Charlottesville, VA — Virginia Tech fought back from a deficit three times and downed Virginia 23-20 in Frank Beamer’s final game against the Wahoos. The win was Tech’s 12th in a row over their in-state rival, and Beamer will retire having won 16 of his last 17 games against Virginia.
Joey Slye hit a 41-yard field goal with 1:38 left to break a 20-20 tie, and Chuck Clark picked off UVa quarterback Matt Johns three plays later to lock up the win. In the process of winning, the Hokies came back from deficits of 6-3, 13-6, and 20-13, and outscored the Cavaliers 17-7 in the fourth quarter.
The win came despite the Hokies being outplayed in a number of statistical categories:
- Total Yards: UVa 433, VT 304
- Rush yards: UVa 262, VT 67
- Plays: UVa 78, VT 59
- First downs: UVa 21, VT 12
- Possession Time: UVa 34:37, VT 25:23
- 3rd down conversions: UVa 8-18, VT 3-14
- Sacks: UVa 3, VT 1
So why did the Hokies win? Because they made big plays in the passing game, took advantage of a failed punt fake by the Cavaliers, had just three penalties to UVa’s nine, and won the turnover battle 2-1. The Hokies also gave up just six points on two first-half drives by Virginia that consumed a total of 25 plays, 118 yards, and 12:56 of clock time.
Michael Brewer bounced back from a crushing shot to the ribs early in the second quarter to complete 15-of-29 passes for 237 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Brewer’s touchdown passes both came in the fourth quarter as the Hokies rallied from a 13-6 deficit to tie the game twice, at 13 and 20 points, setting up Slye’s game-winner.
Brewer’s second TD pass was a 32-yard toss to Isaiah Ford, who set a single-season Tech record with his tenth TD reception of the year. The record was a 22-year-old mark previously set by Antonio Freeman (1993) and matched by Andre Davis (1999).
Brewer’s other TD pass was a misdirection throwback to Sam Rogers, who scored easily from three yards out.
Defensively, the Hokies gave up 6.6 yards per carry to the Wahoos, including a season-high 58 yards rushing to quarterback Matt Johns, who had just 55 yards rushing on the season coming into the contest. UVa tailbacks Albert Reid (9 carries, 103 yards, 57-yard TD), Olamide Zaccheaus (10 carries, 50 yards), and Taquan Mizzell (11 carries, 26 yards) shredded the Hokies, but Johns was just 18-of-38 passing for 171 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs.
The Cavaliers outgained the Hokies 165-69 in the first half, but the game was knotted at six points at halftime. The Hokies couldn’t get any momentum offensively due to three sacks of Michael Brewer and a Virginia defensive line that dominated the Virginia Tech o-line. But the Hoos were unable to finish drives with touchdowns, and late in the half, they made a mistake that handed the Hokies a late field goal
Der’Woun Green returned the opening kickoff to the Hokie 41 yard line, and from there, Tech moved to the UVa 31-yard line on the strength of a 16-yard pass from Brewer to Bucky Hodges (3 catches, 31 yards). Joey Slye knocked in a 48-yard field goal from there to open the scoring.
Virginia responded by driving from their own 25 to the Hokies 24 in 14 plays, but settled for a 41-yard Ian Frye field goal due to a holding call.
The two teams traded punts into the second quarter, and Virginia went on another long drive, going from their own eight yard line to the Virginia Tech 25, where a 3rd and 3 run by Albert Reid was stuffed. The Cavaliers again settled for a Frye field goal, this one from 42 yards out, ending the 11-play drive.
The Cavalier defense continued to dominate the Hokie offense for the remainder of the quarter, but late in the second, Virginia faked a punt from their own 34 on 4th and 16. Virginia punter Nicholas Conte was run down from behind by Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds after 14 yards, and the Hokies took over on the UVa 48 with 2:09 left.
From there, the Hokies moved to the UVa 27 due primarily to a pass interference call on the Hoos’ Kelvin Rainey, and Slye nailed a 44-yard field goal to tie it at six with 57 seconds left in the half.
Virginia Tech was fortunate to be tied with the Cavaliers going into the second half, and through most of the third quarter, VT’s offensive struggles continued. Tech didn’t break the 100-yard mark until there were about two and a half minutes left in the quarter.
Virginia had an opportunity to score with about five minutes left in the quarter, when Brewer was picked off by UVa’s Tim Harris at the Hokies’ 31 yard line. But the Tech defense held, giving up just three yards and forcing a 45-yard field goal by Frye that the kicker left short, and the Hokies had escaped.
Tech wasn’t so lucky later on, when Virginia’s Albert Reid burst through the left side of the Hokie defense and ran untouched for a 57-yard TD run that put the Cavaliers up 13-6 with 59 seconds left in the quarter. The run capped an 84-yard drive.
That play opened the floodgates for both teams offensively. On the Hokies’ next play from scrimmage, Brewer hit wide-open tight end Ryan Malleck down the middle. Malleck crashed into safety Quin Blanding, shook him off, and rumbled a total of 71 yards before being downed at the Cavalier five yard line.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, on 2nd and goal from the Virginia three, the Hokies finally hit paydirt. Running from a two tight-end, two-fullback formation, Brewer faked a handoff left to Travon McMillian (18 rushes, 81 yards) left, then rolled right and lofted the ball to Sam Rogers, who turned and burst in for the tying touchdown.
The Cavaliers came right back, driving 90 yards in 12 plays to tie it up. Mixing the run and the pass, Virginia drove methodically down the field, going ahead 20-13 on a 27-yard pass to Canaan Severin over Greg Stroman. Severin’s catch was first ruled out of bounds, but after reviewing the play, officials correctly rewarded Severin with the TD, with 10:04 left.
The Hokies’ next drive started from their 25, and Brewer hit Isaiah Ford with a 38-yard pass early in the drive, then tossed a 32-yard touchdown strike to the wide-open Ford on 3rd and 15. The touchdown tied it with 8:04 remaining at 20 points.
The Hokies forced a UVa punt for a touchback, and took over on their 20 with 6:38 left. Tech embarked on the game-winning drive, going 56 yards in 11 plays to set up a 41-yard field goal by Joey Slye. On the drive, Brewer completed two passes to Ford for 27 yards, and McMillian carried it six times for 28 yards.
With 1:38 remaining, Slye nailed the field goal for a 23-20 lead.
The Cavaliers took over on their 20 with no timeouts, but their hopes for a comeback win died when Johns, under pressure, threw down the middle of the field, where Tech’s Chuck Clark picked the ball off on the Hokie 37 with 59 seconds left.
Clark’s interception started a wild celebration on the Hokie sideline, where Frank Beamer embraced Bud Foster and his son Shane, reveling in his 12th straight win over the Cavaliers — a Hokies’ dozen.
With the win, the Hokies are assured of a bowl bid for the 23rd consecutive season, currently the longest streak recognized by the NCAA. The Hokies also hold a large (and growing) 55-37-5 lead in the series.
(All photography by Ivan Morozov)
Virginia Tech has held the Commonwealth Cup for 4018 days. #Hokies
— Commonwealth Cup (@CommonwlthCup) November 28, 2015