Virginia Tech Loses Sixth Straight Game, This Time To Georgia Tech

Virginia Tech football lost its sixth game in a row for the first time since 1987. (Jon Fleming)

For the first time since 1987, Virginia Tech lost six consecutive football games. The Hokies are also ineligible for a bowl game for the first time since 1992. And the last time the program lost five ACC games in a row? Never.

Until 2022. Why this year? Virginia Tech has not been able to close out games all season, and it was no different in Saturday’s 28-27 loss to Georgia Tech.

“We’ve got to finish the game, and we haven’t finished the game the past three weeks,” VT defensive tackle Mario Kendricks said after the loss. “We’ve got to learn how to finish.”

The Yellow Jackets took an early lead. However, the Hokies started to roll soon after. Two second quarter possessions, culminating in rushing touchdowns from Grant Wells (three yards) and Keshawn King (one yard), made the score 13-10. The Georgia Tech offense stalled at the same time and punted three possessions in a row.

Entering the weekend, the Hokies ranked 121st in punt return yards with 33. True freshman Tucker Holloway was inserted into the lineup at NC State a week ago, and his number was called again against the Yellow Jackets. He proceeded to return seven kicks for 188 yards, a single-game record for Virginia Tech. And his fifth opportunity was a beauty.

Holloway fielded it at the 10-yard line, received a lead block from Connor Blumrick and accelerated, taking it 90 yards to the house. It was the longest return since Greg Stroman’s 91-yarder in 2017 vs. North Carolina.

“Tucker is probably, in my career here, the most talented and special freshman that I’ve seen,” wide receiver Kaleb Smith said. “It’s something that we’ve seen since he rolled in here in January. It hasn’t been a big shock to us, and we’re 100% excited for his future and what he can bring to this team.”

Tucker Holloway really gave Virginia Tech a boost with his punt return touchdown. (Jon Fleming)

Like the flip of a switch, Virginia Tech (2-7, 1-5 ACC) scored 20 unanswered points. At the half, the lead was seven, 20-13.

Since the season started in September, Pry’s harped on playing complementary football and making plays in other phases of the game. That occurred at Pitt on Oct. 8 with a blocked punt and an interception, but those moments have been few and far between.

Yet, that was the case in front of 62,000 in Lane Stadium against Georgia Tech (4-5, 3-3 ACC). Though the Yellow Jackets pulled within four points, 20-16, GT’s true freshman quarterback Zach Pyron was picked off by linebacker Keli Lawson, who returned it seven yards for the score.

“We’ve been on a dry spell for takeaways, it was great to get one,” Pry said. “You saw his length was very apparent. … I thought he tracked the ball really well, he kind of jumps out at you the way he can cover ground and track ball carriers, but the ability to knock the ball and then catch the ball and then athletic enough to recover and get it into the end zone. Those are some game changers that have been missing.

“The punt return, the defensive score, the things that do give you a great opportunity to win the game. We’ve done some little things over time that’s keeping us and today, there were some major self-inflicted wounds that really worked against us.”

Virginia Tech 27, Georgia Tech 16. 4:03 remaining in the third quarter. To that point, the Hokies had allowed just one touchdown on the day, which was early in the game. But once the fourth began, the dominance with which they had calmly controlled the game for 45 minutes seemed to vanish.

Virginia Tech turned the ball over four times on Saturday, three times in the fourth quarter. (Ivan Morozov)

What followed was a missed 40-yard field goal, two fumbles, an interception and back-to-back Georgia Tech touchdowns. For the second week in a row, Virginia Tech melted down in the fourth quarter. Against NC State, it was an 18-point comeback; the Yellow Jackets made it 11.

The offense, which was creative and moved the ball early, lost its juice. It tallied just 120 yards in the second half and punted three times, along with the aforementioned turnovers and missed 40-yarder. And Georgia Tech slowly crept back into the picture, scoring twice to take the 28-27 lead it never relinquished.

Even when the clock management strategy worked and the Hokies received the ball with 57 seconds to play needing just a field goal, disaster struck. Wells, who was responsible for three turnovers, rolled left before fumbling for the second time in the afternoon.

