15 in a Row: Virginia Tech 34, Virginia 31 in Overtime

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Kyle Chung Virginia Tech
Sixth-year senior Kyle Chung and his teammates drank deep from the Commonwealth Cup after Virginia Tech’s epic, come-from-behind, 34-31 overtime victory over Virginia (Photo by Ivan Morozov

Some of it defies description. Virginia (7-5, 4-4 ACC) had Virginia Tech (5-6, 4-4 ACC) all but wrapped up, but couldn’t put it away. Through a desperation catch, a ball that bounced the right way, and a simple matter of being in the right place at the right time, the Hokies prevailed over their biggest rival 34-31 in overtime.

“15 years in a row,” senior defensive tackle Ricky Walker said. “That’s all I can say.”

“It was a miracle to me,” cornerback Jovonn Quillen said.

Short on words, but that accurately describes how most of the Virginia Tech faithful felt. During a year where the Hokies have been historically bad on multiple occasions, they still found a way to extend their decade and a half old streak against Virginia.

“It’s indicative of what we see on a daily basis from our guys,” head coach Justin Fuente said. “We know it’s there. We see them come to practice daily, and how they work in the weight room. You just want your kids so desperately when they’re putting all that work in to have some success.”

For a season that’s featured so many disappointments, to say the win was much-needed would be an understatement.

“I told those guys that I love them,” Fuente said. “I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.”

“I don’t know if my heart could handle that anymore, what we did today,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said.

Ryan Willis Virginia Tech
Ryan Willis had an off day passing but made enough plays to get the win for the Hokies. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Trailing 31-24 with 2:41 remaining, Virginia Tech needed to drive 75 yards to tie the game. Facing a third-and-10, Ryan Willis heaved a pass deep to Dalton Keene. On a team where you would expect any of the big body receivers to make a catch on a 50-50 ball, it was actually the tight end Keene who snagged the pass for 45 yards, ripping it away from the defender as the two players fell to the ground.

“We were not in desperation mode on Keene’s catch, but it was getting there quickly,” Fuente said. “Ryan just bought some time. I don’t know what he saw, I just know he threw that ball up there, and Dalton making that catch is indicative of the type of person Dalton is.”

“Scared money don’t make money,” Willis said of the throw.

Following an 11-yard completion to Tre Turner down to the Virginia 19, Steven Peoples hit a hole up the middle, and he seemed destined for the goal line. That was until Virginia safety Joey Blount lowered his head on the football and forced a fumble at the 6-yard line that squirted into the end zone. The ball was lying there, waiting to be recovered by a Cavaliers player to essentially end the game. All hopes of extending the streak were gone in that moment. Instead, Brenton Nelson couldn’t field it cleanly, and the Hokies’ Hezekiah Grimsley jumped on the football just before it went out of the back of the end zone. Tie game, 31-31 with under two minutes to play.

Steve Peoples fumbled the football on the hit by Joey Blount …
… and Brenton Nelson had a great shot to recover it …
… but Hezekiah Grimsley (right) fell on the ball for the tying touchdown (Photos by Ivan Morozov)

“Coach Wiggins always says to never give up on the play,” Grimsley said. “Me being there, that was just me playing football.”

In 100 meetings of the Commonwealth Clash, it was the first ever overtime affair between the two sides. Virginia Tech got the ball first and immediately threw two incompletions. On third down, Willis rolled out right, and Virginia’s Charles Snowden had him dead to rights for a huge loss, likely knocking the Hokies out of field goal range.

Instead, Willis avoided the would-be tackler, and he had to chuck a pass far enough past the line of scrimmage and into the stands to throw it away.

Virginia’s Charles Snowden couldn’t bring down Virginia Tech’s Ryan Willis on this play. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

“I thought I was going to get around him, and he latched on to me,” Willis said. “I did everything I could to stand up and get the ball thrown away. I was like 20 yards behind the third down. I had to actually heave it.”

