The Hokies looked to put a shameful effort against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the rearview by returning to form against the Louisville Cardinals, a matchup that hasn’t occurred since 2017. Tech jumped out to an early 21-0 lead thanks to three touchdowns credited to quarterback Hendon Hooker. Relying on the strength of his offensive line, Hooker dove into the end zone on multiple occasions and completed six out of his six pass attempts, but the Cardinals didn’t go down without a fight.
Led by quarterback Malik Cunningham, the Louisville front struck back with a wide-open touchdown pass to Marshon Ford. Despite the two interceptions thrown by Cunningham, the Hokies were unable to capitalize on the opportunities, the most critical one taking place toward the end of the first half in Virginia Tech territory. After the ball was juggled in a hot potato-type manner, Divine Deablo came down with it, providing a crucial opportunity for Tech to distance themselves from a Louisville second half comeback.
The Hokies could taste their fourth touchdown of the game, one yard from a score as they attempted to complete a fourth down conversion and boost their lead to 28-7. Acknowledging the outstanding effort provided by his defense thus far, Tech coach Justin Fuente felt compelled to swing the momentum back in favor of his team opting to go for it on fourth down rather than secure the three point field goal. Stuffed on the line, the Hokies walked away from the opportunity with nothing despite feeling content concerning the current positioning of the numbers on the scoreboard.
All that needed to be done was to limit the big play ability of the Cardinal playmakers, the most significant being speedsters Javian Hawkins and Tutu Atwell Jr. After a sack that took Louisville down to the 10-yard line, it would need a hail mary-type play to alter its score, but would opt to err on the conservative side, putting the ball in the hands of Hawkins. In a matter of seconds, Hawkins flew through the seam, leaving Hokies and even Cardinals who couldn’t match his speed in the dust, taking the ball 90 yards to the end zone and reducing its deficit to a mere seven points.
Pivotal for the Hokies was curbing the previous surge of the Louisville Cardinals and seizing back the momentum that they seemingly dominated for the majority of the first half. What better way to do this than to get wide receiver Tre Turner involved? In the red zone, the Hokies turned to the same jet sweep option that was bottled up previously by the Louisville defensive line. The Hokies put the ball in the hands of Turner as opposed to Hooker, and would be rewarded with a much needed touchdown.
The game seemed to be a bit on ice as the Hokies led the Cardinals by a score of 31-14 but Cunningham, deep in his own territory on third down, threw a 72-yard bomb to receiver Dez Fitzpatrick. The Cardinals began to see a bit of light thanks to the kryptonite of the Tech defense, the big play. In what seemed to be a strong showing for the Virginia Tech defense, the big play came back to bite multiple times as Louisville was able to overcome multiple third and long situations. The two teams would go tit for tat, though, as the Cardinals brought the game back to within six points as the clock started to wind down. Despite the offensive push, it would not be enough to contain an already explosive Virginia Tech offensive effort.
Virginia Tech escaped with a win, 42-35. The win was critical to maintaining its standing within an already stacked ACC conference, and reinforcing the confidence that the team had shown on both sides of the ball prior to running into the Demon Deacons.
The Hokies will look ahead and prepare for a duel with one of the hottest teams in the FBS, Liberty. Many are anticipating the matchup to lean heavily in favor of the Hokies, but Liberty has won its past eight games dating back to last season. The game will take place at 12 p.m. on Nov. 7 in Lane Stadium.