In a game where everything seemed to be going so well, all of sudden everything went wrong. In front of the largest crowd to ever see a college football game, the Hokies showcased a fumble-frenzy and were simply embarrassed in primetime on Saturday night, losing to #17 Tennessee 45-21.
The Battle at Bristol couldn’t have started better for the underdog, as Virginia Tech jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead after the 1st quarter, including a career long 69-yard touchdown run from Travon McMillian. During that quarter, Virginia Tech outgained the Volunteers by almost 200 yards. However, at the start of the 2nd quarter a fumble on the 5 yard line allowed Tennessee to score a quick touchdown, and the momentum never shifted back for the Hokies.
The main story of this game is the sheer amount of turnovers the Hokies committed. After losing four fumbles against FCS Liberty last week, the new offense decided to one-up themselves and lose five against an FBS opponent.
The two most pivotal fumbles were at the beginning of the 2nd quarter (led to a one play touchdown drive), and early in the fourth quarter when the Hokies were driving, in the red zone, and only down by 14. The other three were just sloppy mistakes by all different members of the team, including Greg Stroman on special teams and a bad snap late in the fourth quarter.
While there is lots of this game that a Hokie fan can be upset about, there are lots of positives that came out of the Battle at Bristol. The offense showed flashes of brilliance when given the chance, the defense was mostly dominant and overall the team began to look like a decent Coastal contender at points during the game.
Virginia Tech outgained Tennessee by almost 100 yards on the night, had more first downs, converted on twice as many third downs, and had more time of possession than the Volunteers. When given the chance to sustain drives, Virginia Tech showed off more of their playbook, and was able to prove their ability to move the ball down the field with a variety of different players and looks.
Travon McMillian was a bright spot, running for 127 yards, alone with Jerod Evans who completed 74% of his passes and showed off more of his strength and agility in the run game as well. While the outcome was not ideal for this magnitude of a game, there were flashes of how good this team could be on offense.
On defense, the Hokies held Dobbs to less than 100 yards passing, had a quality interception from Mook Reynolds, and looked like the classic Bud Foster defense when not thrust into bad field position after one of the many fumbles. There aren’t many worries for me on this side of the ball — time and time again tonight the defense put the offense in a position to get back into the game. Those chances were just fumbled away.
There are many things that this Hokies team needs to work on in the upcoming week as they get ready for ACC play and Boston College. There needs to be a focus placed on improving ball security, and to avoid the dumb penalties that also plagued Virginia Tech tonight (8 penalties for 101 yards).
Given ALL of that, there are still many positives that can be taken from this game And while it’s a painful loss, let’s remember that many fans chalked this up to be a loss already. The fact that Virginia Tech showed some serious fight when they weren’t fumbling the ball away shows that this team has a chance at being better than most were giving them a chance to be.