After halftime, North Carolina State was behind by double digits for the second consecutive home game. The 24th-ranked Wolfpack answered with guts and fortitude, just like before. N.C. State came back from being down 18 points in the third quarter to defeat Virginia Tech 22-21 on Thursday night thanks to first-year quarterback MJ Morris, who passed for three touchdowns in the second half.
With 4:02 remaining in the third quarter and the Wolfpack (6-2, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) behind 21-3, Morris replaced starter Jack Chambers to lead an improbable comeback.
Instead, N.C. State managed to mount its most impressive comeback since defeating Maryland in 2011 after falling behind by 27 points. Additionally, it was the Wolfpack’s second comeback from a double-digit deficit after the break this month, following their comeback against Florida State on October 8 after trailing 17-3 at the break.
For a team that had been struggling offensively since losing quarterback and preseason ACC player of the year Devin Leary to a season-ending injury in the Florida State triumph, this game was perhaps more crucial. Morris and the Wolfpack, however, started pounding the ball downfield and connected to quickly alter momentum when it appeared as though every yard was a struggle.
Morris admitted that he has a lot of thoughts running through his head, but that he made an effort to concentrate on doing his job well for his team. With 1:42 remaining in the third, Morris sent a deep throw of 35 yards to Thayer Thomas to start the play. Morris then scored from 7 yards out to Trent Pennix to start the fourth quarter. At the 7:38 mark, Thomas was found again by Morris on a short pass, and he raced up the center of the field to score from 18 yards out.
The Wolfpack maintained the drive’s momentum on the final drive, which took up the final 5:35 to secure the victory when its seasoned defense forced a three-and-out. Thomas concluded the game with 10 receptions for 118 yards and the two Wolfpack touchdowns.
The Hokies appeared to be on their approach to snapping the Wolfpack’s 14-game home winning streak and handing first-year coach Brent Pry his first road victory in four tries, but this one will be tough for them to get past. Instead, the offense that had been struggling against the Wolfpack’s seasoned defense suddenly started to struggle, and the defense allowed three straight TD drives.
In the wake of Leary’s defeat, the Wolfpack had a bye week and the opportunity to modify the offense to better play to Chambers’ abilities. Morris, though, proved to be the more proficient passer as the Wolfpack had to go more aggressive down large, which was successful.