Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech have played some wild games over the years that have included some upsets. Today, was one of those games and not in a good way for the Hokies.
Virginia Tech came up short in Atlanta, falling 28-22 at Georgia Tech to drop to 7-3 on the season and 3-3 in ACC play. Georgia Tech improved to 5-4 on the season, and only needs a win over Duke or Georgia to be bowl eligible. The Hokies have two very winnable games remaining against Pittsburgh and Virginia with the chance to keep the Commonwealth Cup in Blacksburg for the 14th-straight season.
Virginia Tech took some risks in the first half that didn’t pay off and prevented VT from having a chance at kicking a field goal to tie or win, going for it on a fourth and 2 early and a two-point conversion when trying to cut the lead to 3, failing on both of those attempts with questionable play calls.
The Hokies had some early struggles and went into halftime down 14-9 despite being outgained fairly significantly. The defense came up with some stops when VT needed it with Anthony Shegog and the Hokies’ front 7 making some big plays. However, the Hokies fell in a 21-9 hole early in the second half and seemed in big trouble.
Virginia Tech found a way to rally with a crazy drive that started on a fairly lucky jump ball reception from Eric Kumah, who was in the right place at the right time and made an alert play. After this, the Hokies marched down the field and Jalen Holston finished the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run.
Virginia Tech got a stop, but couldn’t put up any points on the next drive. However, the Hokies’ defense kept fighting, and forced an errant throw from TaQuon Marshall that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Greg Stroman.
Virginia Tech had all the momentum, and it showed when Georgia Tech nearly fumbled away the kickoff. However, it fell apart soon after as Ricky Jeune beat the Hokies’ secondary and was wide-open for an 80-yard touchdown that would be the final score of the game.
Virginia Tech took the field for their last drive and converted twice on fourth down. However, the Hokies couldn’t do it three times with questionable play calls on third and fourth down when they only needed a yard. On third down, the Hokies went for a jump ball along the sidelines to Eric Kumah followed by a deep ball on fourth down to Cam Philips despite only needing one yard. Both times, the Hokies’ passes were incomplete, costing them the game.
Those final two play calls were quite head-scratching and rightfully frustrated many Hokie fans, especially the fourth down one where there was no short option for Jackson to dump it off.
In some ways, Virginia Tech was very fortunate to have a chance, but the Hokies deserve a lot of credit for continuing to fight and not giving up when they easily could have. For Hokie fans, this should be one of the biggest takeaways as they were times when they were fighting just to hold on but they never gave up and showed the character that it takes to be one of the best. That shows the culture that Justin Fuente has established.
Virginia Tech was outgained 401-258, but the Hokies made some big plays when they needed while doing a great job of protecting the football with no turnovers in this game. The Hokies also continue to do well at limiting mental mistakes with only four penalties this week.
However, the Hokies failed to stop the big plays with Terrell Edmunds and Mook Reynolds failing to keep everything in front of them as the deep safeties three times, two of which were Georgia Tech’s only completions for 60+ yard touchdowns. That may have been due in part to an overcompensation for containing the triple-option, but the failure of one safety staying deep cost them all three times.
Josh Jackson didn’t have a lot of time to throw on many plays today and had some struggles. However, Jackson was solid overall going 14-for-26 for 153 yards on the game. Jackson’s performance wasn’t stellar, but there wasn’t much he did that hurt the Hokies’ chances at winning this game.
Eric Kumah was the offensive star for the Hokies with 6 catches for 82 yards including a big fourth down reception on the Hokies’ final drive and the alert catch on the Hokies’ second half touchdown drive. Kumah has established himself as a third receiver that the Hokies can trust to get the job done alongside Cam Phillips and Sean Savoy.
Virginia Tech struggled to get Cam Phillips involved and it showed with Phillips only having 2 catches for 8 yards. Sean Savoy had a solid game with 3 catches for 20 yards and 3 carries for 32 yards including a 14-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep that was simply incredible. While losing Phillips next year will be tough, the Hokies have some quality young receivers in Savoy and Kumah, and will get to add Ball State transfer Damon Hazelton and injured freshman Caleb Farley to that pair next season which should excite Hokie fans.
Jalen Holston had the best game of his freshman season with 10 carries for 38 yards and a touchdown. Holston found his rhythm in the second half, and made some strong, tough runs. Holston is the Hokies’ RB of the future and this may have been his breakthrough game.
Travon McMillian wasn’t too bad with 10 carries for 29 yards, 2 catches for 44 yards, and a 70-yard kick return that gave VT some momentum after going down 14-3. AJ Bush came in and ran for 11 yards on 4 carries while Deshawn McClease only had 1 carry and may be dropping down the depth chart.
Anthony Shegog was one of the Hokies’ defensive stars today with 11 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 1 forced fumble. Shegog was all over the field on defense and special teams, and after his great performance today, he would be a well-deserving pick to wear the 25 jersey next Saturday on his Senior Day.
Greg Stroman was dominant in coverage when called upon and had a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown plus a pass breakup and a touchdown. Stroman has been one of America’s best cornerbacks and should definitely receive All-America consideration.
Andrew Motuapuaka led the Hokies with 12 tackles including 0.5 tackles for loss while Tremaine Edmunds had 9 tackles with 1 for loss. Houshun Gaines and Ricky Walker each had a tackle for loss while Gaines’s other tackle prevented Marshall from gaining more than a few yards.
This is a tough loss for Virginia Tech and there is definitely room to improve. The offense is somewhat limited due to a struggling offensive line and youth almost everywhere else, but the play-calling still has some room to improve. Just as players learn from mistakes, you can bet the coaches will look at these plays and see what they could have done to give themselves more options in the future.
However, THE SKY IS NOT FALLING AND IS NOWHERE CLOSE TO DOING SO.
Virginia Tech is on its way to winning 9 games in the regular season for the second-straight season after failing to win more than 8 when including a bowl game. Obviously, VT still has to go out and win those games, but the Hokies are already much-better than anyone could have imagined and this coaching staff deserves much of the credit for that.
Don’t panic Hokie fans, this is still one of the top 20-25 teams in America, and they absolutely deserve to be ranked next week. More importantly, if Virginia Tech can win 9-10 games in a rebuilding year, imagine what Fuente can do when he has all the pieces. That should scare plenty of people all around the ACC.