ACC Football Live Blog: Virginia Tech-Pittsburgh and NC State-Louisville

This was something of a regular feature during basketball season that allows you to follow along as we watch. I’ve toyed with the idea of doing football, but generally I lack the fortitude to focus on a particular game. Today, we’ll dust off the format and give it a shot with your glorious midday slate of ACC games.

Virginia Tech hosts Pittsburgh at 12 p.m. in there will be plenty of excitement despite the dreary weather with Ron Cherry heading the festivities.

And frankly, the ACC meteorological map is awash in green data points today so unless you’re watching from home like I am, you’re going to be pretty damp just about anywhere.

We’ll be keeping tabs live with VT-Pitt and Louisville-NC State which should start at 12:30 p.m.

Updated: 3:52 p.m.

An excellent punt by Louisville pinned State at its own five with no timeouts. The drive floundered from the start, and Matt Dayes was stopped on a 4th and 1 play behind an unbalanced offensive line. The Cardinals are now back to 2-3 (1-1) and looking much better than a couple weeks ago — though we still have no idea who the quarterback is. State has to reduce turnovers and find a way to run the ball against real defenses. Still room to grow for the ‘Pack though.

Updated: 3:40 p.m.

I’m pretty sure State just bailed Louisville out of having to call timeout with one of their own. Despite — or perhaps because of — being 0-of-5 on third downs in the second half, the Cardinals switched QBs for a third down with Reggie Bonnafon lined up under center after Lamar Jackson had been in the game. The Cardinals converted with a rushing play and this drive has been very conservative to grind the clock. A Bonnafon scramble for a first down may have just sealed things under three minutes to go up 20-13.

Updated: 3:30 p.m.

An overly aggressive penalty kept the Louisville defense on the field, but some terrific coverage on third down forced State to punt with just over 10 minutes remaining down 20-13. The trouble has been on offense for the ‘Cards in the second half.

Basically, it’s been a boring game since the break unless you’re really into punting. State gave up just a field goal after a turnover in Wolfpack territory, but positives have been few and far between for both squads.

Updated: 3:10 p.m.

Virginia Tech was absolutely manhandled on the last “drive” as the o-line was blown up for three sacks and a hurried interception on fourth down that left Brenden Motley crumpled on the turf nursing his limp throwing arm. The Pat Narduzzi era is off to a great start at 3-1, the only loss being the narrow road L to Iowa on a monster field goal as time expired. These two programs couldn’t be any further apart right now.

Updated: 2:58 p.m.

The Hokies have lost three yards on eight plays so far in the fourth quarter and Breden Motley has been sacked five times. Ejuan Price now has two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss after the last big sack on yet another third and long for Tech.

Updated: 2:50 p.m.

Just like that, Matt Dayes gets going and NC State got a big-time touchdown drive to cut the lead to 17-14. Nothing overpowering there, just quick little gains to matriculate the ball down the field.

In Blacksburg, Brenden Motley threw an egregious interception and appears to have injured his throwing hand/shoulder. He’s throwing on the sideline in an effort to avoid true freshman Dwayne Lawson from being forced into relief.

Tech forces a field goal and blocks it.

Updated: 2:28 p.m.

2.9 yards per play for the Hokie offense through three quarters, but they came out and converted on a huge third down to start the final period. The unit promptly scuffled after that however with a couple of failed read options. Joey Slye made a 48-yard field goal after a five-yard penalty on Pitt made things a little easier. The Panthers hurt themselves with some dumb and a few strange penalties. Pitt up 17-13.

Updated: 2:42 p.m.

Louisville’s defense really seems to be coming into its own against NC State. The Cardinals have allowed just 128 total yards and only 9 rushing yards. Of course, this is also the first FBS P5 defense State has played so no one really had any idea how good they were entering the game. Of note, the Wolfpack have basically abandoned the run which is surprising despite the loss of Shadrach Thornton who was kicked off the team this week after a moped incident. Matthew Dayes has 10 touchdowns this season, but it’s clear Dave Doeren and Co. don’t trust him and the reshuffled offensive line.

Updated: 2:12 p.m.

I flipped back over to State-Louisville in time to see that the long Cardinal drive had been capped with a field goal to make the lead 17-7. The sideline analyst was trying (poorly) to speaking intelligently about turf grass which meant no one was paying attention and something crazy was bound to happen.

Louisville scooped an apparent incomplete pass and returned it for a score seemingly without a ruling from officials. They called it a fumble and reviewed for quite some time — as is tradition — and the score was overruled. Lamar Jackson has 102 yards rushing and a touchdown each passing and rushing.

Updated: 1:59 p.m.

An enormously important…punt for the Hokies. The offense is searching to put it politely and while I personally recommend Pitt never passes, I could say the same for Tech’s brutal rushing attack. The punt, downed at the 1-yard line by Donovan Riley until Pitt ran a QB sneak that gained six yards up the gut…and Pitt cited for a false start promptly sending us back to the two yard line.

Pitt has been gashing the defense with easy carries of five or six yards per attempt, but finally the Hokies strip Ollison and Tech has stopped the bleeding for now. Andrew Motuapuaka punched the ball loose and has been very active in his first game in a month or so.