Disaster avoided. Brian Johnson connected on the 42-yard field goal, his first make from 40+ yards since the Notre Dame game, to give Virginia Tech the three-point advantage. Willis wound up 14-of-33 for 199 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Bryce Perkins and the Cavaliers offense took the field, needing just 25 yards to end the streak. Perkins connected with Hasise Dubois, whose earlier touchdown gave Virginia its first lead of the game in the fourth quarter at 28-24, for 11 yards to the Tech 14.

Virginia Tech had avoided disaster on the previous possession, but this time disaster found its home with the Cavaliers, after Perkins and tailback Jordan Ellis mishandled an exchange and fumbled. Emmanuel Belmar jumped on the loose ball, and the Hokies erupted in the wake of the game-sealing, streak-sealing recovery.

Bryce Perkins (3) and Jordan Ellis (1) mishandled the exchange …
… and Emmanuel Belmar recovered it to seal the Hokies’ win. (Photos by Ivan Morozov)

“It’s crazy because I called it,” Walker said. “I said if we get a turnover we win the game.”

“It’s fitting that Belmar recovered it,” Fuente said. “Belmar has been beat up, shows up and practices every day. He got carted off once. He’s playing on one leg out there, and that’s what this team is about.”

For the seniors on Senior Day, it was an emotional ending to an unbelievable game. Walker certainly impressed scouts with a proverbial 4.4 full-out sprint to midfield to celebrate with his teammates. The players basked in the glory of the win, taking sips from the Commonwealth Cup.

“This was definitely the best game playing against these guys in my career,” Walker said. “Just blow after blow. They make a play, we make a play. Guys didn’t quit.”

Virginia had more than its fair share of chances to win the game. Trailing 28-24, Willis threw his second interception of the game to Charles Snowden, giving the Cavaliers the ball at the Hokies’ 11-yard line with 3:42 left. Virginia had scored a touchdown on every possession in the second half up to that point, but could only muster one yard before hitting a 28-yard field goal to go up 31-24, setting the stage for Virginia Tech’s game-tying march down the field.

Tre Turner made this spectacular one-handed catch for the first score of the game. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

In the first half, Tre Turner was a “one-man band” as described by Fuente. Turner corralled a one-handed 7-yard touchdown to put the Hokies up 7-0 in the second quarter.

“I just knew the ball was coming to me,” Turner said. “Coach tells us, ‘If the ball is in the air, it’s yours.’ I just found a way to bring it down.”

Turner then followed with a blocked punt that was recovered by Quillen for a touchdown with 1:40 to go in the half, staking the Hokies to a 14-0 lead.

Tre Turner blocked this second quarter punt ….
… and Jovonn Quillen reeled it in to give the Hokies a 14-0 lead that they carried into halftime. (Photos by Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech had a chance to add more to the lead when Virginia’s Chuck Davis muffed a punt, and the Hokies recovered at the Virginia 31 yard line with eight seconds left. Seeking to position the ball for a field goal, the Hokies threw a sideline pass, but Virginia’s Tim Harris picked it off at the UVA 28 and raced up the sideline. Ryan Willis gave chase and tackled Harris at the Virginia Tech ten-yard line as the clock expired, avoiding disaster for the Hokies.

“That fact that he [Willis] got him on the ground, and we got to go to the half, and that wasn’t seven points was pretty big,” Fuente said.

It was a different story in the second half. Perkins and the Virginia offense began to click on all cylinders. After only passing for 34 yards in the first half, Perkins found Joe Reed for two long touchdowns, and the eventual go-ahead touchdown to Dubois with 6:51 remaining. Perkins finished 14-of-29 for 259 yards, three touchdowns, and 112 more yards on the ground.

Virginia Tech finally got its rushing attack rolling full-steam ahead. The Hokies put up 254 yards on 45 carries. Peoples gashed Virginia for 96 yards, and Deshawn McClease added 44 yards and a touchdown.

Deshawn McClease opened the fourth quarter with this 2-yard touchdown run to put the Hokies up 24-14. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

With the win, Virginia Tech will face Marshall on Saturday, December 1 at noon in Lane Stadium in the hopes of keeping alive its 25-year bowl streak.

