Hokies Beat Old Dominion 31-17

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Virginia Tech ODU scoring summary

A collective groan was unleashed by the 57,282 fans inside Lane Stadium. Old Dominion gashed the Virginia Tech defense for three big runs on a 5-play, 78-yard scoring drive that was capped off by Stone Smartt’s 15-yard scamper to cut the Hokies’ lead to 24-17. 

It was a drive that brought back painful memories of Virginia Tech’s helpless defense last year during the 49-35 loss to the Monarchs in Norfolk.

Is this really going to happen again?

All the momentum had swung to the side of the visitors early in the fourth quarter. That is until Terius Wheatley accelerated down the sideline for a 71-yard kickoff return down to the 17-yard line. Three plays later, Ryan Willis found Phil Patterson, who broke open just inside the corner of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown on third-and-6. 

Terius Wheatley Virginia Tech
Terius Wheatley had a 71-yard kickoff return to help restore order after ODU closed it to 24-17 in the fourth quarter. (Ivan Morozov)

“That was awesome by Wheatley,” said Willis, who found eight different receivers while going 16-of-28 for 272 yards and two passing touchdowns along with a rushing touchdown. He threw no interceptions. “I thought he was going to take it to the house. He set us up in really good field position and we took advantage of it.”

The grumblings quickly shifted to cheers, and the Hokies (1-1) regained control en route to a 31-17 triumph over Old Dominion (1-1).

“We really wanted to keep the focus on football and not all the other stuff,” head coach Justin Fuente said. “I think the kids did a good job of that. It was a little bit of a circus, quite honestly. We wanted our guys to stay focused on the task at hand, and they did a good job of that, finding a way to win the game.”

During the media availability leading up to Saturday’s game against Old Dominion, Virginia Tech players and coaches were asked frequently about last year’s embarrassing 49-35 loss in Norfolk to the Monarchs.

Add in the fact that former Hokies Eric Kumah and Chris Cunningham were on the opposing sideline, and it culminated in a lot of outside noise that the program blocked out in the lead up to the game.

“We can’t do anything about any of that other than we have to focus on the football game and get ready to play football,” Fuente said. “All the stuff outside, the talk… we can’t concern ourselves with those things.”

“We really just played within ourselves and tried to practice every day to get ready for our game,” said Jarrod Hewitt, who totaled five tackles and half a sack. “I think that loss is always going to sting this program just a little bit, but today it doesn’t really matter to me. At the end of the day, we won the game.” 

Kumah finished the day with three catches for 24 yards while Cunningham received three carries for six yards as the duo was greeted with a chorus of boos anytime their names were announced over the PA. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster in particular shared a warm sentiment with Kumah in the postgame.

“It wasn’t about stopping Eric Kumah or anything like that,” Foster said. “Eric searched me out afterwards. I recruited Eric. Wished him nothing but the very best. He was so appreciative of me giving him an opportunity to play college football. I told him at the end this will be a relationship for a lifetime.”

Just under one year ago, Virginia Tech’s defense was gashed for 631 total yards in this same matchup. It was the most yards that a Foster-led defense has ever allowed. 

The first half told a different story, as the Lunch Pail Defense allowed just three points, five first downs, and 70 total yards. However, things quickly changed as Smartt and Co. gave Virginia Tech headaches in the second half.

ODU quarterback Stone Smartt was a pest at times for the Monarchs. (Ivan Morozov)

Old Dominion concluded the game with 324 total yards, including 202 yards on the ground for 4.7 yards per carry. Lynchburg native Lala Davis tallied 81 yards on 11 carries. Smartt kept multiple plays alive with his legs, including two rushing touchdowns on quarterback keepers. 

“I thought we played pretty solid all day, then we went through a two-series stretch late in the third quarter, early fourth quarter (where) we reverted back to really poor execution and poor tackling,” Foster said. “I think their quarterback is an athletic guy who creates some problems with the ball in his hand… It goes back to we have to play for 60 minutes. We can’t play for 50 or 45.”

