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Armstrong lifts NC State to 35-28 win over Hokies

Virginia Tech's Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw (5) scores on a 47-yard touchdown run in the first half of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina State in Blacksburg, Va., Saturday, Nov. 18 2023. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP)

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Brennan Armstrong threw two touchdown passes and rushed for two scores to lead NC State to a 35-28 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday.

Armstrong accounted for 292 yards for the Wolfpack (8-3, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who scored touchdowns on five consecutive possessions spanning both halves and never trailed in winning their fourth consecutive game.

The Wolfpack now have won at least eight games in each of the past four seasons for the first time in program history and are 4-0 since their bye week.

“We just had to pick this program basically out of the trash,” said Wolfpack linebacker Payton Thomas, who finished with 11 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, and a sack. “We all weren’t doing our part. We all weren’t bought in, and that bye week hit and the coaches got on us and showed us what we could do. You kind of see the result of it.”

“I’m just proud of how we’ve gotten better,” NC State coach Dave Doeren said. “We’re peaking at the right time. Offense, defense, and special teams, all the guys are pitching in, and the coaches are doing a good job.”

Kyron Drones led Virginia Tech (5-6, 4-3) with 225 yards passing and three touchdowns. The Hokies had won three of four coming into the game.

Armstrong threw touchdown passes of 3 and 28 yards to KC Concepcion and added two 1-yard scoring runs against the Hokies. He completed 18 of 26 for 203 yards and rushed for 89 yards.

“He’s just having fun,” Doeren said. “He had such a tough year last year. I think he had such a desire to fix that, and sometimes you press. It’s, ‘I’ve got to be better. I’ve got to be better,’ but that’s not how you get better. You play better by doing what the offense needs for you to do and letting your skillset be your skillset. … Just play the game. Play with your teammates, and enjoy it, and that’s what he’s doing now.”

Behind Armstrong, the Wolfpack finished with 408 total yards; their second-best output this season.

“We didn’t play well enough in the first half, particularly on defense,” Virginia Tech coach Brent Pry said. “We got behind far too much. I’m proud of the way the guys continued to fight and battle … resilient effort. We’ve got to do some things better as coaches and players. The first part of the game, they were able to control the ball and kept us off balance defensively.”

TAKEAWAYS

NC State: Armstrong lost his starting job after subpar play in the first five games this season, but MJ Morris decided to take a redshirt season after leading NC State to a win over Miami on Nov. 4, giving Armstrong a second chance. Armstrong has won both starts since returning to the starting role, completing 30 of 43 in that span for 316 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 185 yards and three scores. He has not turned the ball over in either game.

“The team embraced his journey, his suffering and his pain,” Doeren said. “Man, did he gain respect in those four weeks just by being a good teammate after he went through what he did, and I think everybody was pulling for him. That’s been cool to see the team rally around him like that.”

Virginia Tech: Partly because of a soft nonconference schedule, and partly because the bottom half of the ACC is awful this season, the Hokies have played three good teams (Florida State, Louisville and NC State) and lost all three games. They’ll need a win over rival Virginia in the regular-season finale to become bowl eligible.

“We can’t hang our heads and feel sorry for ourselves,” Pry said. “It hurts. We didn’t play our best. We’ve got to watch the film and correct the things that need correcting. We’ve got to be better at winning our one-on-one battles. We have to be an improved team when we go over there Saturday.”

UP NEXT

NC State: Hosts North Carolina on Saturday.

Virginia Tech: Plays at Virginia on Saturday.

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