Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech Pulls Off Incredible Comeback to Beat Arkansas 35-24

Justin Fuente Holding The Belk Bowl Trophy [Credit: Harley Taylor]
Justin Fuente Holding The Belk Bowl Trophy [Credit: Harley Taylor]
The Virginia Tech Hokies and Arkansas Razorbacks played one of the wildest games in recent bowl game history with the Hokies and Razorbacks playing a game that was even crazier than a Jekyll and Hyde story.

After being down 24-0 at halftime and seeming dead in the water, Virginia Tech pulled off one of the most incredible comebacks in program history to come from 24 down to beat the Razorbacks in a thriller 35-24. The comeback win is the biggest comeback victory in Virginia Tech program history according to the Hokies’ record book.

The Hokies were awful in the first half with Arkansas getting 10 points off two first half turnovers while the Razorbacks seemed in absolute control getting 24 points while Joey Slye missed a field goal in what was the closest the Hokies got to scoring in the first half. However, whatever Justin Fuente said at halftime brought life back into the Hokies and led to one of the great comebacks in Virginia Tech football history.

Virginia Tech scored 35 unanswered second half points, forced 4 turnovers, and kept Arkansas scoreless to beat the Razorbacks 35-24 in what was one of the most dominant halves in Virginia Tech football history. Jerod Evans started the second half with 10 straight completions while Bud Foster’s defense had one of its best halves in his tenure absolutely shutting down the Arkansas offense and preventing them from doing anything whatsoever.

Offensively, Virginia Tech broke their single-season records for the most points and yards as Justin Fuente’s offensive renovation didn’t even need a year to make a big impact on the Hokies with records already falling in Blacksburg in Fuente’s first season.

After going 9-for-17 from 114 passing yards and an interception with 41 rushing yards in the first half, Jerod Evans took over in the second half and finished the game with 243 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception on 21-for-33 passing including 10 straight completions to start the second half. Evans also made plays with his legs getting 87 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on 22 carries with his 87 yards breaking the VT QB single-season rushing record.

Cam Phillips had a big game on his way to winning Belk Bowl MVP honors as the junior had 6 receptions for 115 receiving yards while also having 16 rushing yards on 4 carries including a 15-yard run. Phillips has become a huge mismatch working in the slot this season, and has really taken his game up a few notches especially over the closing half of the season.

Isaiah Ford broke his single-season reception record and held onto the new record over Phillips by 3 as Ford had 6 catches for 56 yards to finish with 79 receptions on the season. Meanwhile, Bucky Hodges was productive as well with 5 catches for 51 yards while the two touchdown catches came from Sam Rogers and Chris Cunningham with Rogers having 2 catches for 14 yards and Cunningham having a 5-yard touchdown reception.

Travon McMillian protected the football well with no fumbles and had some good runs on his way to having 34 yards on 9 carries while Rogers ended his VT career with 4 yards on 2 carries to go with his 14 receiving yards and receiving touchdown. Isaiah Ford ended up having 14 yards on 2 carries while Bucky Hodges had 10 yards on 2 carries.

Defensively, the Hokies absolutely annihilated the Arkansas offense in the second half holding the Razorbacks to only 56 yards of offense in the second half while also forcing 3 interceptions and 4 total turnovers plus getting a total of 6 sacks.

One of the stars of the game has to be Anthony Shegog who brought more energy than any other player in this game tonight and had the best game of his collegiate career with 6 tackles, 1 interception, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble. Shegog’s energy was infectious and helped the Hokies build some serious momentum in the second half to pull off the big comeback.

We already mentioned Shegog above, but the Hokies starting whip linebacker shined as well as Mook Reynolds had 5 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. Meanwhile, Tremaine Edmunds had a big game as well with 7 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and a big interception that helped the Hokies continue to build their momentum. Edmunds and Reynolds are burgeoning stars that are two names people across the country may come to know over the next couple of years.

Brandon Facyson had a decent night and led the Hokies with 10 tackles while Terrell Edmunds had 5 tackles and a late interception to help seal the comeback victory. Woody Baron and Ken Ekanem both got themselves a sack in their final collegiate games while Trevon Hill had a sack in his second start of the season and Nigel Williams had a big tackle for loss on the opening drive to force Arkansas to kick a field goal.

The Hokies got a big 47-yard kick return from Henri Murphy as Murphy continues to be an improvement for the Hokies at kick returner while Mitchell Ludwig did a great job of making sure the Hokies pinned Arkansas deep when they were around midfield with Ludwig having 5 of his 6 punts be downed inside the 20.

The biggest story from this game is undoubtedly the will power and toughness that this team showed tonight to come from down 24-0 at halftime to score 35 unanswered second half points and beat a quality Arkansas team. This team learned its lesson from the way they folded against Tennessee and has stepped their game up with two impressive comebacks victories against Notre Dame and Arkansas plus an impressive fight against Clemson in that 7-point loss.

Justin Fuente has built one tough team in year 1 and has already made the Hokies relevant again in college football. Virginia Tech proved tonight that they have the tough mentality that it takes to win when they get in deep holes and while they do need to improve their starts, they’ve proven that they can get themselves out of some of the deepest holes.

The future is bright in Blacksburg, and this win finishes off what has been a season of significant progress in the right direction.

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