Virginia Tech overcame a spotty offensive performance and the absence of starting kicker Cody Journell, not to mention Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato, downing the Herd 29-21 in triple overtime in pouring rain.
Regulation ended with the score 21-21, and neither team scored in the first two overtimes. In the third overtime, Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas bulled up the middle for a 2-yard TD run on first down, then ran up the middle for the two-point conversion to put the Hokies up 29-21.
In Marshall’s half of the overtime, on 4th and 9 from the Tech 14-yard line, Cato lofted a perfect pass to Davonte Allen in the back corner of the end zone, but Allen dropped it, and victory belonged to the Hokies.
Before that, though, there was plenty of drama. The best way to capture this game is to go over it in order.
On Marshalll’s opening possession, facing 4th down from their 34 yard line, they punted, and Kyle Fuller blocked it. The ball bounced free, and Derek DiNardo scooped it up cleanly and scored from the 11-yard line. 7-0, Hokies.
Marshall responded a couple of possessions later with an eight-play, 51 yard drive that ended in a 12-yard TD pass from Cato to Devon Smith. 7-7.
The Hokies came back with a 13-play, 89 yard drive, finished off by Logan Thomas with a 2-yard TD run. 14-7, Hokies.
Marshall scored touchdowns on their next two possessions to go up 21-14. The first touchdown drive included two facemask penalties on the Hokies, and Cato ran in from the 4 to complete it. The second TD drive ended with a 13-yard TD pass to Gator Hoskins with 9:06 to go in the second quarter.
Little did Marshall — or anyone else in attendance — know the Herd would not score again.
Logan Thomas threw an interception at the Hokie 40-yard line on Tech’s next possession, but the defense rose up and forced a three and out and a punt.
“We made a big stop there, and that kind of changed the momentum of the game,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said afterwards.
Tech then embarked on their longest drive of the day, a 16-play, 73-yard possession that ended in a 36-yard missed field goal by Ethan Keyserling, who was playing because Cody Journell didn’t dress out for the game. Frank Beamer said after the game that Journell was benched for “a violation of team rules” and didn’t provide any further details.
The two teams went into half time with Marshall up 21-14. At that point, Cato was 11-17 for 98 yards and two touchdowns, and he also had 53 yards on 7 rushes. Cato’s ability to break the pocket and improvise was causing big trouble for the Hokies.
Logan Thomas, meanwhile, had started out 6-9 for 80 yards, but he went stone cold for the rest of the half, going 0-8 with two interceptions.
The first critical moment in the second half came when the Hokies drove to Marshall’s 11 yard line and faced a 4th and 1. Logan Thomas ran it up the middle but was stopped for no gain.
Marshall responded with a drive that threatened to throw the game out of balance, going from their own 11 yard line all the way to the Hokie 24. Tech held there, though, and Marshall’s Justin Haig missed a 41-yard field goal, leaving Tech just one score behind.
After a Hokie three and out, Marshall kept the pressure on, driving from their own 12 yard line and going all the way to the Hokie 30 yard line. By now, the game was in the fourth quarter, and on 3rd and 7, Cato threw his worst pass of the game. Pressured by J.R. Collins, who had a monster game (9 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks), Cato threw the ball out to the sideline, where Kendall Fuller was waiting on it and picked it off. That ended a 15-play drive by Marshall that came up empty.
The two teams traded three-and-outs.
Virginia Tech, still down 21-14, took possession on their own 17-yard line, with 9:25 to go, and went on another long drive. This one featured a 43-yard run by Trey Edmunds (22 carries, 110 yards) and two 4th down conversions, including the tying touchdown.
From the Marshall 12 yard line, facing 4th and 9, Logan Thomas found Joshua Stanford streaking across the middle for an 11-yard pickup to the Marshall 1 yard line.
The next three plays were a disaster for the Hokies, and they faced 4th and goal from the 2 yard line. Logan Thomas threw a flag route to Willie Byrn, who was wide open for a moment, but Marshall defensive back Darryl Roberts, who had sniffed out the play, came from the defensive backfield and cut in front of the ball with a clean shot to pick it off. The ball bounced off Roberts’ hands and into the waiting arms of Byrn, who caught it right before going out of bounds to knot the score at 21.
“I thought he was going to be wide open,” Frank Beamer said after the game, “but we got unlucky a few times with tipped balls and bounces, so I think it evens out a little bit.”
Marshall took over with 3:04 left, and they weren’t done. They threatened to break Tech’s heart when Cato hit Devon Smith for a 47-yard pass down the sideline that put the ball at the Tech 34 yard line. Three plays later, on 3rd and 15 from the 39, Smith again got open down the sideline, and Cato lofted a pass to him in the end zone. Tech free safety Kyshoen Jarrett, playing deep centerfield, arrived at the ball at the same time as Smith, the two players collided … and Jarrett came out with the interception, with 1:57 to go.
