No. 15 Virginia Tech Falls Short in Morgantown Against West Virginia, 27-21

It was a rough day in Morgantown for Braxton Burmeister, who was sacked six times. (Ivan Morozov)

It was the tale of momentum swings in Morgantown on Saturday. At first, it was all West Virginia. No. 15 Virginia Tech trailed by three scores at intermission. Yet less than 30 minutes later, the Hokies had a chance inside the five-yard line to win the game as the clock winded down.

However, Virginia Tech had done twice previously in the game, it came up just short inside West Virginia’s ten-yard line, falling to the Mountaineers 27-21 as the golden-filled Milan Puskar Stadium sang John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads.”

“That was an incredible college football game, great atmosphere,” Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente said following the loss. “Obviously, it’s a pretty tough locker room right now. Incredible fight and battle to find a way to have a chance to win the football game. We did not play well in the first half.

“Our guys came back the second half and really just kept fighting and scratching and clawing. We had a chance to win the game there. … I’m proud of our players and disappointed in my ability to have them ready to play better in the first half.”

From the get-go, it was all West Virginia (2-1) on Saturday afternoon. Leddie Brown’s 80-yard rush, which he took to the house untouched on WVU’s second play from scrimmage, summarized the first half.

The Hokies (2-1, 1-0 ACC) came out flat in the Battle for the Black Diamond Trophy and never fully got any traction in the game. It didn’t help that their counterparts took off like a start in a drag race and went up 14-0 in the first six minutes. The Mountaineers’ first two drives consisted of five plays, 135 yards and two scores.

Virginia Tech gained 144 yards in the first half, but it didn’t feel like it. On Tech’s seven possessions, it punted four times, turned the ball over on downs once, missed a field goal and scored a touchdown.

A chart with all of Virginia Tech’s 41 first half plays. The Hokies had 13 plays that went for no gain and two that went for negative yards.

Despite that, however, Virginia Tech battled. The defense, which was torched for 24 points and 270 yards in the first half, only allowed 48 second-half yards and a field goal. They forced WVU quarterback Jarret Doege into two turnovers, too, and the offense finally found some sort of rhythm and put up 14 points.

“We’ve got a bunch of veteran guys,” Tech linebacker Dax Hollifield, who finished with a team-high ten tackles, said. “I know what it takes. When we were down 14-0 or 21-7 or whatever it was, I wasn’t fazed. I’ve seen two scores happen in a minute in college football. It’s no problem. You’ve just got to keep fighting, take it a play at a time. It’s not going to happen all at once. You’ve got to take it one play at a time and it’ll work out.

“We trusted each other and we knew our scheme was just as good as their offense, if not better. We knew it was better. We’ve just got to execute, and we showed that in the second half. We just came up short. It is what it is.”

Like Hollifield said, it wasn’t enough at the end. Even after Jermaine Waller intercepted Doege and gave Virginia Tech field position at West Virginia’s 17, it wasn’t enough.

Jermaine Waller’s interception gave Virginia Tech prime field position, but the Hokies couldn’t capitalize.

“We’re definitely a bunch of fighters,” Tech center Brock Hoffman said. “We’ll fight until the clock says 0:00. But we just have to start faster. It wasn’t an easy second half. We had to fight our whole way back, but if we start faster, that first half and the game will go our way.”

Virginia Tech had three possessions throughout the game inside the West Virginia ten-yard line, including the final possession set up by Waller.

At the end of the first half, Raheem Blackshear returned a kickoff 78 yards to the WVU 22. Looking for an answer to the Mountaineers’ explosive first half offense, the Hokies stalled. Tech gained a first down and had first and goal from the ten, and even got up to the two-yard line after a run from Braxton Burmeister.

After the two sides traded timeouts, Tech right tackle Tyrell Smith was called for a false start. That moved the Hokies back to the seven, which created a tough third down opportunity. The Hokies didn’t convert, John Parker Romo missed the 24-yard field goal by a few inches to the right and the momentum stuck with West Virginia at halftime.

Early in the fourth quarter, TyJuan Garbutt stripped Doege and forced a fumble, which Tech recovered. It set the Hokies up at midfield, and Fuente & Co. were methodical, slowly moving the ball into WVU territory. After Jalen Holston skipped into the red zone, though, the Hokies faltered.

