewithal makes a huge difference.

On his second touchdown, he sidestepped a Hokies defender and outran the other two. Those are just the ones he directly scored on.

Concepcion completed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Pennix in the third, as well, handling the lights and loud stadium like a veteran.

If the Pack can keep the rookie in Raleigh, Concepcion has the makings of a major star.

Third down makes a difference

N.C. State’s defense is known for its ability to stop teams on third down, and that didn’t change on Saturday.

The Wolfpack came into the game holding opponents to 27.2% on third down, which was good enough for No. 1 in the ACC and No. 4 in the country. On Saturday, it held the Hokies to 1-of-7, moving its opponent conversion percentage to 26.5%.

Third down defense deserves credit, especially considering how tight the game ended up being, but the offense also came up big.

N.C. State finished 7-of-14 on third down, moving its percentage to 39%.

The ability to limit the Hokies from extending drives, while converting on its own opportunities led the Pack to its eighth win of the year.