— hokiesports.com box score —

Game Notes via Virginia Tech Sports Information

  • With the win, Virginia Tech extends its rivalry streak against Virginia to 15 consecutive victories.
  • In the 100th meeting between the two programs, it was the first-ever game that went to overtime.
  • Virginia Tech, who had lost its last four games that went to an extra period, improves to 7-6 all-time in overtime games. The Hokies’ last win in overtime was a 29-21 win in three overtimes vs. Marshall (9/21/13).
  • CB Jovonn Quillen’s blocked punt return TD marked the 150th non-offensive touchdown for the Hokies since 1987. It was also the Hokies’ 61st special teams touchdown since 1987 and the 22nd blocked punt TD.
  • Virginia Tech has returned two blocked punts for TDs in 2018, the most since 1998 when the Hokies had three.
  • Virginia’s touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter was its first score against the Hokies since the fourth quarter of the 2016 contest in Lane Stadium, a span of six straight scoreless quarters.


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35 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Whew! I watched to the end because I’m a Hokie, and so are those players on the field. This team has had its problems, but they also knew what counted and clearly never quit. I thought they deserved to be underdogs, but they played like Hokies with a chip on their shoulder. No stats really matter in a rivalry game. This was a will to win against a better team (opposite of ODU game). Let’s hope the Hokies have the same energy and desire next week, as there is still something of the football legacy that can be lost. Down, but not out. Win this next one, continue the streak, and who cares how the bowl comes out–put the season behind us. Go Hokies!

  2. I went on The Sabre to check out the punt block as recommended by Hicksville Hokie, nice pic. Then I went to the comments…crickets. They’ve been talking about this game for a year and now they got nothing. So, I left a comment for them. GO HOKIES!!!

    1. For some reason, they rarely comment on articles on the Sabre. They keep the discussion to the message boards.

  3. Great game. So glad I stayed until the end. After every loss, CJF has stated that the players are in it 100%, giving their all, fighting to get better, etc. etc. Well this victory and the way VT won gives proof of that. Go VT!

  4. All year long Will and Chris have said we need more than 30 points to win! 31 points was just what the doctor ordered last night!

  5. You should add the block kick picture from The Sabre’s write up. Shows Tre taking the ball off the punter’s foot

  6. this game was one in a life time, when you see the series of events in the last 2 minutes of game : no time outs, 80 yards to go for TD, hail mary 50/50 pass to Keene caught, fumble on 10 yard line, rolls in to the endzone, then OT : VT 3 incomplete passess, 42 yard FG by a kicker who had lost confidence, and the VA completing first pass down to 12 yard then fumble to win it !!
    go HOKIES !
    Will’s prediction was right on this week !
    Go HOKIES !

    1. You can add to the list of craziness the blocked extra point that ended up being negated by an offsides penalty on Virginia.

  7. While I’m no more happy than anyone else when we see opposing ball carriers run through the line of scrimmage like there’s nobody there (and this concern remains for the coming week), I’ll repeat what I and others have said previously that I don’t think Bud Foster has suddenly become an ineffective defensive coach. I think the defensive attrition (early draft exits, dismissals, injuries) hit a tipping point this season where the best that Bud could do was to get them through it, hopefully with some learning and growing. And that defensive tipping point in turn put more pressure on the offense to score more – sometimes needing them to score almost every drive (which just wasn’t a realistic expectation). And though I wondered if Ryan Willis was going for a record for number of consecutive passes blocked, the offense HAS been really fun to watch – this BIG group of receivers (Hazelton, Kumah, Grimsley, Patterson, Turner, Cunningham, KEENE!) keeps doing things we just haven’t been conditioned to expect to see. Maybe Willis doesn’t do great things for the coach’s blood pressure, but I am truly impressed by how well he has carried the load since JJ went down. Should make for an interesting offseason – I’ve also liked JJ a lot but don’t think it’s a given that he automatically gets the job back, and we haven’t seen him make some of the plays that Willis has made (okay, not all of them good…).

