Penalties, Turnovers Cost Virginia Tech in 45-24 Loss to Tennessee in Battle at Bristol

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Bristol, TN — Virginia Tech will leave Bristol Motor Speedway wondering what could have been.

The Hokies made mistake after mistake on Saturday night, turning the ball over in untimely situations and digging themselves into a hole with backbreaking penalties. Those mistakes allowed Tennessee to win the Battle at Bristol rather handedly 45-24.

“I’m proud of some of the things we did today and not very happy about some other things,” Fuente said. “Obviously, we turned the ball over too many times. At times we lacked discipline out there, which is very disappointing. It falls on me.”

The Hokies lost five fumbles and committed eight penalties for 101 yards.

After the game, Jerod Evans, Ken Ekanem and Sam Rogers said that Saturday night’s loss can be traced back to a poor week of practice.

“We didn’t lose tonight,” Ekanem said. “We lost Tuesday, Wednesday and Monday during practice. Me, as a senior and all of the other seniors on the team, we have to hold ourselves accountable to get this team going and actually be productive and make better practice habits.”

“We didn’t have a great week of practice for whatever reason. I don’t know,” Rogers said. “I don’t know how we didn’t, but we didn’t and we have to fix that. Senior leaders got to step up and be more vocal on those days and make sure we get it right because no one likes this feeling. No one likes the feeling of just giving away games like this.”

“It’s a mentality of not wanting that ball to come out of your hands. Also, it’s an effort thing in practice,” Evans said.

Virginia Tech couldn’t have asked for a better start to the game. The Hokies drove down into Tennessee territory on their first possession and even though Joey Slye missed a 47-yard field goal, Tech’s offense finished off their next drive with a seven yard touchdown pass from Evans to Rogers.

The Hokie defense forced another three and out and the offense soon pounced. On the second play of the drive, Travon McMillian ran it in from 69 yards out to give Virginia Tech a 14-0 lead with 2:48 left in the first quarter.

It all went wrong on Tech’s next possession. After another Tennessee punt, Virginia Tech fumbled at their own 16-yard-line to put the Volunteers in prime position to regain momentum.  The fumble came on a mistimed snap by new center Kyle Chung, Jerod Evans and CJ Carroll, who was in motion on a jet sweep. Joshua Dobbs found Tennessee’s Jauan Jennings for a five yard touchdown.

Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs (11) was responsible for five touchdowns vs. Virginia Tech on Saturday night.

The turnover shifted the momentum for the rest of the game. Tennessee would score 31 unanswered points. Tennessee benefited from a struggling offense and poor special teams play from Virginia Tech. Dobbs would connect with Josh Malone for a 38 yard score on their next possession. Dobbs then ran a touchdown in with 33 seconds left in the second half, giving Tennessee a 24-14 lead at halftime.

At the half, Virginia Tech had outgained Tennessee 234-182 and led in time of possession, but still trailed thanks to good starting field position for the Volunteers. On Tennessee’s last two scoring drives in the second quarter, they started from the Virginia Tech 23-yard-line and 37-yard-line, respectively. Mitchell Ludwig struggled in the punting game, averaging just 31.3 yards per punt in the first half.

“It’s a hard enough game as it is when you’re playing good people,” Foster said. “That sets you back a little bit. We had some momentum going early and they created some plays themselves and put us in a tough spot. I thought our kids for the most part played really, really hard. We gave up a couple cheap runs. It goes back to them. They executed and we didn’t.”

The rout started midway through the third quarter. Starting from their own 48-yard-line, Dobbs led his team down into Tech territory and capped off the drive with a 23 yard touchdown pass to Alvin Kamara after escaping pressure from r-freshman defensive end Trevon Hill.

Tech would kick a field goal to cut the lead to 31-17, but couldn’t get out of their own way. Mook Reynolds intercepted a pass in the beginning of the fourth quarter, but was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play. Tech also committed a block in the back after the interception, costing Virginia Tech 30 yards of field position. Instead of starting near midfield, Tech started the drive at their own 19-yard-line.

“I think we made a lot of mistakes,” Rogers said. “We shot ourselves in the foot continually. You can’t do that against really good teams, they take advantage of it. Against Tennessee, you can’t turn the ball over like we did, you can’t make the mistakes we did and have the penalties we did. We didn’t really give ourselves a chance when those things started happening.”

That possession ended in a fumble from Cam Phillips. After the Virginia Tech defense forced a punt on Tennessee’s next drive, Virginia Tech muffed the punt return and gave it right back. After another Dobbs touchdown, the Hokies fumbled again thanks to a bad snap by Kyle Chung, who started in favor of Eric Gallo.

