The Virginia Tech Hokies travelled on the road to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and faced a team that was ready right off the bat, hopping out to a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter that had many wondering if this was still even a game and what was going on with the Hokies. However, the Hokies never gave up and pulled off one of the best comebacks in recent memory by Virginia Tech.
The Hokies came back from down 17-0 to win 34-31 in what was a gutsy, tough performance by the Hokies on the road in a tough road environment at Notre Dame. The Hokies were also able to rally after being down 24-14 at halftime and after a Cam Phillips drop and tipped pass was intercepted and followed by a 67-yard touchdown run by Josh Adams to put the Fighting Irish up 31-21.
Virginia Tech showed tremendous grit and toughness in this game as shown by the way they rallied time and time again after going down big early, and not necessarily having their best defensive day in the first half. This is the type of program building win that is a big sign of the progress that Justin Fuente and his staff are making in establishing their culture while Fuente may be the favorite to be the ACC Coach of the Year with Virginia Tech being 8-3 and only a win over Virginia from winning the ACC Coastal and going to the ACC Championship.
Jerod Evans had a bounce back day after a tough game last week as the junior quarterback was 22-for-29 for 267 passing yards and 2 touchdowns plus 1 interception off of a Cam Phillips drop while also rushing for 67 yards and a touchdown off of 18 carries. Evans didn’t have the best start to the game with a couple fumbles including a lost one early in this game, but Evans settled in and was a big reason for Virginia Tech’s comeback victory.
Evans’s 3 touchdowns also gave him Virginia Tech’s single-season total touchdown record with 31 passing Logan Thomas’s record of 30 while Evans also tied the single-season passing touchdown record of 24 which is currently also still owned by Tyrod Taylor though that will likely be broken next week. Evans is looking like Virginia Tech’s best quarterback since Taylor, and has exceeded all expectations after winning the starting QB job within the final couple weeks of fall practice.
Isaiah Ford was once again quite good as the junior had 7 catches for 86 receiving yards and is making a strong case to be on the All-ACC First Team once again. Meanwhile, Cam Phillips had a couple drops but was still quite good with 6 catches for 56 yards and a touchdown while C.J. Carroll had the Hokies’ longest pass play of the year of 62 yards on his way to having 3 catches for 80 yards while Bucky Hodges had 2 catches for 15 yards and a touchdown, and Sam Rogers had 4 catches for 30 yards.
Steven Peoples only averaged 2.9 yards per carry, but had some solid runs on his way to having 11 carries for 32 yards and his first career rushing touchdown while Marshawn Williams had 8 carries for 28 yards and Sam Rogers had 4 carries for 26 yards. Travon McMillian only had a 2-yard carry and seemed to get in the dog house after being responsible for an early fumble for Virginia Tech.
The Hokies still are struggling to find a consistent runner other than Evans with McMillian having another disappointing game and the Hokies having guys built more like fullbacks taking most of the carries that worked some, but also limits some ability to break a big run.
On defense, the Hokies didn’t have a great day giving up 449 total yards, but Virginia Tech’s adjusted and played better as the game along with the Hokies only giving up 49 total yards and 4 first downs (most on Notre Dame’s final drive in the final minute). Bud Foster was once again able to adapt and Notre Dame didn’t really have an answer on offense in the second half outside of the 67-yard touchdown run after the interception off of the Cam Phillips deflection.
Ken Ekanem seemed to play with a chip on his shoulder after it was brought up how Notre Dame rescinded their scholarship offer to Ekanem during his senior season after Ekanem got injured while Virginia Tech stuck with him. Ekanem used this motivation to have one of his best games of the season with 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 sack in what was the senior defensive end’s best performance in weeks as he continues to deal with nagging injuries.
Mook Reynolds had a solid game with 5 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 1 QB hurry while Andrew Motuapuaka led the Hokies with 11 tackles, and Adonis Alexander had 9 tackles and 1 pass breakup while also providing some solid pass coverage after having a couple of bad moments last week.
Meanwhile, Henri Murphy took over as the Hokies’ kick returner and excelled in that role with an average of 32.7 yards per kick return over his 3 kick returns. Murphy showed plenty of promise and even when Greg Stroman is healthy again, the Hokies should stick with Murphy as their kick returner.
Virginia Tech stepped up on the road in a hostile environment and instead of folding when they were down 17-0 at the beginning of the second quarter, they rallied and fought their way back even after the bad run of play where Cam Phillips’ tipped drop that was intercepted and Josh Adams’s touchdown run put the Hokies down 10 when it looked like Virginia Tech was about to go up 4.
Time and time again, the Hokies rallied and they should reap the rewards this week with a spot in the top 25 quite possible especially with a few teams in danger of dropping out of the AP top 25 in San Diego State, Troy, and Washington State who all lost this past week and were in the 21 to 25 range of the poll.
For the Hokies, the focus shifts to next Saturday’s big game against 2-9 Virginia with it not only being a rivalry game but also the chance for Virginia Tech to win the ACC Coastal and clinch a spot in the ACC Championship in two weeks in Orlando against Clemson.
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