“We’ve got to protect the ball better,” Pry said. “We’ve been pretty good at that since week one. … We were in the red zone on one and we were trying to drive and kick a field goal to win the game on another one. Just really bad timing. In those moments, we’ve got to coach those guys to secure the heck out of the football.”

In seven previous instances since 1987 where Virginia Tech had a pick six, a punt return for a score and one rushing touchdown, the program was 7-0. The average margin of victory: 40 points.

Saturday was the first time since 1998 at Syracuse that the Hokies scored in all three phases of the game and lost. But they weren’t facing Donovan McNabb in the Carrier Dome; they were up against a true freshman quarterback, an interim head coach and a 3-5 football team at home.

Brent Pry and the Hokies can’t find a way to finish. (Ivan Morozov)

Throughout the losing streak, the reasons have varied, penalties and allowing 320 rushing yards among them. But in the last two games, VT has led twice. And both times, the focus and the ability to close out the game was non-existent.

Three games remain now: at Duke (6-3), at Liberty (8-1) and vs. Virginia (3-6). As ugly as October was, November might not treat the Hokies any better, especially if they can’t close out games.

“I’m disappointed for our players, I’m disappointed for our fans, I’m disappointed for our lettermen and our coaching staff,” Pry said. “It starts with me. I’ve got to own it. Every week, we’re just finding a way not to play well enough to win the game. We did some really good things today. And we did some things that you absolutely can’t do and win a game.

“The margin for error is really small. You just can’t do those things and expect to win the game. We did not deserve to win the game. … Our effort is tremendous. The self-inflicted wounds need to stop. But again, I’m the leader of this program. I own it. And it starts with me.”

Box Score: Link 

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  1. I don’t get it. Leading the game in the 4th qtr, moving down the field with King running well, like 7 ypc. Clock rolling, one score likely ices it. Instead, we throw the ball on 1st and 10. Incomplete. Clock stops Throw again on 2nd and 10. Incomplete. clock stops. Throw again on 3rd and 10. Incomplete. Clock stops. Punt. GT scores next to take the lead and we self destruct. Seriously what kind of moronic play calling and clock management is that?

    1. As for clock management, when we were up eleven I wanted us to shorten the game. We were snapping the ball with 20 seconds left on the play clock, rather consistently. Maybe it was too early to milk the clock, or maybe that is just not the way our offense is structured, but given our 4tth quarter letdowns I was hoping to see it run, run, run.

      1. +1, at least to give your defense time to rest, especially in the 4th Qtr. Lord knows they have shown us how much they need it.

  2. Okay, rant #2 and go ahead, call me an English nazi or whatever. I’ve read lots of articles by many different authors where CBP gets quoted as saying he “wants to play complimentary (sic) football.” I may be mistaken, and please tell me if I’m wrong, but I do not believe CBP is saying he’s looking for compliments I.e. praise, or critique (although he gets it a lot); rather he’s looking for the 3 phases of offense/defense/special teams to “complement” one another to form a smoothly functioning football team as part of the whole. Does that make sense? Okay, it’s back to the bourbon…..after all it’s my birthday!

    1. And hooray for David, he got it right, at least interpreted it the way I do…okay, now back to the bourbon!

      1. Happy Birthday! And with the bourbon, just add aspirin, and you too can read a bourbonstreet article, and not lose your mind!

  3. I watched because I love my school and root for its teams. I thought they had a winnable game, and they did. But they lost, giving up the lead again. I will watch and root for them again. I cannot tell you whether the program is rebuilding or just learning to lose. Sport should not have this big a monied presence in our schools, but that won’t stop me rooting for the Hokies. The kids (at least) are students as well as athletes and deserve our support. The paid professionals are not doing them favors and that is a problem. The answer is not going to be throw more money at the problem. It is figure out what or who we’re really supporting.

  4. “I own it and it starts with me” says CBP. So what exactly does that mean? Words to that effect could have been uttered from every loss endured this season and if they had been, what would have been done differently? There has been very little done differently from the gitgo IMO. I was shocked when RB was rolled out yesterday and an “ill-advised” pass thrown into double coverage but luckily fell incomplete! I’m bewildered by the lack of O creativity on display week to week. Is that on CBP? Has he told Bowen & Glenn anything about improving our vanilla O? Are they ignoring him? Is throwing a single halfback pass into the gameplan this late in the season our “Neapolitan” offense vice vanilla? I’m sorry, but having two gifts of a 90 yd punt return TD and a pick-six from the 7-yard line, our latest version of ridding ourselves of a “vanilla offense” we’re really fooling ourselves. This rant has gone on long enough. “This is on me, I own it!”

