Virginia Tech gave its fans a good scare on Saturday night, as the Hokies trailed North Carolina 19-14 late in the fourth quarter. After capitalizing on some opportunities late in the game, Tech was able to pull off the victory, scoring a last-minute touchdown to secure the 22-19 win.
Coming off a loss to Notre Dame last weekend, opinions were mixed on the Hokies football team going forward. Some thought the loss to Notre Dame was justifiable given the elite level of that program. Others saw more flaws within the Hokies which could lead to issues later in the season. Whichever side of the spectrum you sit on, not all questions are answered following tonight’s win, but the team should feel good after pulling off the comeback.
The Hokies started off strong with a turnover on the first play of the game. Reggie Floyd forced a fumble on UNC’s first rush of the game and Khalil Ladler recovered the ball to set the Hokies up for their first drive. Tech quarterback Ryan Willis made the most of the situation as he scored on a 33-yard rush to put the Hokies up 7-0 early in the game.
From that point on, it was UNC’s game all night. The Tar Heels shut out the Hokies the rest of the first half and went into halftime leading 9-7 after kicking three field goals in the half. Virginia Tech continued to make mistakes throughout the game, giving up two interceptions to the Tar Heels defense. In addition, Tech committed eight penalties for 59 yards, allowing UNC multiple opportunities to control the game.
It wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter that Tech was able to get things going their way. With just over six minutes left in the game and the ball on the VT one-yard line, UNC’s Michael Carter turned the ball over on a fumble that was recovered by Jovonn Quillen. Virginia Tech took over on their own two-yard line and put together a drive to remember.
Willis stayed calm and collected to orchestrate a game-winning drive, taking the Hokies 98 yards downfield and ultimately scoring the go-ahead touchdown. Willis completed eight passes, ending the drive with a one-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Keene to take the lead. Head coach Justin Fuente decided to go for two, putting the Hokies up 22-19 after they successfully completed the conversion.
Virginia Tech converted four third down plays and one fourth down on the drive, showing that Willis and the offense have the ability to perform well in clutch situations. Willis was able to think quick on his feet, rushing for 12 yards on a fourth and nine play, setting the offense up with a new set of downs and just over a minute and a half left in the game.
Willis decided to take the ball himself a few plays later on a third down with just over 20 seconds left in the game, again setting up another first down. After the Hokies took the lead, UNC was unable to get far down the field before time ran out, giving Virginia Tech its fourth win of the season and allowing the team to stay undefeated in the ACC Coastal Division.
Willis finished the game 20 for 36 on pass attempts while throwing for 221 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw for two interceptions in the game, but despite his mistakes, the newly-named starter for Tech showed he is able to play until the end and never give up on a win. Willis led the team in rushing as well, running the ball 15 times for 110 yards and a touchdown. Sean Savoy was the leading receiver, gaining 58 yards on six attempts and scoring a touchdown.
With the win, the Hokies improve to 4-2 on the season and 2-0 in the ACC Coastal. Virginia Tech has the ability to control its own destiny and is likely still the frontrunner for the division title after Miami’s loss to UVA. While there are still some issues to fix within the team regarding turnovers and penalties, tonight’s win should be a confidence booster for the Hokies going forward into the heart of ACC play.
Virginia Tech will be back in action on Thursday, Oct. 25 when the Hokies host Georgia Tech at Lane Stadium.