WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – For a Virginia Tech offense that has struggled for much of 2014, Saturday’s 6-3 loss to Wake Forest in double overtime was a new low.
“There was just so many, so many plays in that ballgame that you just kind of scratch your head,” head coach Frank Beamer said. “I don’t think lingering on that is what this football team needs. I think everybody figure out what you could have done better, and then let’s get on to the next ballgame.”
Neither the Hokies (5-6, 2-5) nor the Demon Deacons were able to score during the regulation 60 minutes Saturday, the first time since 2005 that has happened in the FBS.
Tied at three and facing a third-and-nine in the first possession of the second overtime, Wake Forest (3-8, 1-6) brought more defenders than Tech could block for what seemed like the millionth time Saturday.
The result, an 11-yard sack, forced Beamer to choose the lesser of two evils. Beamer, who saw his team’s scoring streak extend to 254 games in the first overtime, opted for a 53-yard field goal attempt over trying on fourth-and-21.
Joey Slye’s field goal attempt had the distance, but the freshman kicker missed it left. Wake’s Michael Weaver, who missed three field goals in the first half, all of which would’ve been the game’s first points, connected from 39 yards to complete the upset.
It was Wake’s first win since Sept. 20 against Army and its first ACC win in 2014.
Tech’s 254 yards of offense was the fewest they’ve accounted this season, and the three turnovers tied the season high.
“You name it, we didn’t do it,” offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. “Turned the ball over. Didn’t run the ball well. Didn’t throw it well. You name it, that’s what we did and that was the result.”
Both teams were presented multiple opportunities to grab control of the game in regulation, but every time either got close to scoring, the possession ended in a turnover, missed field goal or a punt.
In the fourth quarter alone, Tech had the ball at midfield or better four times and turned it over twice. The first came with just under nine minutes remaining in the game after backup quarterback Brenden Motley sparked the offense with a wildcat run and then a 17-yard completion.
The Hokies then went back to starter Michael Brewer, who tried to connect with tight end Bucky Hodges on a screen pass. Hodges was hit as the pass, which was ruled a lateral, reached him. Wake recovered the fumble, but punted three plays later.
“We had a plan that we were going to play (Motley) roughly between 8 and 12 snaps,” Loeffler said. “Did some good things. We’ll watch the tape to see if we should’ve kept him in there for the remainder.”
Taking over at at the 50, Brewer threw an interception on Tech’s next offensive play.
“Obviously, everybody is pretty down,” Brewer said. “We thought we should have won the football game and we didn’t.”
The redshirt junior was 15-for-28 for 126 yards and one interception. He was sacked five times.
While Tech’s offense was unable to take the lead, a combination of a strong defensive performance and a weak Wake Forest offense kept the Hokies in the game.
The Hokies held the nation’s worst offense to 234 total yards of offense and an average of 3.2 yards per snap.
“Even though we played a good game, I felt like we should’ve done better,” defensive tackle Corey Marshall said. “We still have room for improvement.”
When defensive coordinator Bud Foster was asked to recall a season in which so much has been demanded of his defense, he went all the way back to his early days as an assistant at Murray State.
“We gave up about 13 points a game on defense,” said Foster, drawing parallels to the current season, “but we only scored about 10 points a game.”
“I’ve never seen a defense have to defend such a short field consistently, and we had to do it again today.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Hokies’ best early scoring opportunity came on defense. Deep in Tech territory, cornerback Kendall Fuller stepped in front of a John Wolford pass and had nothing but green grass in front of him. Fuller wasn’t able to secure the catch, however.
“He anticipated, I think he knew the route that was coming,” Foster said. “He made a great break. It was unfortunate. I don’t know what it looked like because I was on the other side, I don’t know if he had a pick-six mindset, if it was that wide open. I don’t know, but that would’ve been nice when it was all said and done.”
On the next play cornerback Donovan Riley intercepted Wolford’s pass in the end zone. The Demon Deacons were in Tech territory five times Saturday during regulation. Three drives ended with a missed field goal, one with an interception and another with a punt.
The teams combined for 18 punts on the day.
“We’re not going to spend a lot of time with this ballgame,” Beamer said. “I want each of our players, coaches [asking themselves] ‘What could I have done better?’”
With the Hokies failing to beat the Demon Deacons, even as a 15-point favorite, Friday’s regular season finale against Virginia gains significant importance. The Hokies must beat the Cavaliers to gain bowl eligibility.
“That’s a lot on the line,” Marshall said. “I know the fans feel that. We feel that tension and that atmosphere.”
“The way I see it is if we can get this next game,” Beamer said, “we beat our state rival and we get to a bowl game. I think you get a reprieve in that regard.”
Postgame notes (provided by Virginia Tech)
• Virginia Tech wore white helmets, with white jerseys and orange pants today. This is the first time in program history the Hokies have worn this uniform combination.
• Donovan Riley recorded his third career interception in the first quarter, his second of the season.
• Wake Forest’s Mike Weaver missed three field goals in the game, making it 12 missed field goal by opposing kickers against Tech this season. Opposing kickers missed only three field goals against the Hokies last season in 13 games.
• The last time Virginia Tech played in a game where neither team scored in the first half was in 2004 against the University of Virginia in Blacksburg. The Hokies went on to win that game 24-10 over the Cavaliers.
• The last time Tech played in a game that was scoreless through three quarters was in 1990 against No. 7 Georgia Tech. The Hokies lost that game, 6-3.
• Today’s game was the first in ACC history to finish 0-0 in regulation and head to overtime. It was the first time since Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State in 2005 that two teams played to a 0-0 draw in regulation. ASU won that game 3-0 in overtime.
• Virginia Tech is now 6-4 all-time in overtime, 3-2 on the road. The Hokies have lost their last two overtime games (Maryland, 2013). Today marked the first time Tech has played a double-overtime game. The Hokies have played two three-overtime games, however.
• With four catches, freshman tight end Bucky Hodges broke the single-season record for catches by a tight end under head coach Frank Beamer and now has 39. He moved past Steve Johnson, who had 38 in 1987. Hodges had 39 yards in the game to give him 456 yards for the season and now needs 21 yards to break the record for receiving yards in a season by a tight end under Beamer (475, Johnson, 1987).
• True freshman Isaiah Ford caught five passes in the game to give him 50 for the season. He becomes just the eighth player in school history to catch 50 or more passes in a season. The school record for catches in a season is 61, held by Jarrett Boykin, which he set in 2011 as a senior. The other seven Tech players to catch 50 or more passes in a season were all juniors or seniors when they accomplished the mark.
• Tech beat No. 19 Duke last week, but lost today. The Hokies have now lost four straight and five out of their last six games after beating a ranked opponent.
• Joey Slye’s field goal in the first overtime extended Virginia Tech’s scoring streak to 254 games. The streak is the fifth-longest active streak in the FBS and the 11th-longest of all-time in the Division I-A/FBS history. It marked the first time that Tech was held scoreless in regulation since the beginning of the streak, which started in 1995. Cincinnati beat Tech 16-0 in 1995, making the Bearcats the last team to shut out Tech in regulation.
• Before today, Tech has had pretty good success playing in the state of North Carolina. Despite the loss, the Hokies have still won 12 of its last 15 games in the Tar Heel State. Since 2000, the Hokies are 19-4 in games played in North Carolina.