  5. We need to start playing our best players and most athletic from here on out. Let’s play gunner and Law add some beef to DE to push the pocket to the qb like the SEC; play farrel for a quarter/half and play more Holloway and moss. Run more of duke. We can start the process now and build for next year. Offsenive play calling needs to be Brad with Bowen focusing on TEs.

  6. Just a couple of points of interest;

    #1 Why do we hand the ball off 5 straight times to King when we are at the 10 yard line. He probably was a little tired and when that happens, mistakes ( a fumble ) can occur. How about play action and a flip to the tight end for a score. To me that is on the OC Bowen;
    #2 How in the world can we give up a first down on 3rd and 19 in the 4th quarter with the game on the line; What kind of cellophane defense is that; Again, how about a blitz to make the QB throw off rhythm. Those 2 plays if corrected probably give VT the win and we are all in a better mood.

    A true freshman QB in a hostile environment makes plays and our QB does not; Time for a change; play the true freshman QB; I think it shows that Wells rang up his numbers against second rate competition at Marshall. At this point, he is not the answer.

    Go Hokies!

  7. The theme of these posts seems to be aimed at the performance of our coaches. No longer blaming a lack of talent. This is spot on. Sure we don’t have the talent to win our division of the ACC. But we sure have enough to have a winning season. If you question our coaches I suggest you go to a game and observe what goes on inside our sideline bench area. Job one is to be anticipating what’s coming up and having the right personnel ready to quickly enter the game and execute the game plan. At times yesterday it reminded me of a youth rec team with the volunteer Dad coach counting heads of the players on the field and/or looking for the one guy who was supposed to be in the game but wasn’t.

    1. For perspective: the team we lost to had an interim head coach and freshman QB. So yes you are correct.

  8. “We’ve got to do better at this, we’ve got to do better at that.”
    Same old tired excuse. We are paying him FOUR MILLION a year.
    It’s not the players, it’s the bad coaching.

    1. Our players are small, slow and less talented than in years past! It is not just the coaching! For example, Jesse Hanson should not be starting!

      1. Soooooo true. The dolts would complain if we had Saban on the sidelines and were paying him $15 an hour. Take FarmvilleHokie’s comment from above as an example. Really? You’re comparing Power5 football to Dad-coached youth league? Really dude? We have a REBUILD to do folks. We have issues all around that must be addressed, not just coaching.

    2. Please – Pry just got here, and we hardly have any players that other P5 teams seriously wanted – right now we don’t even have a player in the 2023 VA top 20 coming here – 5 of the top 10 are going to Penn State!

    1. I see it on the players too, as last year we had a 8 point lead on ND with 8 minutes to play and lost. We had a 9 point lead on Syracuse with 6 minutes to play and lost. Last week there was an 11 point lead with less than a quarter to play and we lost and now an 11 point lead with 12 minutes to play and lost again (fumble in the red zone, INT later). That fumble doesn’t happen (after a 10 minute injured player on the field time out, that he ended up getting up and walking off the field, if he was that bad off, bring out the cart), we were moving and had the mojo going, long delay knocked the team off their groove. This team and last year’s team forgot the game is 60 minutes long not 50. Part of it is conditioning (play rugby for 80 minutes – no subbing), part is this team(s) has forgotten how to win. It isn’t a choke, it is a fade into the sunset and not knowing how to close.

      The Good, Special Teams scores on a punt return, INT for 6 by the D. Had thoughts of Beamerball, D scores, Special Teams Scores, the O scores. One fault, D can’t keep other team from with 55 seconds remaining in the half and letting them put up a FG.

  9. Experience matters. Our coaching staff is learning on the job because they are working together for the first time and nearly all of them are new to their roles.

    There is a reason that Whit has always preferred established head coaches with experience.

      1. That’s a great question. By hiring CBP, Whit clearly made an exception to his often stated preference of hiring established coaches with proven experience.

