Virginia Tech at Miami

Virginia Tech Hokies Alan Tisdale (34) celebrates with teammates as the Hokies escape the Hurricanes in a 42-35 nail-biter at Hard Rock Stadium, Oct. 5, 2019.

It was a tale of two halves in what could prove to be a season-defining victory for the Hokies. After blowing a 28–0 first-half lead, Virginia Tech came away with a 42–35 win at Miami.

With the game tied at 35, quarterback Hendon Hooker led a game-winning touchdown drive to cap off his first career start and lead the Hokies to victory. Virginia Tech came away with a 42–35 victory following a clutch defensive stand at the goal line as time expired.

Coming into this matchup following a 45–10 blowout loss to Duke at home, it seemed as if Tech football had lost its identity. With a quarterback change and a motivated defensive effort, the Hokies earned a potentially season-saving victory against the Miami Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium.

In what started as a stout defensive effort, this game turned into a high-scoring shootout in favor of the Hokies. Despite allowing 563 total yards (469 passing yards), the Virginia Tech defense forced five turnovers, sacked the opposing quarterback seven times and came away with a game-saving stop at the end of regulation.

In his first career-start, Hooker replaced senior Ryan Willis at quarterback and led the Hokies to a much-needed win. The mobile quarterback effectively ran the read-option throughout the game and showed flashes in the passing game. Hooker scored three touchdowns through the air and added one on the ground.

Junior tight end Dalton Keene had a career game, catching three touchdowns on five receptions and 73 yards.

Bud Foster’s “Lunch Pail” defense stole the show in the first half, forcing Miami to turn the ball over on its first four offensive possessions. Miami quarterback Jarren Williams was intercepted on the first three offensive drives, followed by a fumble off the hands of running back Mike Harley on the next possession.

Hooker led an efficient, run-oriented offense in the first half as the Hokies jumped out to a 21–0 lead by the end of the first quarter. Hooker ran 12 yards for Tech’s first touchdown of the game and then completed to Keene for his first career passing touchdown on the next drive.

James Mitchell scored Virginia Tech’s third touchdown of the first quarter on a 1-yard end around. The sophomore tight end now has two rushing touchdowns on the season.

Later in the second quarter, Hooker threw his second touchdown of the game to Keene. This time, the junior tight end scored from 17 yards out to give the Hokies a 28–0 lead.

Nearing the half with a four-touchdown lead, the Hokies showed their first sign of weakness on the final drive of the second quarter. Miami quarterback N’Kosi Perry launched a 38-yard Hail Mary to the endzone that was tipped and caught by receiver Mark Pope for a Miami touchdown.

The only Miami touchdown of the first half gave the Hurricanes some momentum heading into halftime. The Hokies marched to the locker rooms with a 28–7 lead in Miami.

Following a punt and a minor injury to Hooker on Tech’s first drive of the second half, the Hurricanes came out hot to start the half. Perry finished a productive drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Brevin Jordan. The touchdown cut Tech’s lead to 28–14 with 9:38 remaining in the third quarter.

The Jordan touchdown reception was the only score of an unproductive third quarter by both teams, but the Hokies were able to use the clock and maintain their solid lead.

Early in the fourth quarter, Hooker completed a huge pass down field to Mitchell for 67 yards that set up the Hokies at the Miami 5-yard line. Hooker ran a play-action pass and found Keene in the endzone for his third touchdown reception of the game. The Hokies took a 35–14 lead that appeared to put the game out of reach; however, Miami was not done yet.

The Hurricanes scored a touchdown with 7:03 remaining in the game as Perry connected with receiver Jeff Thomas in the corner of the endzone. The 13-yard touchdown cut Virginia Tech’s lead to 35–21.

Later in the fourth, Thomas caught his second receiving touchdown of the game with 4:55 remaining in the fourth to cut Tech’s lead to one score. DeeJay Dallas converted on a two-point conversion to put the score at 35–29.

With 3:16 remaining in the game, Dallas broke free on a 62-yard rushing touchdown. With a chance to take the lead, kicker Bubba Baxa missed the extra point to keep the game tied at 35.

At this point it was do-or-die for Hooker in his first career start. The North Carolina native connected on crucial throws to Keene and Damon Hazelton to set up the Hokies at the Miami 3-yard line. Senior Deshawn McClease ran in for a touchdown from 3 yards out to put Tech up 42–35.

Foster’s defense allowed the Hurricanes to reach the Virginia Tech 10-yard line, but the Hokies kept Miami out of the endzone to prevail. While it was far from an easy win, this game was a crucial road victory for the Hokies with their season in question.

The Tech defense effectively forced turnovers in the first half, but Tech has now allowed 80 points in the last two games. The unit’s five turnovers against Miami is more than the team had in all four games combined coming into this matchup. Living up to the defensive intensity that this program is known for will be crucial for the team moving forward. Despite flashes of excellence, the defense must limit points allowed in order to have success in the ACC.

The Hokies improve to 3–2 on the season and 1–2 in the ACC. Tech returns to Lane Stadium next Saturday for a non-conference matchup with Rhode Island. 

 

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