Virginia Tech Beats Marshall 41-20 To Extend Nation’s Longest Bowl Streak

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Justin Fuente’s team rallied to win their final two regular season games to finish 6-6. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Bowl streak extended. No more asterisk needed. Virginia Tech now officially owns the longest active bowl streak in the nation following a 41-20 triumph over Marshall for its sixth win of the season. The Hokies are now 33-0 in non-conference games inside Lane Stadium when scoring 30+ points.

It took a rescheduled opponent and some grit in the final two games, but Virginia Tech’s 26-year bowl streak tops the list, even if Hokies fans had already been claiming the longest active bowl streak record because of the Seminoles academic cheating scandal in 2006 and 2007.

“Certainly getting to the No. 26 was a part of this, but I really felt it was bigger than that,” head coach Justin Fuente said. “Those kids in the locker room, they stood tall and stood strong when other people ran and things weren’t well. They continued to battle and found a way to keep the two streaks alive.”

“I’m relieved,” quarterback Ryan Willis said. “This season we’ve faced tons of adversity… We’ve got a very resilient group of guys in the locker room.”

Virginia Tech (6-6, 4-4 ACC) played a complete game in a half-empty Lane Stadium filled with 31,336 fans. Marshall (8-4, 6-2 C-USA) came into Saturday’s contest with the No. 18 defense in terms of yards allowed per game, but the Hokies had their way, particularly early.

Ryan Willis passed for 312 yards on 18-of-26 passing and threw four touchdowns. He was lights out in the first half, connecting on 12-of-16 passing for 254 yards and those four touchdowns. Virginia Tech entered half time with a commanding 31-6 lead.

“The thing about Ryan is he lays it all on the field,” Fuente said. “He plays as hard as he can play. He made some plays for us, particularly in the first half, to really come set the tone and establish momentum in the football game.

“This is a kid that came in, and he was a backup. He kept plugging away, and he kept trying to learn. One of the neatest things about coaching is when your kids have success, you know they worked so hard to try to get where they’re at.”

 

The 6-foot-4, 223-pound gunslinger hit Hezekiah Grimsley for a 46-yard touchdown after Grimsley found separation on a slant across the middle in the first quarter.  That put the Hokies up 10-0 with 5:20 left in the first quarter.

Hezekiah Grimsley took this early pass from Ryan Willis to the house for Grimsley’s first TD catch of the season. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

In the second quarter the offense exploded, giving the fanbase a taste of what many expected all year. Willis threw touchdown passes to Tre Turner (45 yards), Steven Peoples (7 yards), and Eric Kumah (32 yards) in the quarter as the Hokies steadily extended their lead. The Overland Park, Kansas native continually felt pressure and stepped up in the pocket to make plays.

Jalen Holston broke free of a would-be tackler and scampered for a 40-yard touchdown in an otherwise uneventful second half.  Holston’s touchdown put the Hokies up 41-13, though Marshall tacked on a late touchdown against the backup defense to make the final score 41-20.

Willis has now found the endzone 22 times through the air on the season. He’s the third consecutive quarterback to rack up 20+ passing touchdowns, all under the Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen regime. Jerod Evans tallied 29 in 2016, and Josh Jackson had 20 last year.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Fuente said. “I think Brad has a unique gift of crafting the offense to give the quarterback, whoever he is and whatever his skill set is, the opportunity to succeed. That’s a lot easier said than done… I’d like to not rotate those guys every single year. I’d like to have the same guy in there.”

Three other quarterbacks have reached that mark in Virginia Tech history…Maurice DeShazo in 1993, Bryan Randall in 2004, and Tyrod Taylor in 2010.

Not to be outdone, the defense played with an edge from the start. On the first play of the game, Ricky Walker strip sacked Marshall quarterback Isaiah Green in his last game inside Lane Stadium. TyJuan Garbutt recovered the fumble for the turnover.

“I’m happy for Ricky because he’s a guy who’s just put so much into this program,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “He’s been a big factor in our turnaround, even though this year was not the year as a senior you’d want. He’s been a big, big part of the transition.”

Bryce Watts also picked up his first-career interception in the corner of the endzone with 8:49 in the first. It was Virginia Tech’s first interception since October 6 against Notre Dame.

The Virginia Tech defense came up with critical turnovers and key stops on third down and fourth down. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

The Hokies were gashed at points by the Thundering Herd’s Brenden Knox, who finished with 27 carries for 204 yards and two touchdowns, but Foster’s unit used a ‘bend but don’t break’ mentality to limit Marshall to just 20 points, including a garbage time score. Marshall was 4-for-13 on third down. Mike linebacker Rayshard Ashby tied a season-high with 15 tackles, the third time he’s finished with double-digit tackles this year. Dax Hollifield added nine tackles on his birthday.