        My personal guess is that Whit made this risky exception because:

        1) There was enormous pressure from Hokie Nation to hire a “culture fit”. A blue collar lunch pail kind of a guy who would engage the fanbase and enjoy shaking hands with the locals in a way that CJF was criticized for not doing.

        2) Though kinda loose, CBP had prior ties to VT making him much easier to sell to the fanbase, and easier for former legends like Bud and Coach Beamer to help sell.

        3) Guys that meet both of the criteria above don’t grow on trees. So if these two pieces of criteria are at the top of your list, other preferences like prior head man experience go down on your list.

        In summary, I think the toxic negativity that engulfed Hokie Nation at the end of CJF’s tensure forced Whit to swing the pendulum pretty far the other way, and find someone who was easy to sell the the fanbase, obviously hoping it would work out long term. And that worked for a while right? The CBP hire won the off-season around here and he’s a good guy who shook hands with everyone for many months.

        But now the honeymoon is very much over, and the lack of experience is a glaring driver of our historically awful performance. We don’t just lack talent, we’re a bad team right now. Bad. Not watchable. No clear positive catalyst. We all hope it gets turned around, but tough to see how.

        I personally still think that if Hokie Nation would have been more patient with CJF, been more understanding of how truly unique and disruptive Covid was, and Whit would have given him the money he asked for for better coordinators … we’d still be relevant and even competing for ACC titles in the crappy Coastal. But obviously none of that matters now.

        The main thing that matters now is how much patience we’ll show CBP. For better or worse, short term give me results right now type of thinking feels more prevalent than ever before, so feels doubtful he’ll be given time to turn it around. Especially given that we are clearly are miles and miles away from relevance of any sorts … and therefore will seemingly need several years to hopefully climb out of the cellar. We shall see.

  10. Pry is not cut out for this. We weren’t good with Fuente, but there’s no way in hell we should be this bad. Where is the pride?

    1. This is ridiculous. Some folks will try to blame CJF for this embarrasment of a season; but, make no mistake. These pathetic performances fall squarely on the shoulders of CBP and staff. Hokie Nation, face the unfortunate reality and prepare yourself for a 2 – 10 record.

      1. You guys were expecting way too much way too soon. You will be eating those words in a couple of years.

        1. Perhaps, Willie. I really hope so. We have a 1st time HC who, for all practical purposes, is trying to do both that and his DC job. Talent can make so-so coaches look like geniuses, and we don’t have nearly enough. He needs to recruit, but he also needs to figure out head coaching. He’s a likable guys, so yes I hope so.

        2. Expecting to Beat ODU and an Underdog GT at HOME is expecting too much?
          What are you expecting next year so that they “eat those words”?

          Asking for a serious answer – not trying to flame at all. I was expecting 6-6 this year and hoping for 7-5. My negative fan friend was expecting 6-6. ODU, Wford, BC, GT, UVa and other winnable games. What should we expect next year? [Too early to know, not too early to have expectations].

      2. Fuente took over a proud program, with a team loaded with talent and a good QB, and left Pry with a team without much talent and no QB – and chased off Hooker and QP… huge difference.

  11. Worst coaching, worst playing, in the worst division of the worst conference in P5.

    Penalties still a problem, clock management incl timeouts and using up time awful, offense a disaster, kicking game a failure, defense nonexistent at end of first half almost every week and also 4th quarter… simply a horrible breakdown time and again that makes any progress meaningless.

    Run the entire team at 6:00 AM 10 yards for every penalty yard received and announce who each sprint is for. Coaches get to run too. This is a team effort.

    When moving the ball, three straight incomplete passes kill all momentum. Maybe you don’t call this so it can’t happen in the future.

    If a playoff was held in Virginia, Liberty, JMU, ODU, and probably UVA, would trounce the Hokies. W and M and Richmond would be toss ups. Maybe they could defeat VMI, Longwood, and Norfolk State.

    1. Any 0-10 high school team in the state could beat Longwood since they have no football program. 😉

  12. Wells I just not a winning QB. If we don’t have a better one next year, there won’t be much improvement. See no hope for the coaching situation. Another fledgling QB we help get started and still don’t start outs .How worse could it be?

  13. My Momma always said “ If you can’t say something good don’t say anything “ so here are my comments on the state of Hokie football……………………………………..& *#*@%*+”’ .

