Virginia Tech 33, Virginia 15: Hokies Reclaim the Cup

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Virginia Tech UVA 2020 scoring summary

Virginia Tech UVA Commonwealth Cup
Virginia Tech took back the Commonwealth Cup with a 33-15 win over Virginia. (Virginia Tech Athletics)

Divine Deablo is an ideal representative of Virginia Tech on and off the field, and a Hokie through and through. When deciding which senior would wear the No. 25 jersey on Saturday, it was really a no-brainer that the 6-foot-3, 226-pound safety would be given the honor for the fifth time in his career.

Early in the game, Deablo dropped a sure interception. It was only creating poetic justice for his game-sealing interception with 3:30 left, securing Virginia Tech’s 33-15 triumph over Virginia.

“Not to get too sentimental, but the good Lord made a beautiful person in Divine Deablo,” said an emotional Justin Fuente. “There’s not a better heart out there. Selfless, hard-working, intelligent, happy, pleasant. To see him go play like that and influence the game like that, kind of send him out. I can tell you it’s not just me that’s affected by him. That’s throughout that locker room. People are out there playing for him. Those type of people inspire you.”

Deablo was flying all over the field and delivering jarring hits all night long as one of the main contributors in helping return the Commonwealth Cup to Blacksburg, where it will make its residence for at least a year. Despite coming in losers of four straight and heading in the opposite direction from the Cavaliers who had won four in a row, the Hokies were the more complete team from start to finish.

(Virginia Tech Athletics)

“I see our kids every day,” Fuente said. “I know what they’re doing. I know how hard they’re working. I know how much they care. They know how I feel about them, too. This is a cool group. Again, you can talk about the record or the close losses or whatever, but the bottom line is through incredible adverse circumstances these kids stuck together and tried to play their tail off for each and for Virginia Tech.”

After falling behind 7-3 in the first quarter, it was all Hokies from that point forward, including 24 unanswered points in the second quarter. A Tre Turner jet sweep touchdown gave Virginia Tech a 10-7 lead it would never surrender.

Khalil Herbert delivered the first jab to send UVA staggering when he took a handoff 76 yards up the middle to the house in just six seconds to extend Virginia Tech’s lead to 20-7 with 4:26 left in the second quarter. Herbert concluded the game with 162 yards rushing on 20 carries. He’s averaging 7.7 yards per carry, a number that will become Virginia Tech’s all-time record holder at season’s end, eclipsing a record set in 1999 by Andre Kendrick (6.26 yards per carry).

“There was just a lot of daylight,” Herbert said. “Guys up front did a great job opening up a big hole for me to run through. I promised the guys I wouldn’t get caught again from that BC game… I was just thinking ‘get in the end zone.’”

“I just know he hasn’t gotten caught very many times in those situations this year,” Fuente said. “It was really nice this year to have someone who can finish those off. We’ve talked multiple times about making the unblocked hat miss or finishing a long run and he was able to do that on multiple occasions.”

If Herbert’s score made UVA woozy, the long touchdown to Tayvion Robinson before the half qualified as a knockdown. Facing a similar situation to last week against Clemson at the end of the half, this time Fuente and Co. decided to air it out and go for a score.

After Herbert picked up a hard-earned first down on third-and-4, Braxton Burmeister found Robinson for a seemingly short completion out along the sideline. That was until Robinson made one man miss and burst down the sideline for the 60-yard touchdown with 0:31 remaining before halftime.

“That was huge,” Fuente said. “Really, I don’t think the route should have been open in the coverage, but Braxton was able to hold the ball a little bit longer than normal. Braxton kind of slid over there and found Tayvion. He finally got in the end zone. You think about in Tayvion’s short career here how many times he’s had those big plays and always gone down at the 4-yard line or the 3-yard line. He finally got all the way in and it was a huge bonus play, to be honest with you.”

It concluded a highly efficient first half for Burmeister who got the nod as the starting quarterback in the game. Burmeister took over for Hendon Hooker against Clemson before being knocked out in the second half with an injury. 

