Virginia Tech Claws Out Victory At Liberty, 23-22

Saturday’s win meant so much to Brent Pry, Chris Marve and Virginia Tech. (Ivan Morozov)

All week during practice, Virginia Tech head coach Brent Pry searched for signs of his players starting to take their foot off the gas and lighten their intensity.

He never found any.

The buy-in from Pry’s team never wavered, which was abundantly clear in Virginia Tech’s narrow 23-22 victory at Liberty.

“I just appreciate the investment from our football team and our staff,” Pry told reporters after the game. “Everybody has held their head high through a tough period and remained invested and remained together. I couldn’t be more proud and thankful for the group of men and women that are leading this team, the captains that are leading this team, to persevere and handle the adversity and learn somehow to get better through it.”

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Hokies 3-8, 1-6 ACC) trailed 22-17 as the Flames (8-3) drove into VT territory, seemingly headed for what would’ve felt like a game-sealing touchdown. 

With 13:17 to play in the game, true freshman cornerback Mansoor Delane swung his arm down on Liberty quarterback Kaidon Salter, popping out the football. Redshirt freshman linebacker Keli Lawson won the fight for the ball in a scrum, giving Virginia Tech’s offense the chance to take back the lead.

“Right before the whole drive, when we all huddled up as a defense, [defensive coordinator Chris] Marve was [saying], ‘Get the ball out, get the ball out,’” Lawson said. “That was a big emphasis, so as soon as I saw that ball pop out, as soon as I saw it hit the ground, I just knew somebody had to get it and [they] had to be wearing an orange jersey.”

Virginia Tech was solid defensively, forcing two fourth-quarter fumbles. (Ivan Morozov)

Following the recovery, Tech’s offense embarked on a six-play, 54-yard drive, capped off by redshirt senior running back Jalen Holston’s third rushing touchdown of the game. He became the third running back in the last 10 years, joining Malachi Thomas and Trey Edmunds, to score three times in a game. In the end, it was the game-winner for Tech.

“Just that mentality [of], ‘If we get the ball, we gotta score,’” Holston said. “Defense is playing their butts off. They were getting the stops we needed. It was on us just to finish. Just finishing it was the most important thing.”

Holston led the way on offense for the Hokies against Liberty. On a season-high 26 attempts, Holston rushed for 99 yards and scored every touchdown on offense.

“He and I [Holston] had a talk after the Duke game, walking into the locker room,” Pry said. “He stayed very committed and I was just so proud. There was something special about the way he was invested in this thing and he said, ‘Coach, I got your back,’ and I said, ‘I got yours.’”

Holston’s impact in the run game was particularly crucial. VT struggled to get much going through the air against the Flames.

Jalen Holston’s impact was huge on Saturday. (Ivan Morozov)

Quarterback Grant Wells finished the game with only 14 completions for 140 yards, in addition to getting sacked six times. One of those happened in the opposing end zone on Tech’s first drive of the second half. Liberty scored on a safety to grab the lead, 19-17.

“With the safety, you can be upset at it, but you’re about to go out there and get out on the field and have a chance to go stop them again,” defensive end TyJuan Garbutt said. “For us, we’re kind of a tight-knit group, especially my side of the ball and my position group, so we just saw it as just another opportunity to go out there and get the ball back to our offense.”

The defense’s performance against Liberty helped carry the team in the second half when the offense struggled to get going. Marve also called plays for the first time all season, a decision made on Monday. Pry was Tech’s playcaller for the first 10 games.

As a result, the Hokies forced two fumbles in the fourth quarter to seal the victory, closing out the Flames after blowing several fourth-quarter leads in the the weeks prior.

“We were all chomping at the bit, clawing and scratching for weeks, many weeks,” Garbutt said. “Other than the last game, for about three straight weeks we had a lead and we somehow blew it, so it felt good to finally finish a game.”

Virginia Tech finally finished a game. (Ivan Morozov)

For Garbutt and many other players on the team, the win over Liberty could be their final game in a Hokie uniform. After the tragedy in Charlottesville, the status of next Saturday’s contest with Virginia is still up in the air.

“That uncertainty, it really gets to you, but the circumstances at play, with UVa losing a couple of their players, we’re praying for those guys,” Holston said. “We just know it’s bigger than football.”

If the win does in fact mark the end of Virginia Tech’s season, it will be a positive note to finish on for what’s been a rather up and down 2022 for the Hokies.

Box Score: Link 

27 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I NEVER thought I would live to see the day where Tech fans REJOICE in beating Liberty!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What’s left, VMI??

  2. Be aware that if we play UVA, we aren’t getting the team that has been terrible most of the year. It will be a team fighting to honor those three players. Even if we do knock the stuffing out of them, it wont be the same joy as usual. I would try to find someone else to play and let UVA heal.

  3. Go hokies! Great to be on the winning side of another 1 point game. Hokies are getting rheir MOJO back. Tragedy at UVA but life goes on. Seems to me it might be therapeutic to be preparing for a trip to blacksburg.imho.