Virginia Tech opened the game with a methodical 10-play, 77-yard drive that was finished off with a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Keshawn King, the first of his career. King didn’t return after the first quarter, and Fuente offered a puzzling explanation considering the freshman didn’t fumble.

“Keshawn is fine,” Fuente said. “He’s got to get up with the ball in his hands to continue to get carries.”

The Hokies as a whole still had a hard time gaining any traction in the rushing attack. The team averaged just 3.4 yards per carry over 39 attempts for 131 yards. Deshawn McClease carried the ball 20 times for 64 yards.

The one stretch where Virginia Tech had its most success on the ground was the first series of the third quarter. True freshmen Bryan Hudson and Doug Nester lined up at center and right guard respectively, while redshirt freshman Luke Tenuta was inserted at right tackle. Over the drive, the Hokies ran the ball nine times for 52 yards, ending with a 1-yard plunge by Willis for the touchdown to increase the lead to 24-3 at the time. 

While that was arguably Tech’s most impressive drive, the highlight reel play of the game belonged to Hezekiah Grimsley. Willis lofted a pass in the right corner of the end zone to Grimsley who reached for it with one hand, then collected it against his body as he was falling down for a 9-yard touchdown in the middle of the second quarter.

This circus catch by Hezekiah Grimsley staked Virginia Tech to a 17-3 lead. (Ivan Morozov)

It was Grimsley’s second touchdown that he’s hauled in this year.

“I didn’t plan on making a one-handed catch,” Grimsley said. “I just stopped the ball and it fell where it fell… With this generation, we want to make ESPN with all of these highlights and everything.”

“I was so happy for him,” Fuente said. “When you talk about a guy who we’re all pulling for because of how he works and the things that he’s been through. When you see guys have success that we see every day behind the scenes… it’s really cool and those are special moments.” 

After Virginia Tech secured the 31-17 lead in the fourth quarter, the turnover bug returned from the previous week where the Hokies committed five costly turnovers at Boston College. With 8:06 remaining, Willis kept the ball on the read option and fumbled after his neck got jammed between two defenders. 

Willis didn’t return to game, but he’s fine by all indications.

“I was a little concerned (about potential injury), and I also didn’t like that we turned the ball over,” Fuente said. 

The defense forced a three-and-out, but McClease coughed up the ball on the next possession. Through two games, Tech has a minus-six turnover margin.

“We practice ball security every single day,” said Tayvion Robinson, who recorded a team-high four catches for 62 yards on the day. “Each time it happens in the game you are getting yelled at by one of the coaches about putting the ball (on the ground).”

Virginia Tech stays home for another noon kickoff from Lane Stadium next Saturday against FCS member Furman.

— hokiesports.com box score —

Virginia Tech Notes

  • Zachariah Hoyt, TyJuan Garbutt, and Jovonn Quillen did not play after sustaining injuries in week one. Damon Hazelton also did not play for the second straight week. 
  • Rayshard Ashby again led the defense in tackles, this week recording 10 tackles.
  • Jaylen Griffin recorded his first career sack. He’s seen a significant spike in reps since the transition from linebacker to defensive end this year. “I’ve embraced it,” Griffin said. “At linebacker, I was kind of dragging… I trusted the process, and now I’m here.”
  • Virginia Tech has now won 25 straight contests when holding foes to 21 points or fewer.


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50 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Hopefully this was one of those emotional games where the other team gets really up for it and we press because of last year and all that. College football is a week to week game for sure. Having said that, the track record under this regime has been to regress as the year goes on and the complete lack of anything resembling a physical presence in the trenches is very worrisome. Great to have 15 WRs that can turn a game on it’s head but need some o-linemen that can run block and d-linemen that can get penetration. If those don’t improve, it’s hard to forsee many (if any) ACC wins.

  2. Hate to say this. I think Duke’s option play will kill us. UNC looked really good against Miami with their Freshman Quarterback. Team needs to grow up faster to be competitive with those two as well as the others on the schedule. Good luck team, make us proud.

  3. RW should know better than on the play he fumbled. Going head first and risk losing the ball instead of a slide late in the game with the lead. Fifth year QB should know better.