“Well the one that was over the quarterback’s head, that was pretty bad,” Fuente said. “It was a performance promotion, I guess you could say.”

Starting on Virginia Tech’s 4-yard-line, Tennessee scored their last touchdown of the night, making it 45-17 with just over six and half minutes to play.

“The last touchdown really bothered me,” Foster said. “I thought we kind of went out there and just… I talked to the team about that, the defense about that, that’s not who we are. We’re going to play 60 minutes.”

Tennessee’s Dobbs, who was contained rather well by Appalachian State just a week ago, finished 10-19 for 91 passing yards and three touchdowns. Dobbs also ran for 106 yards and two scores. In total, Tennessee ran for 268 yards on 46 carries.

“He’s a pretty good quarterback. He can create a lot with his feet,” Ekanem said. “He can throw well on the run. He presented a lot of problems for us and it was pretty evident.”

“It’s just the nature of the game. You’ve got some dynamic guys with the ball in their hands and you create space,” Foster said. “We’re rushing the passer and creating some good rush and all of a sudden the guy… that’s part of it. Every Saturday you see guys doing that.”

Now, Virginia Tech must try to rebound with their ACC-opener vs. Boston College next Saturday. Evans said that he will do his best to establish a better culture in practice this coming week.

“I know as a leader, I will do a better job of making sure that my guys are in tune,” Evans said. “I put this all on me. It’s a mentality that I should bring more often on Tuesdays and Wednesdays that again, I take blame for. I didn’t really bring it like I normally do on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.”

Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans (4) said after the game that his team needs to have a better week of practice before the Hokies play Boston College.

The fumbles will most certainly be a focal point of next week’s practices. Virginia Tech has lost nine fumbles in their first two games of 2016. For comparison, the Hokies lost just seven fumbles last season.

“Obviously, it’s reared its head in huge ways in the first two ball games,” Fuente said. “We’ve got to do a better job…. Obviously we have to do a better job in teaching or understanding ball security because we’re inadequate to say the least right now. We’ll look at it and come up with a plan.”

“I like the makeup of our guys. We have to get ready for a conference game next week and that’s what we’ll do,” Fuente said. “We’ve got to do a better job of preparing and ultimately playing in order to give ourselves a chance to win.”


— box score —

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29 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. After all of the bad news, let’s give BMS a great big thank you. They did a masterful job of preparing the field and the stadium as well as design the wonderful half-time show. I’ve never been to a better organized venue.

  2. I’ll be at Lane for the next 2 games cheering loudly; hoping this horrible loss at a BIG venue will spark attention to detail as we move onto ACC play.

    1. Those uniforms were as inappropriate and our level of play was. When we play on a national stage we deserve to wear OUR colors.

  3. it ain’t 1995 but we lost first two and ran the table…maybe we can find some of that mojo and tear off bunch wins.

  4. How could you have a “poor week of practice” for this game. Never thought I would hear that excuse. Are the coaches not communicating the proper expectations ?

    1. I have heard Rogerd do these same interviews every game after losses the last 3 yrs. 5 fumbles and 8 penalties for 100 yds is not one bad week of practice. It is failing to pay attention to detail and poor discipline in-game. Attention to the details is everything for this team….we haven’t done it

  5. after i turned the big tv off in the den…i turned the tv on in the bedroom and watched the first quarter again before going to sleep. we won 14 to 0 and i slept great.

  6. Other than the Hokie performance in the 1st quarter, the best part of the Battle at Bristol was deleting it from my DVR. I will be at the BC game this week. Hopefully, we will all see four complete quarters of solid Hokie football (and zero Hokie fumbles!!)

  7. Snakebit on the big stage … again. UT clearly has more elite athletes, but our guys played hard and well as a team. The bizarre turnovers and penalties were daggers to the soul. Offensive game plan looked fine until the avalanche of miscues gave UT undeserved momentum. Loved Coach Fu’s calm, steady, and stoic manner in a very embarrassing situation.

    1. Well, I don’t want a raving maniac on the sidelines, but after some of those penalties and turnovers I’d like to have seen Coach react with some emotion. I think the players need to see that.

