Virginia Tech is looking for a spark, and may have a surprise on Friday night.
The Hokies (2-3, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) will face North Carolina State (4-1, 0-1), and quarterback Michael Brewer is listed as probable after missing the last four weeks with a broken left collarbone.
That doesn't mean that Brewer will play, but the possibility could give Virginia Tech a needed jolt. Hokies coaches and trainer Mike Goforth said this week it will likely be a game-time decision.
Coach Frank Beamer took the blame last week for a lackluster effort as the Hokies opened their ACC season with a 17-13 loss to Pittsburgh. Virginia Tech gained just 100 yards, its lowest total since Beamer's first game 29 seasons ago, and allowed Brenden Motley to be sacked seven times while he also threw three interceptions.
The Hokies are struggling against top competition and have won just one of their last seven at home against teams from Power Five conferences.
Beamer said looking at film of the Pitt game was eye-opening because of the Hokies' lack of fire.
''We downed a couple balls, one on the 1-yard line. It was a heck of a play,'' Beamer said. ''And everybody got up and it was like business as usual. And I said, that's not the way we need to be playing. What you need to be is emotional. It needs to be fun. And that all starts with me.''
The Hokies also are trying to overcome the shadow of three consecutive subpar seasons by program standards, while the Wolfpack doesn't have that kind of burden, but is trying to erase the memory of last week's loss to Louisville.
''I think it was out of our system by the time I woke up today,'' left tackle Joe Thuney said Monday. ''Woke up this morning just eager to get the taste out of our mouth and play another game and focus on Virginia Tech.''
There also is reason for optimism for the Wolfpack.
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett has completed better than 73 percent of his passes, and he's gone 217 throws without being intercepted dating to last November. And tailback Matt Dayes is averaging better than 104 yards per game and has already run for 10 touchdowns, giving him 28 touchdowns on the ground in his career.
Here are some things to watch when North Carolina State plays at Virginia Tech:
WHO'S BEHIND CENTER?: Despite being sacked seven times last week, Brenden Motley is more mobile that Michael Brewer. If the Wolfpack gets their pass rush going like Pittsburgh did a week ago, the Hokies have to decide whether to risk playing Brewer, who had a steel plate and six screws surgically inserted in his collarbone just a month ago.
BALL CARE: Turnovers could be the decisive factor in this one, and that would seem to favor the Wolfpack. They have turned the ball over just three times, all on fumbles, through five games; the Hokies have given it away seven times. The Hokies will try to rattle Jacoby Bissett into making a few more mistakes.
CHUNK PLAYS: Even when their defense is playing well, the Hokies have been susceptible to big plays. Ten of the touchdowns the Hokies have allowed this season have come on plays covering 20 or more yards. The Wolfpack, meantime, arrives with the No. 3 total defense in the nation, allowing just under 226 yards per game.
CROWDED HOUSE: Last week, in 47-degree weather with rain falling, some fans weren't even in the stadium when the Hokies' ''Enter Sandman'' entrance played, and more than 17,000 seats stayed empty. The Hokies are looking for Lane Stadium to once again be a tough place to play when they host the Wolfpack.
BOUNCE-BACK: Both teams are coming off losses in their ACC openers, and both began the season with Coastal Division title hopes. Both will be playing with a sense of urgency to avoid falling to 0-2 in league play.
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