Virginia Tech vs Liberty Nov. 7, 2020

The Virginia Tech Hokies entered their matchup with Liberty as the favorites and looked to extend the previous momentum they had garnered in a victorious brawl against the Louisville Cardinals. It would be a tall order though, as the Liberty Flames had won eight straight games dating back to the resolution of last season. Undefeated so far, the Hokies would have their hands full attempting to contain Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. 

Virginia Tech began the game a bit slow, falling to a quick 14-3 deficit, but would gather themselves and capitalize on two of Willis' fumbles. One such fumble occurred with a little less than two minutes in the half as Liberty mounted a serious offensive play to move the sticks all the way to within the 5-yard line. As the play began to materialize, Willis was obviously under serious pressure and instead of securing the ball and taking the sack, lost it and almost provided the Hokies seven points. If it weren’t for the referees’ decision to initially rule the play as an incomplete pass, the Hokies would have capitalized on the turnover with seven points. Instead they would have to settle for three as they entered the half leading 20-14. 

The second half took a turn for the worst as critical mistakes came back to bite Virginia Tech. The first of which came on a muffed punt by Tayvion Robinson recovered by the Flames in Hokie territory. They would then score on the next play to regain the lead 21-20. The one bright spot for the Tech offense was quarterback Hendon Hooker, who quickly eclipsed the 100-yard rushing threshold and got it done in the red zone through the air with three passing touchdowns. Hooker seemingly kept the Hokies in the game, responding to every instance of a Liberty reclamation of momentum. 

It would not be enough as the Flames regained possession in a tie game with five minutes left in the match. It seemed that the game would head to overtime when Liberty brought out its kicking unit to attempt a 59-yard field goal with 10 seconds left, but coach Justin Fuente called a timeout. As the players assembled onto the field for a third and sixth play, the Liberty offense looked much different and the Virginia Tech defense looked dumbfounded, leaving a receiver at the top of the line of scrimmage with an abnormally large cushion. The Flames took the cushion provided, converting on third down for a 7-yard gain quickly stepping out of bounds to stop the clock. These 7 yards would mean the difference between winning and losing for a kicker whose previous long was 41 yards and was 7/11 on the season as he stepped onto the field to attempt a 51-yard field goal. 

After a couple of seconds, the ball was snapped and the kick was not up. The ball never appeared and the only thing that did was triumph from the Hokie players as Jermaine Waller dashed down the field for a touchdown with the ball in his hands –– the kick had been blocked. The Tech players celebrated too soon as the referee announced that Virginia Tech had called a timeout in an attempt to ice the kicker, allowing Alex Barbir another attempt at victory. The kick was up, and it was good. The Hokies lost a stunning game 38-35 as emotions flipped in an instant. 

After the game Fuente took the blame, stating he took too long to call the timeout. The Hokies have been unable to bring home the win in games in which they have been favored, effectively removing them from contention for the ACC championship. Each loss in the column for Virginia Tech this year has been a winnable game, they just could not come through when it mattered most.

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