  14. Just maybe when Pry was hired he should have hired an experienced DC and OC. Then he could have spent his time being the head coach. Because right now coaching wise it seems we have nothing on either side of the ball.

    1. Yeh, I think most people would agree that the OC is not doing well. The DC seems fine to me but the offense is all over the place.
      The 4th and 19 was pretty pitiful of course, not sure what happened there.

  15. We continue to load the gun and shoot ourselves in the foot. I don’t think we win another game this season. Cut out the lights and move on the basketball.

  16. He needs to stop saying the effort was tremendous. You can see poor offensive line blocking, poor tcackling, poor coverage. This is NOT tremendous effort. And the coaching ….just bad

  17. Place kicking or lack there of – left four critical points on the field. Maybe Cunningham’s sister should try out…

    1. If we hadn’t missed the extra point they wouldn’t have gone for two twice and been up 30-27. But, the missed field goal was the killer.

    2. Unfortunate the missed FG was due to a poor snap by the person wearing “25” and the missed PAT was blocked.
      Wells just dropped the fumble on the last series, but at least one of the interceptions the receiver had BOTH hands on the ball and deflected it to the defense. King fumbled twice. This team may have some talent, but at this time they are not showing it. Maybe because of inexperience, or….I don’t know…….
      I will admit I did not see the issues on defense coming……I thought we would be a least serviceable, poor tacking technique, poor angles, again look at the lack of experience on the field in critical moments. When the light comes on for these players and they have success, it will be fun to watch. Now, its is just painful. I give them credit for effort level, but technical proficiency is not evident.

  18. First time I have heard Pry own it. He should..Time management is flat out pathetic. We had an 11 point lead and every snap happened with over 15 secs on the play clock (multiples of the plays occuring with 30+ secs left). Every fan in the stands is screaming to milk the clock, but the only people that didn’t know better were our staff. We should be 5 or 6 wins already, but we continue to do the same things. Other teams make adjustments, don’t commit massive penalties and knoe how to manage the clock….we struggle every gm with basic coaching.

    1. Even the announcers were commenting on that during the game — how we were snapping it too early and weren’t eating clock.

  19. You’re right coach, it starts with you and you are dropping the ball big time. We are staring a 2-10 season dead in the eye and your leadership is non existent

  20. The problems are so many. Leaving points on the field, giving away the (eventual) losing points as the first half expired, doing NOTHING on offense in the last 2 possessions with 3 minutes left in the game.

    If we had hired David Cutcliffe as OC (and no, I don’t know if he was interested nor do I know that he was not either, but I do feel he would have brought a level of experience to this coaching staff that it does not presently have, and one that might make the difference between losing and winning close games, not to mention how much better Wells would be as a QB under his tutoring), I just feel we would be a lot better team.

    Not only is this team just awful, it is awful in all phases on the game, offense, defense, special teams and coaching. Even the teams we have lost to are pretty bad.

    This game was gift wrapped in maroon and orange wrapping paper and Georgia Tech says, thank you!

    1. Agree completely. They had a new head coach mid season and a backup QB playing….we should have won. Leadership is non-existent

    1. It’s going to be a long time to get the ship righted under Pry, especially if he keeps this coaching staff intact. He might be able to do it, but I wouldn’t expect a bang-up turnaround season coming up, and it sort of feeds on itself. Recruits and portal players can see that under Pry and his staff, this is the gang that can’t shoot straight. Not a great recipe for attracting talent. But it could happen, and I hope that by midway through Pry’s 3rd season, we are seeing real progress. I don’t think we will until then.

      1. People were saying the same thing about the baseball hire in the first three years and now look where that went in the 5th year. Cristobal is a proven head coach at Oregon but he too is struggling to win at Miami the first year. Norvell struggled at FSU at first but in the 3rd year he has them winning again. It’s a process and usually you don’t win much the first year in a rebuild. You usually face adversity before winning starts to happen. Baby steps at first. The players are doing some good things; just not enough yet to win games.

    2. Amen Midwest! This stand straight-up so-called technique and get help/gang tackling philosophy has got to go. RBs just get pushed forward for 2-3 more yards. But if you put their feet together they absolutely can’t do anything but go down…..old school is effective.

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