    2. Committing the turnovers we had and the penalties when we had them is NOT “playing well” IMO..It was an embarrassing display of a team NOT ready for the big stage..All of the good things we DID do were sadly overshadowed….there was nothing bizarre about the turnovers,and the penalties were inexcusable! It was sloppy! To hear Fuente and then a couple of the players say they didn’t practice well was beyond baffling…

      Tennessee is a very good team..we made them look like the National Champions. I hope (and suspect) this will be a VERY long and difficult week to be a VT football player at practice this week….

      Coach was very classy in his post game, but you could TELL he was deeply disappointed in his guys! I know I was, as was everyone in my group! …it was a LONG, LONG way back to Roanoke!

    3. Disagree, our guys took it to those “elite” athletes. If it wasn’t for a boneheaded player committing an inexucusable penalty on first down plays and the fixable fumbles, the score is reversed and they head back to Knoxville with their tails between their legs. We beat ourselves.

  8. I liked how the team looked. Despite the personal foul by teller moving the ball back 27 yards and then a fumbled snap, we were in it util 3 straight fumbles in the third. Evans looked great and our line got pressure

  9. The first turnover actually goes back to Teller and one of his 15 yard penalties. We had a first down on the play, continuing the momentum. Instead we are behind the chains and the domino’s started to fall. It was a comedy of errors last night. Oh what might have been………..

    1. Exactly! W.T. had those two PF fouls and they both were huge and cancelled out 1st downs. I thought Tenn was pretty good but we gifted that game to them with all the turnovers and penalties. We have to get this ship corrected quickly with regards to all these mistakes.

  10. Just could not get out of their own way. Terrible turnovers at the most inopportune times killing TDS drives or giving away a short field. Don’t understand the center’s issue at all. If you can’t get the ball to the QB you shouldn’t be on the field. Williams should come off punt return as he appears to be jinxed. What are the odds of a punt hitting you two games in a row and even if it didn’t actually hit him it would have and this outcome was worse. Sigh…..such a painful experience for the team as they have everything it takes to win. Well, maybe a morw edfwctive punter would help.

  11. The best part of reading this is hearing the guys being accountable. I worked with the strength and conditioning program as an intern for multiple years and after tough losses I would never hear from an accountability standpoint the leaders of the team take blame and own up to a loss, they knew they had Tennessee beat after the first quarter. They just didn’t do what Coach Fuente teaches as first priority and they protecting the football. They pointed to bad preparation and discipline as the reason to losing this game. As tough as it was to see us lose, these comments by the coaches and players give me faith that we will right the ship because they know what the issues are and I hope that the leadership of this team makes the rest of them process these emotions and use it to improve their preparation as use this as a teaching moment for the rest of the season. It’s bounce back! Go Hokies!!

  12. How as a team are you not “up” for practice the week of this game?! The fumbles and poor penalties are ugly and can be fixed, sure – this game means nothing in the course of the ACC pursuit so fix it now!

    Poor Bud – other than a few dumb penalties, the D once again did its job for most part but had to deal w short fields created by the offense. I liked the O plan in first qtr – curious to see analysis of how UT took away Bucky and Isaiah – or if we stopped going to them.

    1. More than “a few dumb penalties”.

      Try “numerous backbreaking penalties” and you’ll be getting closer. The long TD run at the end was also due to poor execution by the safety. I agree, the fumbles are the mainteapn we lost but the D has their share of the blame too.

  13. The scoring chart at the top of this article only lists the UT scores….maybe you were trying to make a point? Naah.

    Feel badly for the guys. Go Hokies!!

    1. Whoops, you might never see this, but I didn’t even notice that. I just grabbed the scoring summary from the live stats page. Tennessee’s SID was running that page soo…. Just kidding. Not sure what happened there.

  14. The last UT TD was tough to watch. I hope the Hokies have a good week of practice leading up to the BC game. Go Hokies!

    1. We played one quarter of football and Tennessee played three. How could you have a bad week of practice for such a big game? Heads not in the game the whole week? Excuses for losing don’t cut it. I can take getting beat but when the team plays so poorly its hard to take or even to understand. Over and over I have seen this team under perform on the “big stage.” Disappointed again…… now you would think I’m use to it but we are better than this performance and better than all the turn overs. Get back to basics Hokies. We sucked!!!!

      1. Hard to argue that…the bad week of practice is an embarrassment to all of the guys who DID work hard….I am in NO way indicting JF, but you need guys who can and WILL execute what you want to do…We are woefully short on that front if we have guys sleepwalking through practice! You can put all the lipstick on that pig you want, but it was STILL pig….DFuesnt was right when he said we looked quite good doing some things, but football is the sum of it’s parts, and the sum of that game was another FAIL!

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