Virginia Tech coaches, players, and fans could not have asked for a better performance on Monday night. The Hokies stunned the Florida State crowd and spoiled Willie Taggart’s debut in Tallahassee, defeating the Seminoles 24-3.
We’ll take a look at a few of the numbers that were instrumental in Virginia Tech’s decisive victory.
19 – The average starting yard line for Florida State. All night long the Seminoles were forced to start deep in their own territory in an attempt to muster some points. During a stretch in the second half, Florida State started four straight possessions from their own 7, 12, 1, and 9-yard line respectively. That’s tough for any team to put together drives when they’re constantly backed up to their own endzone.
Three of those possessions ended in punts out of the end zone that awarded Virginia Tech good field position. The Hokies average drive started on their own 43-yard line, an astounding 24-yard difference in average field position. To conclude that stretch of four straight Florida State possessions starting inside the 12-yard line, Virginia Tech finally capitalized with Josh Jackson’s 49-yard strike to Eric Kumah for the dagger, putting the Hokies up 24-3 with 5:11 left in the fourth quarter. Punter Oscar Bradburn was integral throughout, downing four punts inside the 20, and Virginia Tech owned times of possession, 33:52 to 26:08.
5 – The number of turnovers that Virginia Tech forced. Compare that to Florida State forcing 0 turnovers, and you could simply look at that stat alone and see why the Hokies won. The storyline all offseason was how the inexperienced Virginia Tech defense was returning only four starters, including none at linebacker and only one in the secondary. That young defense played with an edge Monday night and frustrated Taggart’s Gulf Coast Offense to no ends.
The Hokies pressured Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois for the majority of the night, and Caleb Farley exhibited his playmaking ability, coming away with two interceptions. Vinny Mihota ended the Seminoles’ night with an interception after Khalil Ladler began the night with a fumble recovery on Florida State’s first possession.
The biggest turnover of the night happened with 9:49 remaining in the fourth quarter. Houshun Gaines jumped on a bobbled handoff for the fumble recovery with Florida State driving in the redzone, with the Seminoles looking to cut the Hokies’ lead to a touchdown at that point of the game. That fumble recovery would not have been possible if not for Bryce Watts running down Florida State tailback Cam Akers on his 85-yard scamper to prevent a touchdown, a la Reggie Floyd vs. Pittsburgh last year.
14 – The number of tackles for loss that Virginia Tech’s defense recorded. The Hokies’ defense swarmed Florida State’s offensive line and got into the backfield like clockwork to collect the 14 tackles for loss. After sitting the first two series, defensive end Trevon Hill was a man on a mission, recording two sacks and three tackles for loss to lead Virginia Tech.
In 2017, the most tackles for loss that Virginia Tech tallied in a game was 13 against North Carolina. One game in, and the Hokies have already topped that in 2018. You would have to go back to September 24, 2016 to find the last time Virginia Tech accounted for more tackles for loss in a game when they recorded 16 vs. East Carolina. Before Akers gashed Virginia Tech on an 85-yard rush, the Hokies had held him to two yards on 10 carries. In the third quarter alone, Virginia Tech held the Seminoles to -7 yards. Yes, the Florida State offense went backwards the entire quarter because of the way the Hokies’ were able to provide pressure and penetration up front.
1974 – The last time Virginia Tech had beaten Florida State in Tallahassee. That date will now be updated to 2018. It had been six straight wins for the Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium, with Virginia Tech’s last win coming when quarterback Bruce Arians engineered a 56-21 victory. In fact, it was just the third time that the Hokies have beaten the Seminoles from any location in the past 17 meetings.
Frank Beamer was never able to do it in his illustrious career, but now head coach Justin Fuente and Co. can etch their names in history. In the meantime, the Hokies have to rest on their laurels a little shorter than normal. In five days, Virginia Tech football will return to Blacksburg as the Hokies battle William & Mary from Lane Stadium on Saturday at 2 p.m.