NC State football is in desperate need of a bounce-back win this week against Virginia Tech.
The No. 24 Wolfpack (5-2, 1-2 ACC) have lost two of their last three and have yet to score a touchdown since quarterback Devin Leary went out with a season-ending injury against Florida State three weeks ago, but can become bowl eligible with a victory this week.
Coming off a much-needed off week, NC State and its offense will look to get back on track against the Hokies (2-5, 1-3) at home Thursday (7:30 p.m., ESPN).
Can QB Jack Chambers secure his starting spot?
After failing to score a touchdown during a 24-9 road loss to Syracuse on Oct. 15, NC State coach Dave Doeren said 25-year-old transfer quarterback Jack Chambers would continue to be the team's starter going forward with Devin Leary out for the season.
Chambers threw for 160 yards and completed 18 of 30 passes, while adding 58 rushing yards on 19 attempts, but the offense sputtered in the red zone, resulting in three Chris Dunn field goals that weren't enough to knock off the Orange.
Virginia Tech's defense allows an average of 25.1 points per game, including 224 yards through the air, and should offer Chambers a chance to improve with several more practices under his belt taking QB1 snaps. Playing at home should also make life a little easier for Chambers, who struggled with making changes at the line under duress of the Syracuse crowd noise.
The Hokies have lost four straight and are 0-3 on the road this season.
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TE Trent Pennix returns
NC State will get an offensive jolt Thursday when tight end Trent Pennix rejoins the starting lineup after missing the last six games with a fractured left scapula that he suffered in Week 1 against ECU.
Pennix was a favorite target of Leary in the final stretch of the 2021 season, hauling in 12 catches for 206 yards and all three of his touchdowns in the final five games. He told the USA TODAY Network this week that he has built a bond with Chambers throughout the season.
Pennix had two catches for 25 yards against East Carolina before suffering the injury. There is still little information regarding the injury to running back Demie Sumo-Karnbaye. He is still listed day-to-day.
Sumo has 299 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 52 attempts this season for the Wolfpack,
Historically bad October may continue for the Hokies
Virginia Tech is 0-3 this month and in danger of going winless in October for the first time since 1952.
The Hokies, under first-year coach Brent Pry, have lost four straight and are in danger of the program's first five-game losing streak since 1992. They enter Thursday's game as a double-digit underdog in a stadium where NC State holds a 14-game win streak.
That's forced Pry to make some tough decisions, including starting true freshman Mansoor Delane at cornerback over redshirt senior Brion Murray while Dorian Strong remains out with a hand injury.
Delane played 63 of 78 possible snaps during last week's 20-14 loss to Miami and gave up one reception while breaking up two passes on six targets. Pry also said this week he expects defensive end TyJuan Garbutt to play this week.
Pry called VT's offense "vanilla"
During his postgame comments after his team's most recent loss to Miami, Pry said his offense was too "vanilla".
The Hokies' offense is ranked No. 13 out of 14 ACC teams with only seven touchdowns while averaging 214.6 yards per game. Pry said Monday he hopes to "establish the run, create some explosives" against NC State's defense.
Running back Kewshawn King (259 yards, two TDs, 44 attempts) is questionable with a lower-body injury which could leave Jalen Holston (152 yards, two TDs, 48 attempts) as the primary ball carrier.
Quarterback Grant Wells has completed 141 of 237 passes for 1,439 yards with seven touchdowns to seven interceptions. He's been sacked 13 times. NC State leads the ACC with 11 interceptions this season.
NC State vs. Virginia Tech score prediction
NC State 27, Virginia Tech 10: It's hard to know exactly how the Wolfpack offense will look in its second week with Jack Chambers at quarterback, but the Hokies will struggle to move the ball and score against NC State's defense. This game should serve as a confidence booster going forward for the Pack.
This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: NC State football vs. Virginia Tech scouting report, score prediction