    To those who have been sniping at Coach Fuente over the way the season has gone – I’ll suggest that if he did not have the team firmly together and behind him, yesterday’s improbable win doesn’t happen. Yes, it took some lucky bounces (that we’re also not used to seeing, right?) – but it took not only those lucky bounces but also the team scratching and clawing for every yard and point to the very end to be in a position (physically and mentally) where those bounces mattered. A team that had given up on the coach or themselves wouldn’t have pulled that out. Those who have left early might well be kicking themselves now.

    1. Exactly! These coaches can coach, and they have not lost the unity or confidence of the team. They have done the best they can this year with the hand they have been dealt.

    1. Totally agree. These were his best group of timed pictures? Seems like he knew what was going to happen all game long. Will needs to get him to give predictions too.

  8. Super game summary. Those photos by Ivan should garner him some sort of award. They are marvelous! Was he everywhere all the time? Wow! That was the most exciting game I’ve ever seen! A.H.

  9. Wow! I said the only we could win was just to be lucky. And I feel like we really were. Of course we played good enough to keep it close (and finally showed up in the 2nd half) so that good fortune could make the difference. Either they have a tremendous secondary or Willis is now really struggling to find receivers. His stats were not good. And were much worse until he hooked up with Keene for the 45 yard play. He made two nearly catastrophic decisions (sideline pass at the end of the first half and nearly getting sacked in overtime) but managed to overcome them with great effort. I don’t see him winning the starting job next year but I am appreciative of what he has done while filling in. I was really surprised to see that we had run for 254 yards so kudos to our offense for that. UVA has got to believe there is someone out there with a voodoo doll making all that crazy stuff go against them to extend their losing streak to us. They also lost OT games two weeks in a row. And in both OTs they didn’t score a point. I wonder if that has ever happened to any team. I was wanting to go for two when it was 31-30 after the penalty because things had gone so poorly for us in the 2nd half of games I didn’t want to risk overtime. But, it worked out and we live to play another game or two. Someone may know the answer to this more precisely but it seems like in most games this season our opponent has been unable to complete at least one long pass to a wide open receiver. And we had one again this game. I also thought we had lost Walker on the targeting play. I was a little miffed at him for flexing his arms like a super hero after the hit while many of us anticipated him get tossed and ending our chances to win. But, we avoided that crisis too. What a game! I wish I had recorded it now.

    1. Think you are saleing Willis short- we don’t win that game with JJ behind center. Scared money don’t make money! That says it all.

      1. It is not just the play of the QB that matters. IMO, I think the entire offense would be playing better with JJ in charge. Just my opinion, but I believe that with JJ running the show, the Marshall game would not be needed.
        Leadership matters and I do not think Willis has the leadership/character qualities that Jackson brings to the game.
        Just my 2 Cents.

      2. I agree. Don’t forget that Willis had the speed and will to first run over the ref and then run down the UVA CB to save the touchdown after the interception to end the first half. Sure he threw the interception but on a team with a lot of winners on this day (BTW Keene didn’t get enough kudos), Willis is a winner. Simply put. Two games this year that he keys the crucial last drive of the game.

  10. Great Quarterback Duel.. “Wild Thing” Willis in his second “hail Mary” drive of the season (to back up the comeback vs. the Tar heels). Kudos to the whole team and especially the defense for hanging in and competing for four quarters. Now go beat Marshall and keep it up! “Wild Thing{s} “you made my heart sing” You made everything Groovy! and the Hoos boo hoovy!
    P.S. Hoos’ fan base thought this game was a gimmee! Not so fast my friends!

  11. Does this also mean that the Hokies have managed to break the dreaded curse of not being able to win when the opposing quarterback runs over 100 yards?

    1. Blocked punts for touchdown helped win the hidden yardage stat. That QB was very good. He must have been All ACC caliber when healthy. Look out next year.

      1. rumor from hoos in stands is “BP will pick an agent and declare pro by end of December. but they have two good young kids getting ready to replace him.”

        Go Hokies!

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