Updated: 1:46 p.m.

I’m hesitant to call it a drive, but running back Qadree Ollison just drove the length of the field with two carries. The Panthers covered 68 yards in just under a minute, really only enough time to reset the ball. It begs the question, why pass Pitt? Seriously, this is a bad defense.

Updated: 1:37 p.m.

True freshman Nyheim Hines returned the following kickoff 90 yards, and despite come struggles in the redzone, the Wolfpack cut into the lead with a 3-yard Matthew Dayes touchdown. Dayes was almost two yards deep in the endzone when the ball was stripped, prompting a replay review. ACC officials are nothing, if not thorough I guess.

Updated: 1:30 p.m.

After a beautiful touchdown pass from Lamar Jackson, Louisville now leads 14-0 in Raleigh. State has barely had the ball thanks to the Cardinals’ 10 first downs compared to just four for the Wolfpack. The biggest disparity early however is on the ground. Rushing yards favor Louisville 111-5.

Updated: 1:24 p.m.

Avonte Maddox made his first career interception to get Pitt the ball near midfield with just under three minutes remaining in the first half. It was a great adjustment by Maddox on a third and long play the Hokies are finding all too familiar. Tech managed to prevent any scoring drive, so the score remains 10-7 Pittsburgh on top at the half.

Oh, our friends at Dream Backfield have jokes. There’s some truth there however as Pitt backed up a strong opening quarter with just 12 yards on 15 plays in the second. The Panthers gained -12 yards rushing after 72 in the first quarter. That number is only slightly worse than Tech’s -1.

Updated: 1:12 p.m.

Josh Harvey-Clemons got a good, clean lick on Jacoby Brissett to end the first quarter with a series of Cardinal positives. Brissett is 7 of 9 so far for 84 yards, but the ground game is nonexistant with Matthew Dayes leading the Wolfpack effort just 11 yards on three carries.

And just when things are starting to make sense in Louisville’s QB saga:

Updated: 1:00 p.m.

And just like that, the scramble offense works with a 68-yard touchdown from Lamar Jackson. His talent and speed is incredible, the question will be whether or not State can force him into passing situations. Perhaps and even bigger question, how does NC State respond to an early punch in the face? This is the first time the Wolfpack has been challenged this season and we’ll learn a lot by watching how they respond.

Updated: 12:53 p.m.

Nine carries for 54 yards combined by the Pitt quarterbacks in that opening quarter to give the Panthers a 10-0 lead. The Hokies are using just two receivers, even on five-wide sets. All tight ends and fullback Sam Rogers have been splitting out pretty much all season.

There’s just not any kind of rhythm from the Hokies, while the Panthers are clicking early. Tech drove down the field to answer with a touchdown to make it 10-7 Pitt, but it took a great deal of effort. The Hokies are 100% a passing team now outside of Brenden Motley keepers on read options. We’ll see if the Panthers adjust.

Louisville and NC State have exchanged quick punts, but a huge play just happened after Michael Ramos gained 42-yards but was stripped at the end of the play and Louisville now takes over. The Cardinal offense appears to be entirely focused on Lamar Jackson scrambling like a madman.

Also, it’s always good to see the sporting press asking the tough questions.

Updated: 12:30 p.m.

The Hokies moved the ball ever-so-slightly on the second drive of the day but so far the Pitt defense looks very tough. Tyler Boyd appeared so excited to actually return a kick — just one return so far in 2015 — that he muffed the punt and somehow a Panther recovered. In fact it was Lafayette Pitts who made the recovery, and he also possesses one of the most “Pittsburgh” names ever.

Hokies defensive tackle Corey Marshall is out for the first half at least with a hamstring issue. This is without question the least disciplined Hokie defense I can remember. It extends to offense too, but these guys make so many avoidable mistakes. You don’t want to hear angry Bud Foster.

Wide open touchdown pass to J.P. Holtz from Nate Peterman set up by penalties and coverage errors. Pitt up 10-9 and it doesn’t feel that close early.

Updated: 12:11 p.m.

Apparently, Pitt is just giving out old tools and extra bones they’ve got lying around in an effort to instill toughness. They’d likely accomplish exactly as much by simply touring a steel mill or skipping lunch.

And there you have my Voytik move. It’s no real secret that mobile QBs give Bud Foster (and all defensive coordinators) lots of trouble. Really any misdirection run can use Virginia Tech’s aggressiveness against them.

Pitt was able to move the ball some on their first drive and got a field goal out of it. Almost entirely runs and we should see a lot of that from both sides if the Hokies can establish a ground presence.

Updated: 11:55 a.m.

I’m pretty sure that Pat Narduzzi is enthusiastic about brushing his teeth in the morning, and you’d better believe it’s the most fundamental brushing this side of a hygienist’s office. If you like coaches in rain gear and sloppy football, this is your day!

I’m curious to see how much, if any, Pitt uses quarterback Chad Voytik. Last season, Voytik ran all over the Hokies and after East Carolina once again exposed Tech in that regard last week, will Pitt look to capitalize?

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