From the eight-yard line, Burmeister threw an incompletion, Holston rushed for three yards, Tre Turner lost one yard on a sweep and Burmeister was sacked on a fourth down attempt. The momentum was killed.

When Burmeister and the offense had their final chance of the game, they couldn’t move the ball past West Virginia’s three-yard line. A rush for no gain, a rush for a loss of one and two incomplete passes followed.

“We struggled up and down running the ball today,” Fuente said. “Then we were behind. There was a time in there where we didn’t have the luxury of trying to run it. I think it centers around that in terms of running the football. We missed a couple plays obviously to get touchdowns down there.

“We were pretty shoddy. Inconsistent to say the least.”

Offensively, wide receivers Kaleb Smith and Tayvion Robinson were two of Virginia Tech’s bright spots.

Smith, who was fifth on Tech’s receiving list entering Saturday with three catches for 25 yards, pulled in a team-high six catches for 62 yards. In the previous two games, he excelled at the non-stat sheet factors, like blocking, which was evident in his team-high run blocking grade (86.3) against North Carolina. On Saturday, he came to play.

Kaleb Smith was one of the offense’s few bright spots on Saturday. He had a team-high six catches. (Ivan Morozov)

“It’s great to see Kaleb gets some balls,” Fuente said. “For the first two weeks, Kaleb has done a lot of the … dirty work for our football team in terms of being a core special teams guy that’s doing the blocking for the return game. And he’s been blocking and playing really well on the outside. Just hasn’t gotten a lot of opportunities, and he got some opportunities today. It’s good to see him come through and make those plays.”

Robinson was solid, too. He had three catches for 47 yards, including the 23-yard touchdown reception from Burmeister in the first half. He and Smith made some big plays when needed late in the game.

Overall, though, it was a sloppy and flat performance. Sure, Tech’s defense played very well in the second half, but the Hokies shot themselves in the foot too many times. VT had six penalties, including four false starts, and Burmeister was sacked six times. Combine that with not converting three-of-four red zone trips and that hurts.

The Hokies scored from distances of 23, 20 and 29. When a team can’t convert in the red zone, though, it’s damaging.

“I felt like we called the right plays,” Robinson said. “You make mistakes, can’t execute, then it goes against you. … Go to film tomorrow, learn from it and just adjust.”

Tayvion Robinson made a spectacular catch in the first half, the Hokies’ only score of the first 30 minutes. (Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech now turns its attention to Richmond. The Hokies host the Spiders (2-0) on Saturday at noon. A captain and a leader, Hollifield message to his teammates is to stick together.

“I’ve seen losses like this tear a team apart,” Hollifield said. “We can’t let that happen. I talked to a lot of the leaders on the team, trying to keep this team as one. That’s really our main goal right now. Come back and have a great week, win this week, and then go into the bye, rest up.”

61 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I have a quote for you about the game…”STUPID” enough said….
    well …maybe ” EMBARRASSING AND STUPID”

  2. Painful to watch our offence, coaches can’t playcall and our quaterback while he is very good appears to be looking to run first and throw second. At the last series when you are on the 3 yard line, why drop back 15 or more yards to throw the ball. Stand up and throw a quick one. I do not find it a pleasure to watch ou teams offence.

  3. Watching the game, it felt like we got abused. Looking at it by half, 2 different games. Looking back, our D line and O lines were beaten most of the game. BUT, we should have won. Too many missed opportunities in the red zone due to “poor” playcalling and some bad reviews that would have changed things.
    Does anyone believe that if Robinson would have gotten up, spiked the ball and celebrated, they would have called it a TD on the field and couldn’t overturn. It seemed like he questioned it himself. NOT a criticism from me, just asking if anyone noticed that? The Ref behind him initially called TD….

