Virginia Tech proved many doubters wrong Saturday as it secured a dominant win against No. 19 Wake Forest by a score of 36-17.
This game was important for the team, not just because of the difficult opponent it was playing, but also because it was a tribute to long-time defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
“Obviously you couldn’t write a script any better in terms of honoring coach Foster and his contributions to Virginia Tech and this program,” said head coach Justin Fuente. “The kids on both sides of the ball played their hearts out.”
The first half was somewhat of a mixed bag for the Hokies. The offense, which featured Hendon Hooker returning as the starting quarterback, drove down the field with decent efficiency until they would enter the red zone. A mix of turnovers and overly conservative play calling would force the Hokies’ drives to stall; this led to only six points off 229 yards of total offense.
One play that stood out was a 50-yard pass to Terius Wheatley that seemed as if it was going to get the Hokies into scoring position until a fumble gave the ball back to the Demon Deacons. The play accounted for one of Tech’s three first-half fumbles, two of which were retrieved by Wake Forest.
On the other hand, the defense performed about as well as expected in the first half given the dominance of the Wake Forest offense. The Hokies’ defense held one of the most efficient third-down teams in the nation to just one-for-five on third-down conversions. Unfortunately, the Demon Deacons’ lone third-down conversion was a 45-yard pass to Kendall Hinton that set up their offense in the red zone. Wake Forest would score a touchdown a few plays later with a pass to Sage Surratt to take a 10-6 lead.
“I just told the offense that I take full responsibility,” Hooker said. “I told the guys coming out that you’ve got my back and I’ve got yours and let’s make this happen.”
The Hokies’ offense came back from the locker room in the second half showing improved performance in the red zone as they scored on their first three offensive drives of the third quarter. Two of those drives ended with touchdowns by Deshawn McClease, while the third ended with a 45-yard field goal by Brian Johnson.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Hokies continued to make life difficult for the opposition by limiting their running game and heavily contesting receivers. It also helped that Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman was getting hurried by the defense all day, which led to a plethora of missed throws as well as sacks.
Tech continued its offensive efficiency in the fourth quarter with an early touchdown run by James Mitchell to make it a 29-17 lead for the Hokies with just over 11 minutes left in the game. The score stayed the same throughout the final quarter until an interception by Dax Hollifield gifted Tech’s offense the ball at the Demon Deacons’ 7-yard line. The offense immediately capitalized as Hooker ran the ball into the endzone on the very next play, increasing the Hokies’ lead to 36-17 and virtually sealing the game.
“Dax was on the edge blitz, tackle-blocked him and was able to make a big-time play. That kind of sealed the game,” Foster said.
Overall, Tech’s defense was what stood out in the win. The unit held a team that averaged 38 points on 510 total yards per game to just 17 points on 301 total yards. The performance by the defense was fitting for a game serving as a tribute to Foster’s time spent at Tech.
“I’m really proud that we won the game; that is the most important thing,” Foster said. “When it’s all said and done, I told the players that they’re doing some stuff for me, but today is about you and we need to go take care of business today.”