While both quarterbacks were available tonight, Fuente decided to call upon Burmeister to run the offense. The California native proved it to be a smart decision, tossing for 212 yards on 15-of-22 passing. Burmeister picked up 36 yards on the ground and was not sacked.

“Every snap I felt I knew what I was looking at and I felt comfortable with what they were doing, what we were doing,” Burmeister said. “I knew where the ball was supposed to be. It was pretty easy tonight.”

Braxton Burmeister Virginia Tech
Braxton Burmeister played arguably his best game of the season. (Virginia Tech Athletics)

Virginia Tech’s defense continued to put on a masterful performance in the second half. With Virginia in desperation mode, Justin Hamilton’s unit was able to pin its ears back and play aggressively.

The Hokies harassed Brennan Armstrong for most of the night, recording four sacks and three additional quarterback hurries. Armstrong ended Saturday’s contest 25-of-46 for 259 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Most impressively, Virginia Tech surrendered a mere 55 yards on the ground.

“Me personally and the defense as a whole, this was probably our best game,” said Deablo, who collected six tackles, tied for the team-high with Amare Barno. 

It remains to be seen whether or not Virginia Tech will participate in a bowl game this year. Fuente noted that he will talk with the team tomorrow to hear out all the players’ opinions. However, it’s worth noting that all five players available for postgame media voted ‘yes’ to participating in a bowl game if given the opportunity. 

In the meantime, the Hokies can bask in glory of winning 20 of the last 22 in the rivalry. It was a fulfilled prophecy on Saturday night that was spent over a year in the making.

“[Braxton and I] actually watched the game last year together,” Brock Hoffman said. “As the game wound down, we ended up losing. I remember looking at Braxton and Braxton was like, ‘We’re going to get it back next year. We’re going to get it back.’”

Mission accomplished. 

Virginia Tech News and Notes

– The biggest storyline remaining for Virginia Tech this calendar year remains the future of head coach Justin Fuente. With the buyout dropping down from $12.5 million to $10 million on December 15, some decisions could be made shortly in the next few days.

“I don’t concern myself with anybody other than a small group of people,” Fuente said. “And that is the players, that’s the coaches, that’s the staff, that’s my family, and that’s God. I sleep really well at night if I’m in line with those people. 

“The biggest thing for this is a sigh of relief that the regular season is over. Win, lose, whatever, this thing is a wrap, and that is a huge relief. I wish I was a better orator to describe to you how difficult it’s been. The strain and the stress on everybody has just been remarkable. I’ve had 11 conversations at midfield [with opposing coaches] and they’ve all been the same before the game. Just the hardest thing anybody has ever pulled off.”

By all indications, the current players hold Fuente in high esteem.

“I love Fuente,” Deablo said. “He’s just a people person. I love being around him. I’d do anything for the guy. I think I came in with Fuente. I was a Beamer recruit, but came in with Fuente and every step of the way he’s had my back.”

– It appears Khalil Herbert’s career at Virginia Tech may be done and the NFL could soon be calling his name, but he wasn’t going to make any guarantees on Saturday night.

“Not 100 percent yet,” Herbert said. “I’m going to talk it over with my parents, talk it over with the coaches. It’s something we’ll talk about later.”

– Dorian Strong had another standout performance, with his first career interception and five tackles. Strong has been the most impressive true freshman in the 2020 season for the Hokies.

“I’ve been really pleased with Dorian,” Fuente said. “He’s a young player who has no conscience. He just goes out there and plays.”

– Brian Johnson went 4-for-4 on field goal tries, connecting from 46, 47, 47 and 30 yards.

Virginia Tech-UVA Box Score

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57 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I was kind of gratified to see my evaluation agreed with by the coaches and borne out by the game. I was discussing with friends which QB would be best for the game. I said Burmeister…instantly. Burmeister is a steadier QB. Hooker is the flashy QB. Knox Kaddum is going to be very very good.