The Hokies couldn’t mount a threat with their next possession, they got off a clean punt, and regulation ended in a 21-21 tie.
The Hokies opened with the ball, and their possession was a disaster. A sack of Logan Thomas led to a 3rd and 18 from the Marshall 33, where Thomas delivered a ball to Demitri Knowles at the first down marker. The pass was a little high, and Knowles dropped it. Keyserling’s 50-yard field goal attempt was nowhere near the mark, and Marshall took over.
The Herd made their biggest tactical error of the afternoon at that point, running the ball up the middle three times in a row with the tailback. That gained a total of three yards, and on 4th and 7 from the 22, Haig’s field goal attempt was blocked, the second blocked kick of the game for the Hokies. That’s the first time since the 2010 Boise State game that the Hokies have blocked two kicks in one game.
Marshall had the ball next to start the second overtime, and it was the Derrick Hopkins show. Hopkins sacked Cato on 2nd down, and on 3rd down, J.R. Collins sacked and stripped Cato. The ball fell to the turf, where Hopkins scooped it up at the Hokie 41 yard line and ran it 40 yards before being caught at the 19 yard line. For a moment, it looked like Hopkins might score and win the game, but he was run down by Marshall tailback Essray Taliaferro.
“I was hoping Derrick could rumble,” Bud Foster said after the game, “but he kind of ran out of gas at the end. I think anyone else but him would have scored,” Foster quipped.
The ball was spotted at the 25 for Tech’s possession. The Hokies advanced to Marshall’s 13-yard line, but their possession ended in a 32-yard field goal attempt by Keyserling, with the rain intensifying. Keyserling missed it, and the game went to the third overtime.
The Hokies drove the ball down to the Marshall six yard line, where Tech faced 3rd and 3. Thomas threw incomplete to the back corner of the end zone to Byrn, but Marshall’s Cory Tindal interfered with Byrn. The ball was spotted at the two yard line, and Logan Thomas punched it in from there. Thomas then rolled up the middle nearly untouched on the mandatory two-point conversion attempt, putting the Hokies up 29-21.
Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said, “We made a decision in the overtime that Logan’s our most experienced player, and he’s been there before, so we wanted the ball in his hands. When you have a senior quarterback, you’ve got to put the ball in his hands at the end of the game.”
Marshall picked up a first down at the Tech 15-yard line, and then ran it to the 14-yard line on the next play. From there, Cato threw three straight incompletions, including the game-ending drop by Davonte Allen, and the Hokies escaped with a win.
It was the first triple overtime game in Tech history, and Virginia Tech’s fourth overtime win in a row. (Edit: first triple overtime win, not game; thanks to marcusvick for the correction.)
With the win, Tech moves to 3-1 on the season, and Marshall falls to 2-2. Virginia Tech’s next eight games are all ACC contests, including a game just five days from now at Georgia Tech (Thursday, 7:30 PM, ESPN).
“We’ve got a short week,” Loeffler said. “We’ve got to find a way to get better these next three days.”
“I’ve got a lot of respect for what they [Georgia Tech] do,” Foster added, “and it’s going to be a dogfight.”
- J.R. Collins was a beast, leading the Hokies with 9 tackles. He had 1.5 TFL (1.5 sacks), a forced fumble, and 3 QB hurries (tops on the team). After totaling 6 TFL and 1.5 sacks last season in 13 games, Collins has 5 TFL and 4.5 sacks this season, in four games.
- The defensive tackles were similarly beastly. Starters Luther Maddy and Derrick Hopkins each had 2.5 TFL, Hopkins had 1.5 sacks, and Maddy had 1 sack. Combined with backup Nigel Williams (1 TFL), the DTs accounted for 6 of Tech’s 8 TFLs and 2.5 of Tech’s 4 sacks.
- Each team ran 87 plays, and the much-maligned Hokie offense outgained Marshall 382-361.
- After registering just 4 rushing first downs at ECU, the Hokies offense had 12 against Marshall, out of 23 total first downs (9 by pass, 2 by penalty).
- Cato, after going 11-17 for 98 yard and 2 TDs in the first half, was just 8-24 with 2 interceptions and 130 yards after half time.
- Joshua Stanford led the Hokies with 4 receptions for 43 yards. Chris Mangus had more yardage, catching 3 balls out of the backfield for 47 yards. Tight end Kalvin Cline had 2 receptions for 20 yards.
- The Hokies got their first punt block for a touchdown since Kyle Fuller did it against Appalachian State in the opening game of 2011.
- The classic characteristic of Beamerball — blocked kicks — was critical in this game. Blocked kicks accounted for a ten-point swing in the OT victory.
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