The highlight of Quincy Patterson II's three seasons at Virginia Tech came in 2019, his redshirt freshman year. The third-string quarterback, inserted into the game in the second half, led the Hokies to a 43-41 six-overtime victory over North Carolina before 65,632 rowdy-as-always partisans in Blacksburg.
The Patterson play that will stand out to North Dakota State fans from that game came late in the fourth quarter with the Hokies trailing 31-24. Patterson took a shotgun snap, ran right, cut upfield and never stopped. The 53-yard touchdown sprint — made by a young man who is listed at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds — will have the NDSU faithful thinking of a bigger version of Trey Lance and Easton Stick.
But that's not the play that sticks out in Patterson's memory.
"The touchdown pass in the second overtime. Everybody talks about the run, but that pass is the one that gets me. That's it. That's the one I remember," Patterson said.
(Click ahead to 3:40 to watch Patterson's highlights:)
The 18-yard strike, delivered with perfect touch to the left side of the end zone to Damon Hazelton, was dropped in the exact spot it needed to be, where Hazelton could catch it with one arm while a defender grabbed the other. That throw should have fans, not to mention Bison quarterbacks coach Randy Hedberg, drooling about possibilities.
Patterson was a surprise signing by the Bison this week, a transfer from an Atlantic Coast Conference school that was kept under wraps by both the player and the NDSU coaching staff. While Cole Payton of Omaha was the prized high school quarterback recruit of this class, Patterson might provide a jolt in the meantime. He is enrolled in classes next semester and will arrive in Fargo in early January as a sophomore in football eligibility, thanks to the NCAA giving all athletes a free year because of COVID.
After Lance declared early for the NFL Draft, Bison coaches felt they needed to fill his roster spot with an experienced sophomore-to-be.
"We feel really good about Zeb Noland being our starting quarterback in the spring and the plan is for him to come back in the fall," NDSU offensive coordinator Tyler Roehl said of the fifth-year senior who transferred from Iowa State before the 2019 season. "Zeb is rock-solid as our starter, but our quarterback room gets really young after that. We really like (freshman) Cam Miller and (redshirt freshman) Logan Graetz is showing us some things and Cole will be with us in the fall of 2021, but once Zeb is finished we don't feel it's fair to take one of those young guys and go, 'Here you go. You're a college quarterback' without them having any college experience."
(Patterson's high school recruiting tape:)
Patterson is a titillating prospect. Highly recruited out of Solorio Academy in Chicago, he was offered by Penn State, North Carolina, Northwestern, Illinois, Mississippi State and others before choosing Virginia Tech in large part because of its excellent engineering program (he switched majors and is now pursuing a degree in business). This was a young man who had as much happening academically as athletically in high school. Patterson graduated with a 4.5 grade-point average (on a scale of 4.0) and says he's crazy about math.
A staple of all media stories about Patterson when he signed with the Hokies in 2017: The tale of when Patterson and some engineering classmates built an underwater robot from scratch for a competition.
Patterson won the 2018 Watkins Award, given to the nation's top African-American high school senior male student athlete.
In talking with others who've dealt with him, Patterson is universally described as a model citizen and team player. Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente even heaped praise on Patterson after he declared his intention to transfer. That doesn't always happen.
For all the attention Patterson received as a high school player, he was labeled a four-star recruit, he played in only 10 games as a redshirt freshman and sophomore for the Hokies and started just one (at Notre Dame in 2019, the week after he helped beat North Carolina). He never much advanced beyond being the third-team signal-caller.
Part of that likely was his unpolished throwing skills. While he has a strong arm — Patterson threw the ball nearly 80 yards at a quarterbacks camp — his high school coaches used him mostly as a runner.
"I was pretty much the biggest player on the field in every game, so it made sense to have me run," Patterson said. "I didn't throw much at all in high school."
While acknowledging he needed work on his passing game entering college, Patterson said he's improved strongly in that area.
"I just never got the opportunity in a game this year. I'm a much better passer than I was when I got here. I just never really got a chance to show it this season," he said.
Patterson went 4 of 6 for 75 yards and two touchdowns, while running for another, in a big season opening victory over North Carolina State. Then he didn't see action for the Hokies' next six games.
Patterson says he's transferring to see if he can get better and thinks he'll be a good fit for the Bison's offensive style, which mixes QB runs with its power running and passing game.
"I definitely improved while I was at Virginia Tech, but not in the fashion I'd hoped for," Patterson said. "I think North Dakota State will be right for me with the way they run their offense."
(Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente speaking about Patterson when he signed with the Hokies:)
NDSU defensive coordinator David Braun had a connection with Patterson's high school coach and that helped get the Bison's foot in the door, but Patterson said he was researching the Bison even before he entered the transfer portal.
"Some of the people around me knew I was thinking about transferring even before I entered the portal and one of my trainers said, 'You ever think about North Dakota State?' I know Trey from when we were at a camp together so I gave him a call and asked about NDSU. He told me all about NDSU and what they have going on here," Patterson said. "Then I watched some film and it just made sense. The offense they run, their track record of success, the tradition of winning. You just don't see those things everywhere. It made sense.
"I mean, why wouldn't you want to play there?"
Patterson also knows Noland and said the Bison starter encouraged him to come to Fargo, too.
"Quincy is big and physical and he was with a Power Five program for three years. We think he'll be able to play, if not in the spring then for sure next fall. How much we'll be able to put on his plate for a game plan remains to be seen, but we're excited to get him here," Roehl said. "He's intelligent, he's mature and we think he has good arm talent. We're excited about him."