  2. Imagine that Herbert plays against Liberty and is at 100% against Miami. We win both and are sitting at 7-4, and all the “Fire Fu and burn it to the ground crowd” are not sharpening their pitchforks.
    21 getting hurt changed the trajectory of the season. We do need to improve recruiting and get everyone to clean their plate in the dining hall, but let’s get behind these guys instead of pretending to know what goes on behind the scenes, cause we don’t. To make a multi-million dollar buyout in a year in which all of us have had our collective worlds rocked is way crazy.

  3. I am not rabid on the topic of firing Fu…or keeping him.

    If he is given another year, it has to count. We will need 7 wins at the very least….no defeats at the hands of the likes of liberty or Wake Forest.

    The reality is the biggest reason I have to stay with Fu another year is this defense staff. JHam deserves the chance. I do like Fu in many ways. We really need to see inside this program. We need to know WHY. WHY is there so much more churn in the locker room under Fuente as opposed to Beamer? WHY have many Virginia HS coaches turned backs to Fuente and VT? WHY does there seem to be a lack of development in many players? What was Beamer’s staff doing correctly that Fuente’s staff has wrong? IS Fuente open to changing that which does not work?

    Fire him…..Whit better get it right. Keep him…..Whit better get it right. Recruiting, particularly in state, MUST….MUST improve.

    Understand that either resolution has issues.

  4. Nice to see the defense coming along. It will be really interesting to see how things progress over the next year.

  5. My vote is for keeping Fuente. Hear me out; the reason is, by doing so, Hamilton gets another year to prove himself (which is only fair), but most of all, we get to keep Vance Vice. The job that Vice did was my biggest takeaway from last night’s game; they were the ones who opened the holes for the running backs, and prevented the Hoos from getting a single sack.
    And as for Fuente; you can criticize him for not being able to recruit, but I say that he has done a great job of getting great players through the transfer portal, and there’s no reason why he won’t be able to continue to do this.

    1. It may be too late…not sure. I think if we keep Fu, we need to look long and hard at corny…

      Again…..it comes down to recruiting. We HAVE to have improvements there. If you are down in talent, it gets rough. Fu CAN coach…see his first two years. It would also help if he opened up things a bit.

    2. Fu did well in the transfer portal but he better: consider how we would we would have done this year if we only had the HS.recruits?

  6. My sentiments go back and forth regarding CFu’s potential firing. I lean more toward keeping him and letting him know the football program is backed financially with construction and $ for additional staffing. Others have stated the obvious with the down years of many excellent coaches at Nebraska, Penn State, Texas, and others during this COVID year. If we don’t retain CFu, it may work out better for him, since Shane Beamer’s HC gig at uscE, has created an Assistant Head Coach’s job at OK that I’m sure Fuente would relish to have and get back to his roots!

  7. Herbert took a handoff and went up the middle for 76 yards in 6 seconds. That’s an 8 second 100 yard dash. He can fly.
    The Hoos didn’t sack VT’s QB.
    The Hoos didn’t return any punts.
    Burmeister hit almost 70% of his passes for almost 9.7 yds per pass.
    Just some misc. thoughts.
    Hats off to players and staff for a well played game.

    1. No one has ever done an 8 second 100. But, he is fast and outran their secondary and most running backs can’t do that. I timed him and got 9.34 seconds from the 24 but he started running sideways at the end and slowed down a little.

  8. Firing Fuente is ludicrous. In the middle of a pandemic? Look at Penn State, Michigan, Arizona, Nebraska, etc.. The list goes on. Saying it’s been a tough year is a gross understatement.

    1. I have to say I agree. New coaching staff, no spring practice, many coaches and players out for Covid, loss of key players (Farley, waller), etc. I think he deserves a chance.

    2. The concern is recruiting. In the 2021 class we have no 4 or 5 star recruits. Only 2 other programs in the ACC have that distinction. Wake and Duke. Even GT has 2 4 star recruits. We had the Texas QB but then he switched. I don’t know why we aren’t getting better players.