      1. Stop fumbling, stop throwing interceptions, stop misreading the RPA and “people” will for forgive the atypical mistake. The problem is the people are seeing a trend and the people are stunned that he has regressed from last year.

        1. Meanwhile Josh Jackson is lighting it up over at Maryland. Through two games we have failed to score 30 points against a P5 defense and barely over 30 points against a poor G5 defense.

  4. After yesterday, its hard to imagine this season will be much different than last season in the W-L record. Until we establish a respectable running game, we’ll continue to have to bank on passing game to stay in any game. While we certainly have skill and depth at receiver positions, the better teams will simply defend the pass as it doesn’t really take much for opposing teams to stuff the run with us. I’ve seen 2 weeks of the running lanes immediately collapse (often in the backfield) and there’s nothing to suggest that will change anytime soon with essentially a rookie OLine that was way overhyped in the off season! When you can only muster 131 yds of rushing against ODU, it’s not likely that will change vs. conference opponents! Run blocking is turrible, just turrible, absolutely turrible!!

    1. Add to that very pedestrian running backs. End result is too much pressure on Willis both figuratively and literally

      1. We certainly were spoiled by some great backs of old. Who knew that long running trend would hit a drop and stay down.

    2. McClease certainly seemed tentative and should have hit the hole harder, most of those runs up the middle it looked like there was no hole to hit. Our running backs may need a lot of improvement, but to have a successful running game we need much better O-line play as well.

  5. I told everyone to stop poo pooing on the ODU Monarchs. This team is coming and coming fast and hard. This institution is different from JMU. The RichmondNorfolkTidewater area rallies around VCU and ODU (the other unhearlded schools also known for medicine and engineering) . ODU is geographically in the right hot bed of Virginia and it attracts students and players who are turned off by the poshness and arrogance of other recognizable in state schools.

    1. ok if you say so . . . they are wonderful and unheralded. Maybe we need to accept the fact either they have risen to our level or we have sunk to their level. Either way, not exactly Hokie Proud fodder. I allow that some student can be turned off by the poshness and arrogance of other schools, but those aren’t terms commonly thrown around about Va Tech – actually it absurd to imply such, VT is a land grant school with every degree under the sun. And call me arrogant, I will hold that moniker proudly, but if Tech engineering is not head and shoulders over VCU or ODU I feel embarrassed. I dare say if some student thinks VT is posh they probably didn’t exactly excel on the verbal part of the SAT.

  6. the defense was a tale of two halves. we have so many young inexperienced players who do not know their assignments. the key issue is how did we get so thin with experienced players? The staff has made some mistakes in recruiting and building bench strength. Foster has been off the recruiting trail to get the right people to run his defensive style and not enough physical players on DL and defense TE

  7. Another thought- why didn’t we try harder to get Lala Davis. He’s from Lynchburg and looked much better than our running backs.

    1. oh geez, good point. Even if he wasn’t better by measurables, he showed the want-to which used to be the Hokie player of old.

  8. It’s going to be tough to win many ACC games until we get an effective running game. I was happy to see the defense flying around- much better than against BC.

  9. We are spectacularly mediocre. I’m usually a PATT, but this is going to be a long, disappointing season I’m afraid.

    1. You’ll notice on the drive where McClease did bust “the big one” (by this offenses standards) that Tenuta had replaced Dzansi and I don’t think he ever came back in. I don’t think they do much physical in practice. Can’t run block 90% of the time and can’t tackle 75% of the time, even experienced guys like Floyd missing tackles and blowing assignments. Discouraging to see that he has regressed so much in two years. Used to be a beast. Deablo is that man now. If he or Ashby have to miss time, this year could be worse in the run defense category.

  10. Hard to fathom the fact that ODU has bigger, stronger, faster running backs than we do. They were running wild through our swiss cheese defense in the second half.

    And another thing … CJF’s after-game pressers have to improve. He seems generally listless and annoyed. Then there are the constant swigs on the water bottle. Contrast that with the lively, engaging interviews with Dabo.

    1. Agreed, hard to fathom and bordering on embarrassing.

      As for CJF, you are right on. I think he has a similar issue with the players. He seems unengaged and can’t relate to the players or the 757 recruits.