  4. Read option needs to go away if we don’t have / want the QB to keep (or cannot read it ) give me a FB and run the I.

  5. We had arguably the best defense we have had and without argument the best quarterback we have had in 1999 when went into Morgantown ranked #3 and barley won the game in the last few seconds on a field goal. Our team almost pulled this off again with a team that would have a difficult time in defeating that 1999 team. This season is not over by a long shot and we can still compete for another ACC championship. Don’t throw in the towels yet. We have a long way to go. we as fans need to follow Dax Hollifield’s advice, “It’s no problem. You’ve just got to keep fighting, take it a play (game) at a time. It’s not going to happen all at once. You’ve got to take it one play (game) at a time and it’ll work out”. I agree with Dax. As a disappointed fan right now, I’m going to keep fighting, keep believing, supporting this team down to the last minute of every game from here on out to the end of season. Let’s see what happens. That’s all we as fans can do anyway. We’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

    1. Exactly right. When we beat North Carolina, our coaches were great. Today everyone wants to fire the staff. As Frank Beamer always said, “Don’t get too high, and don’t get too low.”

    2. I’m holding and buying stock into this philosophy right now.

      This is 1 game, 1 loss-out of conference to a big time border state rival. Sometimes a team is years in the making, and sometimes a young team is over whelmed and walks directly into an ambush. This was a great test for these guys with little ramifications to the ACCCG outcome. Perfect time to lose if there was one. Perfect time for the team to see and learn the stark contrast differences between having the right execution, focus and intensity that led to a great UNC outcome and the lack thereof that led to WVU humble pie.

      Normally I have been a vocal critic in the past but not this year. I have deliberately come into his year through the lens Chris and Will have warned us to apply. Calling for Fu does not translate into National Championship results. It’s going to be a process. This is the way.

      This community needs to wait for it and let this staff work because I think we all like a lot of good parts about this staff that has been able to matriculate over these rough 5 years…..especially on the Defensive side of the ball with JHam and his staff. That’s who I’m riding for right now. Hokie DNA has always started with a strong DEFENSIVE CORE. We’ve got to withhold judgement and support this team and let them work…….hard work I know but the alternative to complain and go postal is easy. Fuente knows our expectations and what’s at stake. That TSL interview finally opened the curtain for me to see that and see the armor this guy and this team puts on every day to fight the fight. Either they figure it out or it will get figured out with out him. When it’s really time for a new regime change we need to be sure it’s the right time. We need to be sure we have reached and exhausted this staff’s ceiling and we need to be sure Shane has learned all that we need him to learn elsewhere during as a head guy in the SEC so we can hit the ground running when or If that time comes. IF that’s the crystal ball projection that’s in our 10year future.

      Until then we support and fight like H with what we have right now.

  6. Stop running jet sweeps to short side of field. Wasted downs low percentage play. Run the numbers.low yardage low number yards for hokies.

    1. Seriously. It’s like the OC is thinking, “certainly they won’t see THIS coming. Only a fool would try this, so it will trick them. “. Infuriating how poor our Red zone offense was.

  7. Defensive line has vanished since UNC game. Maybe UNC offense is just really weak or Tech caught them at the right time. Also, not calling out play calling specifically in this game, but most teams try to get their studs the ball. 2 catches for “Big Play Tre” is about as pathetic an excuse of game planning as you can get. That has been an issue with this coaching staff since they got here. Other than Herbert last year, they haven’t fed an RB and most catches your gonna get is 6. Can you imagine Eddie Royal only having 2 catches in a game. Or Andre Davis to throw it back further. If that’s a result of limitations by the QB then that’s also on coaching staff. Have to recruit a QB that can distribute the ball. Corny and Fu just haven’t had a threatening offense since 2016. Bright side, JHam seems to be well equipped for the job. Great adjustments after a rocky start. Go Hokies!

    1. Tre not having catches speaks more to how open he was (or was not) than the coaches not getting him the ball.

      Maybe Tre had a bad game. Maybe WVU schemed to take him away. Maybe WVU’s corners were just in his back pocket all day.

    1. Not sure I agree while JM is a great talent we have not shown ability to feature him or any TE or the middle of the field I don’t see why it’s so hard to have someone in the middle for a drop down outside of this is their hope to have BB run up the middle if he doesn’t see anything on the outside It’s amazing to see how other teams utilize the TE and we seem to struggle so much.