      1. You got it right it is the underperforming recruiting that is the Big concern. It would be nice too if he could interact better with the fans but winning forgives a lot of sins

  9. Great win for sure. Fun to see the team executing and playing well on both sides of the ball.

    But there is a lot of recency bias in these comments. Winning obviously heals some wounds, but let’s not forget about the Fuente themes of concern which have not gone away with a win over UVA. I hope we stick with the alleged plan to bring in an assistant from a championship program and start to recruit dogs and build an ACC contender.

    1. Recency bias works works both ways, not just when it suits your argument. We have not won at the level we all want to but the vast majority of the reasons do not lie at the feet of Fuente. There is a lot of accountability on the administration and athletic department as well. We have a coach already in place that can get the job done if we can make the playing field more level in the areas Fuente has no control over. When Fuente was hired he didn’t have the luxury of having everything as he would’ve wanted it. Could explain my reasoning further but too much to type here. 🙂

      1. I agree with TW. JF had his hands tied when he took the job. There are many factors that are not his fault or his responsibility. Ten million is a big check to write without a very good reason (which we don’t have). There are other changes that need to be made.

      2. Agree. Winning at the power five level is a long game scenario. Positive coaching moves were made last year and need time to bear fruit. We have a strong OL coach who is really building something special. Burning everything to the ground now would be a desperate and foolish move. Is more improvement needed? Yes, absolutely; especially in the areas of facilities, player development (especially at QB), tackling, and in strength and conditioning. I hope those in positions of power aren’t as fickle and hot-headed as many of those who post on this and other message boards, calling for Coach Fuente’s head and a thorough housecleaning. Last nights game was inspiring. Go Hokies!

  10. How bout those Hokies!
    Braxton looked great last night & the O Line dominated!
    Defense looked solid!
    (Hope they have one more game)

  11. A very tough season. Some heart breaking losses due to errors and strange goings-ons. But a good ending with the best overall game (plan and execution) of the year. I’m firmly in the keep Fuente camp. He’s honest and the Hokie Nation needs to stick with him. I truly think this program has turned the corner. A.H.

    1. I agree. And with a pandemic. Yes everybody has played in it but every team had it’s own unique issues in dealing with it.(again big money programs have big money to help with unforeseen issues) I’d like a statement of confidence from Whit to calm the chatter and get on with solid, no coach questions, recruiting.

  12. Great Job all Hokies! Order restored! Universe right! Fans happy!
    To all our coaches – “Thank You” for being our Staff in this dang COVID year and for doing it Right.
    To all our players – “Way to Represent” – you all did it! Got the Cup back in magnificent fashion with no doubts who the better team is and will be for the future! Thank You!
    This has been a difficult yet special year – no one will ever forget!
    God Bless! Stay Healthy!
    Go Hokies!

  13. Congrats to the whole football team!!! Even with all the negative press that has been spewed about..if we lose The coaching staff you will never see the football program come back until the 2030s. I think you have to hear what some of the players think about Coach FU and realize he is not the devil! He is a man who had to lead this team through the worse situation all of us have had to go through..to fire him would be a tragedy at this point. Anyways my thought about paying 10 million to the coach because some of supporters have the money… let me tell everyone this..if you have that much money sitting around burning a hole in your pocket…why don’t you donate to Virginia Tech in athletics as well as academics with no strings attached. It will be better spent !!!!!

    1. Agree 100%

      I think what people forget sometimes is that there is always going to be a limited amount of money … yes the argument is that the 4X2.5 million comes from a different pocket, but that is the same pocket 3 years from now we are going to hit up for more help … facilities, support staff, something … and if its already spent, then it won’t be there.

      It is clear the players love him, its also clear that the team is better than it appears all year.

