|Shorthanded Va. Tech starts season with NC State|
North Carolina State and Virginia Tech were delayed but the ACC matchup will not be denied.
Scheduled to open the season in the head-to-head conference meeting on Sept. 12, the Wolfpack and Hokies were postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests and the quarantining of student-athletes at N.C. State.
Two weeks after that originally scheduled meeting, the Wolfpack and Hokies are set to hook up Saturday for a nighttime kickoff at Virginia Tech.
The meeting is the first between these programs since 2015.
The host Hokies finally arrive at their season opener after two delays.
Not only was Virginia Tech's Sept. 12 game against N.C. State postponed for COVID-19 reasons, the Sept. 19 game versus Virginia -- since rescheduled for Dec. 12 -- was also scratched.
The Hokies are back on the field for gameday for the first time since losing two games in a row to end 2019 -- at rival Virginia and then to Kentucky in the Belk Bowl.
Virginia Tech junior quarterback Hendon Hooker, who accounted for 1,911 yards and 18 total touchdowns in eight starts last year, takes the lead for the Hokies in 2020. He threw two interceptions, both coming in the loss to Virginia, last season and has the luxury of being protected by an offensive line returning all five starters, including all-ACC players Christian Darrisaw and Lecitus Smith.
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente said he's been pleased with how resilient his players have been through the offseason and having to deal with two postponements, and is cautiously optimistic the routine of a season can finally be established this week.
"We will not have a full roster," Fuente said. "I'm hoping we are able to play. We still have more tests this week. We have one on Wednesday and one on Friday. We are taking it day by day."
On the other side, it will be the second game of the season for N.C. State, which is coming off a 45-42 home win over Wake Forest last weekend.
Coming off a 4-8 season in 2019, getting a season-opening win was a good morale boost for the Wolfpack heading into their trip to Blacksburg.
N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren unveiled a surprise right before the Wake Forest game, naming junior Bailey Hockman as the team's starting quarterback for the game instead of sophomore Devin Leary, who was named the starter going into spring practice.
Hockman went 16-of-23 passing for 191 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He was aided by a strong running game.
Junior Ricky Person rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, while sophomore Zonovan Knight ran for 97 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries for N.C. State.
Hockman was listed as the starter earlier in the week on the team's depth chart, but Doeren wants Leary to be ready for action also.
"We're going to need both of them," Doeren said. "We're one injury or COVID test away from having a different player at every position. I'm proud of Bailey and what he did. Devin did practice last week and he'll practice this week and continue to get better."
--Field Level Media