Virginia Tech had its hands full with FCS team Furman in a 24–17 slugfest at Lane Stadium. The Hokies won their second straight home game thanks to a powerful rushing attack that generated 227 of the team’s 350 yards of offense.
While the Paladins may not look like a fearsome opponent on paper, the Hokies knew that they had to expect a variety of unique play-calling designs that could have thrown the defense off.
“I thought our kids did a nice job of reacting to everything. They make you play solid, disciplined football and I thought our kids handled that for the most part pretty well,” said defensive coordinator Bud Foster. “It was a good win for us because we had to come back and win it.”
It was a miserable start for Tech’s offense, who struggled in the first half to generate any kind of momentum, garnering just 127 yards of total offense and three points, which came off a drive where they started at Furman’s 44-yard line.
Freshman Keshawn King was a bright spot on the offense, rushing for 38 yards on six carries in the first half, but the running game as a whole was uninspiring as Furman’s front seven held Tech to just 46 rushing yards on the half.
To make matters worse, Tech gave up 14 points on two turnovers, one a fumble by Tre Turner on a screen pass, and the other an overthrown deep ball from Ryan Willis to Hezekiah Grimsley that sailed into the arms of Furman defensive back Travis Blackshear. Willis now has four interceptions on the season after having just nine all of last year.
While the defense held their own, they had a difficult task in holding off Furman’s offensive attack on a short field.
Furman’s first score was a four-yard rush up the middle by running back Devin Abrams; the Paladins started at the Hokies’ 44-yard line on that drive. Their second score was a 15-yard scramble by quarterback Darren Grainger on a third down play where he had nothing but open space en route to the end zone to put them up 14–3.
Overall, it was a half to forget as the team made its way into the tunnel, looking to make adjustments during halftime.
“At halftime, I thought we responded. It was a tough deal, nothing was going very well and we didn’t have much momentum,” said Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente. “Our kids responded and we found a way to get the game going.”
Tech’s second half was much more promising, as they started strong with a 6-play, 83-yard drive, all of which were runs, that was capped off by a jet sweep by tight end James Mitchell for a three-yard score.
King was fantastic on the drive, taking off for runs of 15 and 54 yards, with the 54-yard run being the team’s longest rushing play of the season. King finished the day with 119 yards on 12 carries, and showed exactly what made him such a highly recruited prospect. He made sure to give credit to the offensive line for his success though.
“My [offensive linemen] executed, and they went out there and they did their job perfectly,” King said after the game.
The momentum continued to swing in Tech’s favor after that, as Dax Hollifield and Chamarri Conner worked together to force a fumble that Tech recovered at Furman’s 26-yard line. The turnover set up a Virginia Tech touchdown courtesy of Tre Turner, who won a jump ball off a fade route from Willis that gave Tech a 17–14 lead.
The fourth quarter started off relatively uneventful for both sides as Tech’s defense kept the Furman rushing attack bottled up while they nursed the three-point lead. The pass rush wreaked havoc in the meantime, sacking Grainger four times on the day and continuously forcing him to leave the pocket. Grainger was also picked off in the middle of the fourth quarter when cornerback Caleb Farley caught an overthrown pass in stride to keep Furman’s offense off the field with just under seven minutes left in the game.
The turnover would lead to another crucial score for the Hokies when Tre Turner made up for his first half turnover by running for a 29-yard touchdown run to pad Tech’s lead by 10.
Furman was able to keep the game alive though with a 10-play drive that went 70 yards down the field and resulted in a 22-yard field goal that cut the lead down to seven with one minute and 49 seconds left in the game.
Furman almost got a chance to tie the game up when its players successfully recovered their onside kick following the field goal, but the excitement quickly washed away when, upon further review, the officiating crew found that a Furman player blocked a Tech player before the ball traveled 10 yards. This led to another attempted kick that was secured by Tech, effectively ending the game.
The Hokies now improve to 2–1 after the victory, and will get some much-needed rest with their upcoming bye week. Their next game will be a primetime conference showdown at Lane Stadium against the Duke Blue Devils, who Tech defeated 31–14 last season on the road.