      Think about it .. change one detail … had this team had the chance to install the defense before the season, and the defense we saw against Clemson and UVA was there for Liberty, Miami, those 1 and 3 pt losses are wins. The wake game may also be a win. The Pitt game likely does not melt down …

      Give JF and JH a chance to have a more normal season. and if you want to invest, start the process of upgrading the support staff and facilities, show the next coach we are serious about football, and move forward. At least then they get a normal recruiting season, with normal evaluation, and for sure a normal chance to install a new offense and defense. And if COVID drove 2020, and JF can motivate and improve the team, then we may save 1-2 years of tear down / rebuild that would come with a coach that gets no time to recruit, no spring practice to install and no breaks from the fanbase.

      1. I agree if there is 10 mil to get rid of coach, then contribute now for upgrades needed by Coach Fuente & give him chance w/new defense staff to recruit & implement their schemes. Great game by all Hokies participating in beating Hoos.

        1. His buyout will be 10 mil in a couple days…..it will remain so at the end of next year. IF the inclination is to fire him…..15th or the end of next season will be no different. If the inclination is to fire him…better now. It’s a weird thing with this contract.

  14. 1) Despite the hype coming in, our QB was better. The D made Armstrong move in the pocket very often, and he was less accurate on his throws because of it.
    2) I think the play of the game was Deablo’s hit on 99 in the 3rd quarter. After the fake punt, it felt like momentum was changing. That hit stalled that drive, plus (I think) put 99 out of the game.

  15. Whew. The Cup is back home, where it belongs!

    The Streak goes to 11 wins in a row, over UVA at home!

    Fuente has never looked so… real, than after the game.

    Would be nice to play in a Bowl. Like 2018, circumstances messed with the schedule. A 5-6 record, but under the circumstances, can I reconcile it to be what should be a qualifying resume to keep the Bowl Streak alive? Maybe.

    Whatever happens in the next few days, or doesn’t happen, will tell a lot. All the speculating, has produced zero confirmation of anything.

    If this were to be Fuente’s last game here, it’s the best way to go out. Beating the Hoos, and getting the Cup back!

    GO, HOKIES!

  16. I really enjoyed watching this game. For those who want to fire Fuente, you will not see this type of performance again for a long while if he is replaced. If he is gone, we will lose most of our recruiting class, lose a defensive staff that is just getting it going, and try to find a coach where there are no good options.

    1. Well said! We were on a great roll at the beginning of the season, then 4 losses in a row, then we have a great game yesterday. Cooler heads should prevail on Coach Fu. Very bad look to can a coach dealing with a pandemic. Look at FSU and Miami and many others with unsuccessful coaching changes for the last several years. The focus needs to be on more money into the program not on buyouts, new coaches that we would have a crap shoot on away. I’d rather deal with improving a known than putting money and years on an unknown gamble. It sure would help for Whit to make a statement quickly to give certainty for recruits.

    2. Don’t forget that if Fuente is fired then some of the team’s best players could hit the transfer portal. Had Herbert been healthy the whole season it is likely he would be in the hunt for the Heisman trophy. So he just might stay for another year. Then again if Fuente is fired then he may simply go pro.

  17. Finally … a reward for the players who have fought their way through a trying season.
    Happy for Coach fu as well. I hope he is retained. All the talk about firing
    is hurting recruiting.

  18. Realty impressive win. Especially strong showing by Defense. JHam will be great coach. Give him some time folks.

  19. Whew! That feels a lot better. I feel certain we will get a bowl bid especially with Pitt and BC dropping out. If it wasn’t for the bowl streak I’d be indifferent. But, it would be nice to keep that alive. If that means letting some players opt out of the game for any reason so be it. Don’t know what’s up with Hooker but Burmeister played well although you could tell they kept him with short and mostly outside stuff. Made some critical 3rd down plays in our first TD drive.

    I had not thought about the fact that Herbert could play another year because no one loses eligibility this year. I doubt he will but wouldn’t that be great.

      1. Maybe he does not go pro … what if he was healthy the whole season? Maybe he decides to take a shot next year for the Heisman?

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