  4. So many have been castigating Maeve all year. So yesterday he finally called a game and we won. Get off his back. Grant Wells only 14 completions? Only attempted 20. That’s 70 %, not bad. Sacked 6 times? Block for the guy and that doesn’t happen! I’m okay with them both. That was a good Liberty team and we gutted it out. This team could have quit. It didn’t

    1. I think we won BECAUSE Marve called the plays yesterday. It was our best def performance of the season, vs a very difficult team to defend. Notice we didn’t have management gaffes with Pry being able to be HC.

    2. 70%is good but he missed two wide open touch downs. He holds onto the ball too long and could avoid most sacks by throwing the ball away. He was out of the pocket in 3 or 4 of those sacks. Coaches need to be VISIBLY UPSET with him so he realizes that is BAD quarterback play. You are supposed to learn that when you are young but so many coaches now barely understand the fundamentals and basic strategies of the game. Holston got on the ground to keep the clock running. “He gets it”

      1. Can’t believe you said this: “… so many coaches now barely understand the fundamentals and basic strategies of the game.”

  5. First VT game not on television here in Austin. Listened to our excellent radio guys. Great relief to win this in a rough season. Glad to see both schools unite in support of UVA. Almost daily stories now in the papers of senseless mass shootings. So sad. So preventable. Not sure if a final game of VT-UVA is desirable this year. My heart is hurting. AH.

  6. Please do not use “scrum” as a melee of a mass of people. If you are going to use a Rugby term for this it would be either a “Ruck” or a “Maul”. Ruck is typical when the clammer is with standing individuals, a maul is more like with everyone is scrambling on the ground.

    A “Scrum” is a set play after an infraction, most typically a knock-on, when the ball is thrown forward or tapped forward hence knock-on. The scrum is set with the 8 forwards from each side. In the front row is the Tighthead Prop, the Hooker, the Loosehead Prop, supporting them from behind is the 2 second rowmen, on each side of the second row are the Wing Forwards, behind the second row is the Lock or AKA 8th Man. The front row from the two teams come together with the players linked together. This forms a tunnel where the Scrum Half inserts the ball and the Hooker from each side try to “hook” or “Sweep” the ball back to their side. The ball then moves back to where the Scrum Half is able to extract the ball and put the ball back in play by passing it to the backs.

    OK I realize this is TMI, but I get perturbed by the use of the term “Scrum” being missused. I have played and watched Rugby since I was in my teens and I’m now retired, so for a few decades. If I can get one person to no longer missuse the term “Scrum” so much the better. Please forward this to FOX, ESPN and CBS, maybe their announcers will learn to get it correct.

    1. I don’t know how to tell you this…but nobody cares about the technical rugby definition. You’re going to have to find a way to live with that.

      One of the definitions from Merriam-Webster: “a usually brief and disorderly struggle or fight”

      1. Fine, Then it is the Football World Cup, NOT the soccer world cup.

        The term came from Rugby and has been miss used by ‘Mericans.

        GO HOKIES!!!

        1. Rugby and soccer both suck. I detest when people refer to those other two sports on these football articles or to VT football in general….but I guess I have to live with it.

      2. Per Oxford Dictionary:

        1. RUGBY
        an ordered formation of players, used to restart play, in which the forwards of a team form up with arms interlocked and heads down, and push forward against a similar group from the opposing side. The ball is thrown into the scrum and the players try to gain possession of it by kicking it backward toward their own side.
        a disorderly crowd of people or things.
        “there was quite a scrum of people at the bar”

        The former is the more prefered and I have rarely heard it said the latter in a Pub.

  7. Great to finally seal the deal and get the win. That was some decent Hokie D, led by Garbutt. Have the Wells defenders finally woke up? 14 completions, 140 yds, sacked 6 times? Holds the ball too long, misses wide open receivers. We are now 3-8, we know Wells isn’t the guy and we still don’t know what else we have in the QB room. I bet Pry is just sandbagging, he knew this was going to be tough year and next year he will surprise us with the second coming of MV!

  8. What’s the difference between ‘Guts out’ and ‘Claws out’? Look at how many teams didn’t even ‘win’ on Saturday. Maybe it’s the number of wins?

    In any case – if the VT win was just a ‘Guts out’ one on Saturday.

    BTW – a classy combo on the unis.

  9. I see no reason why we can’t let the UVA players have an extra week to recover from their trauma & play the game a week later than scheduled. It’s not like either team has a conflict the following week. I think it would be therapeutic for the UVA players to pad up again this year & not let some mental former player unable to cope with life’s ups and downs, ruin their lives anymore than he already has.

    1. Great suggestion – hadn’t thought of that. But if UVA decides they don’t want to play, I’m OK with that as well.

  10. Nice article but if I were your editor, I would have hacked that last line. I think you buried the headline.

  11. This tough stretch has taught me to appreciate all the wins again. Years ago I had gotten to the point where I took the wins for granted I guess.

    I feel like UVA will play the game. If they were going to cancel they would’ve done it already I think.

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