“[Ashby] has continued to get better,” Foster said. “He’s a tackling machine. I don’t know if he’s quite full speed… he’s just a competitor. He’s become a really good leader for us. I really like that group with Rayshard, then you pair him with Dax. Those are two guys who have great leadership qualities.”

Perhaps of the greatest importance, Virginia Tech and its young team get another month to practice before the bowl game. Those extra reps could be critical for the development of some of the players, especially Quincy Patterson, Caleb Farley, and even Devon Hunter, among others.

“We need the time in the weight room when we’re not practicing,” Fuente said. “We’re such a young team that the extra time is huge for us in terms of practicing. Obviously, Ricky Walker doesn’t need a lot, but there’s a lot of freshman out there that certainly do. It’s going to be big for them.”

While the season wasn’t what some were expecting, let’s not knock the fight of Virginia Tech down the stretch. The Hokies pulled out an against-all-odds victory over Virginia to keep the Commonwealth Cup for the 15th straight year, and dismantled Marshall in a lethargic atmosphere to keep the bowl streak alive. As a side note, Fuente and Co. will have quite a quarterback battle next year with Willis, Patterson, and Jackson all returning. The future is bright, and there’s one more look at this year’s version sometime in late December.

“These last two wins make up a lot for the season,” Walker said.

“I think we grew inch by inch rather than leaps and bounds,” Foster said. “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

— hokiesports.com box score —

 

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27 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Glad to see yesterday’s display of heart, grit, and skill. Three weeks ago we were wondering what this team was made of; whether they could turn it around or lose out. That question has now been answered, affirmatively. There’s plenty to work on yet; in the near term for the bowl game; in the medium term for next year; and in the long term for recruiting and player development. But the disaster which would’ve occurred head we lost out has been avoided, and a positive message sent. Good job all – Go Hokies!

  2. Gritty tough 2 week performance that proved to me that this team DOES have Hokie Heart!! Some people, and I have to admit to having been one of them at times, questioned how much this group was really still playing or giving a damn.

    Well, I was wrong to question that! You can debate talent (we will all winter), you can debate the role youth played (I agree w/ what Bud said that youth can no longer be an excuse 10 -11 games in). We CANNOT debate the heart and “want-to” these guys displayed….In my book, that covers a LOT of other flaws.. Gret job finishing Hokies. My hat is in my hand and off to you!!

    Good writeup Cory, but just one nitpick ……a late TD against our “backup defense”?? I didn’t think we even HAD a backup defense any more this late in the year :>)

  3. The lede on the main page says the streak is 23. We left 23 behind a few years back. Twenty-six, old enough to rent a car.

    I hope we go to Annapolis and fill the place.

  4. I detect some disappointment in the crowd size in one or two of the lines. Given that the game was not announced until a couple of weeks ago and the team record this year 31000+ isn’t bad at all.

    1. I was there, but playing a game at noon is also an issue. A significant number of fans have to drive more than 4 hours to get to Lane.

      1. I got up at 4 am to get there, don’t have a problem with people not being able to make it, but don’t b!t@h about it when others can’t. That is what ticks me off.

  5. This is a big win. We could lose the bowl game by 278 points and everyone will still respect this team. The win over UVa was miraculous and the Marshall win was earned, not given. The team pulled together. Don’t kid yourself, we still aren’t real good, but we have grit. Maybe more important.

    Go Hokies!

  6. Cory said:
    “As a side note, Fuente and Co. will have quite a quarterback battle next year with Willis, Patterson, and Jackson all returning. ”

    Hooker is returning, right? Right? Was that a omission, or does it mean something?

    1. Yes, he’s returning as of now (could very well transfer), but I don’t think anyone seriously expects him to contend for the starting spot.

  7. I give the players and coaches a TON of credit. Many “fans” gave up on this team during the 4-game losing streak, but they kept at it. What a great way to finish the season. GO HOKIES!!!

    1. Yes! That’s one thing I never saw – the team giving up. They played their hearts out and get to go bowling once again. Very happy for them.

  8. ACC Network has a long way to go, terrible streaming product. Wish I could have witnessed more, go Hokies. From what I saw, team looks legit

    1. I did not have any streaming issues, no buffering. I am on Suddenlink cable internet, think my speed is 300Mbps, and I watched on the ESPN app on my TV.

    2. Not sure the your problem was with the ACC Network. I watched the game on my iPad from the balcony of the Caribbean Princess docked off the island of Martinique.
      We had a couple of instances of buffering but otherwise everything was fine. After the fog lifted, the video was excellent.
      The ship offers 20+Mbps service for $8.50/day.

        1. This is too weird: I typed the abbreviation for “just kidding” after my gut-hating sentence, hit “Post Comment”…and the abbreviation had disappeared!

    3. My video quality was fine…but the announcers and crew were pretty horrid. What we get on a last ditch Marshall game I guess….not exactly setup for a Gameday crew.

  9. Cory, we scored 35 against ODU & still lost so that runs the 33-0 stat in your first paragraph. I guess we must be 33-1.

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