  8. Unfortunately the norm for this team. Cannot meet their potential. VT operates on the cheap; it shows.

  9. Ahhhhhh the boo birds come out. The TV crew showed a graphic where WVU is akin to Geckle and Hide. They have averaged over 40 pts per game at home and just 12 games on the road. Same kind of statistic on defense. Our team ran into a team today that plays like a top 10 team at home and a top 50 team on the road. But, hey always blame the coaches, it is always the coaches fault. “Horrendous play calling killed the game” is that the best you can do?

    1. Totally agree Reston Hokie. The dolts who nothing about football always retreat to play calling and coaches. Fire Fu! Fire Corny! Puhlease.
      Football is about 3 things: want-to, the plays and execution. On both sides. Give WVU’s D credit as VT’s O struggles in the red zone and the ‘Neers capitalized.

    2. Agree Reston. I hate the haters. We were 1 play from winning today and had to endure two huge blown replay calls.

      1. But we’re there because of gifts from other team. Just sloppy (hopefully just onetime thing)

        Let’s not get arachnophobia

        1. i recall the Hokies had a touch down in the 2nd half where the announcers & the rules expert agreed insufficient evidence to overturn the ruling on the field. Yet, they did exactly that. The bounces simply did not go the Hokie’s way. It hurts that the team lost. In real life does everything go your way? Do you never make a mistake either at home or work? The team played offense and defense good enough to win. They did not. Up next Richmond.

      2. We were 1 play from winning today>>>>
        Hokie Sean – do you think a fake RB run with BB bootlegging on RPO might have worked as one of the last 4 plays? Yeah, it is about execution – but some plays have a higher predictable outcome than others. BTW, think that play might have been a better call on a couple other failures in the red zone. Some times observation of the facts and their outcomes are legit criticisms.

        As for the D – give WVU credit for calling the perfect play on the long TD run.

    3. Love how the haters say ‘our coaches were 100% clueless and unprepared.’
      We had ****3**** trips inside the 10 and came away with no points. (A) clueless doesn’t get you in the redzone at all and (B) give WVU credit people. Jeez. NOw that I think about it, coaching is really, really easy in a La-Z-Boy, a Mtn. Dew stained t-shirt and Cheeto dust all over your hands and jeans.

    4. No the players didn’t execute and the coaches didn’t game plan from the beginning very well. WVU is not good. Tech was overwhelmed and beaten up by a team that is avg. at best. The highly touted Vice Squad got their a$$ kicked. The head whistle hasn’t been able to recruit/develop/ or keep a QB in the program and he’s an ex-QB and offensive minded coach. Mean while Bronco a Defensive coach has had 2 very good if not all conference caliber prospects.

  10. Tech had it’s chance at the end but in the final analysis they didn’t deserve the win because they played terrible. Made enough mistakes for a season and WVU wanted this game more than our players and coaches. When will we learn we must play 4 quarters?

    1. VT Rockie, my perspective listening to the game was also that Tech played terribly, though better in the second half. But when I look at the stats published here, it looks like an even game. Perhaps WVU just took better advantage of their opportunities.

    1. Yeah, that was some of the sloppiest football I have seen in a long time. Something you would expect week one, not three. Penalties, poor tackling, poor blocking, etc. Braxton just running around and not wanting to cut it loose. Despite it all, we still could have one that game. We had the better team but either the coaches didn’t not have them prepared or the players got full of themselves with the #15 ranking.

    2. I strongly disagree with your comment. You clearly have your head so far up your a$$ you see the world through your belly button. The person totally clueless is YOU.

    1. That’s the dumbest – and thus funniest – thing I’ve read all week. Can we get 573 some fresh oxygen?????

  11. Burmeister has an AC joint injury IMO. He can’t throw deep, is scared what will happen. He winds that joint like a windmill in the huddle. I’ve had three serious AC joint surgeries two on my passing-throwing arm and I know the look of a shoulder injured throwing athlete.

    He’s a tough nut but it will not shock me if something turns up on MRI during the down period after Richmond.

    1. I have been wondering the same thing. I just bring the safeties up against BB and dare him to throw through the pain. He has had that injury before. I concur.

  12. Why was Barno not even on the stat sheet? Opportunities galore to win this game but poor execution….

  13. Horrendous play calling killed the game. Did they even practice this week? We all wanted to believe MTS was “vanilla” but that red zone offense was horrible. Yeah let’s kill clock instead of scoring. Idiots. Embarrassing game.

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