      I’m thinking our coach needs a coach. For our sake and for CJF’s sake. For CJF, fail here and there is no where to go but down.

    2. Everybody seems to recruit stud running backs but is right now. Again, I think it us…..and the type of guy Fuente is insists hes looking for or will to look past. We supposedly hear of the demise of Danville and Lynchburg football products and twice recently we encounter good talent that could have been a Hokie. Lala was three time all state for va and now holds the rushing state record for career yards. He was tough, ran hard and ran with a chip….how does Tech miss this guy in our own back yard?

      1. Good question with supporting facts. Three time all state and in our backyard. How do you miss that?? ESPECIALLY with our current pedestrian RBs?

    3. CJF’s has to improve. He is generally listless and annoyed. Not really a P5 coach, just doesn’t have the personality of it. Probably be a good OC at the P5 level

  11. How is it that Josh Jackson at MD can put 63 on the Orange where he never scored anything close to that at Tech against any team that I remember.

    1. Josh Jackson had about the same yds passing and one more interception. Had Willis done that, you would have cried of him being a turnover machine. If they scoren63 and Jackson throws for 10 yds more abd rushes for 30 yds less, you figure why. Willis was great, in-fact better than Jackson in QBR…NO Running Game

    2. Because Josh Jackson is running Alabama’s offense….you know the one that Tua put up insane numbers in last season. Meanwhile our team is running an offense that made Memphis a decent G5 program. There’s a substaintial difference between those two programs and the mentality it takes to coach at that level and I will just leave it at that. As far as Willis goes I believe he has a great deal more talent than Jackson (both arm and leg). Needs to not be afraid to keep it on the zone read plays, make the defense think (and then don’t fumble when you do make the right read).

  12. I listened to the game on the radio then watched it later. This team is in deep trouble. We should physically dominate a team like ODU, it didn’t happen. Any thought that we will win 9-10 games is a joke. Missed tackles, missed assignments and missed opptunities. I was in Charlottesville yesterday and saw uva destroy w&m. I see no reason to think they won’t do the same to us. We can’t run the ball against odu? Wait ’till uva makes us one dimensional, their secondary will have a field day.

    1. We beat W&M by worse last yr. What UVA did was no feat. They gave up as many pts to WM as we did to ODU. ODU would throttle WM

    1. Well that’s two straight weeks he’s dropped the ball & we’ve had to hope it wasn’t ruled a fumble. Today he dropped it but was ruled that forward progress was stopped.

      McClease fumbled later too but it’s a message he’s consistent with

      1. And we will keep missing on rbs if he keeps up the same consistent negative message. Fumbles happen in football. And if as a running back getting pounded on every carry you cannot be expected to be perfect. You will not play for someone that focuses on the negatives and not on the positives.

    2. It’a called being a coach. Dabo, Saban, Meyer and all major D1 coaches have said very similar things in pressers. When you have a young player you teach the point early. Everything that Fuente does is a bi+<h fest. Now when he has any criticism of a player even the fans are a bunch of delicate flowers. Half cry we have to be tougher, but when the coach is tough on them the other cry "We are going to lose players if we are tough on these little boys

      1. No, but we need to develop some running backs real quick and we need to help young players build confidence! King looks like he could break one at any minute if he gets loose….let him run the damn ball! If it continues to be a problem…then yes, he needs to be sent a message.

        1. Exactly. I liked the post before the BC game that said “ i’m looking forward to watching King run for three touchdowns, fumble once and be benched for three weeks “. Fuente is focusing on the negatives not the positive. Beck is hurt. But still a good example. Focus on his ELITE speed and ability to make to make big plays, not good n any of his weaknesses. Of course you have to be aware of both. Read any management book. Good leaders focus on strengths

  13. Gotta admit, there was a lot of noise in this game, good to get past it. Nice of Kumah to, I suppose, say his goodbyes to Foster a lot of water under the dam but there is some decency there.

    1. True dat, but from what I saw in these last two games I worry how many more times I will say that this year? I started the season thinking I would say it 8 times, now I’m not so sure 5 is a safe number.

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