Three Key Matchups to Watch Against Virginia Tech

Brett Friedlander

It’s anybody’s guess who or how many players Virginia Tech will have available for Saturday’s game at Lane Stadium, or if the game will even be played at all thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak that led to the postponement of last week’s matchup against Virginia

But assuming the Hokies have enough manpower to take the field against the Wolfpack, here are some key matchups to watch as the game unfolds:

NC State’s running backs against Virginia Tech linebacker Rayshard Ashby: There’s no question that offensive coordinator Tim Beck is going to establish the run early and often like he did last week with great success against Wake Forest. But even if the guys up front are as just as dominant and earn a whole shelf full of syrup bottles, the trio of Ricky Person Jr,, Bam Knight and Jordan Houston will still have to deal with Ashby -- a heat-seeking missile of a linebacker who has led the ACC in tackles in each of the past two years.

Rayshard Ashby
Virginia Tech linebacker Rayshard AshbySteve Mitchell/USAToday sports

State’s perimeter defense against Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker: Wake Forest had a lot of success running on the edges last week on the way to rolling up 42 points. Hooker will present even more of a threat this week because of his running ability. State’s outside linebackers and ends have to do a good job of keeping him contained and the secondary can’t sell out on the run, because Hooker is a good enough passer to burn it deep if it does.

Hockman behind blocking vs Wake
NC State quarterback Bailey HockmanACC pool photo

And finally, there’s the potential battle between Wolfpack quarterbacks Bailey Hockman and Devin Leary: Yes, they’re both on the same team. But it was clear that Beck’s confidence in Leary wasn’t the same after he threw that third quarter pick six last week. And with another week of practice to his credit, Leary has to be close to ready to return to action. Expect Doeren to have a short leash on Hockman if things don’t go according to plan.

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