With their back against the wall, Virginia Tech put up a valiant effort in a shootout of a first half and a defensive fight back in the second half on their way to holding on to the Commonwealth Cup after getting a four-down redzone stand at the very end and Hokie fans storming the field in Scott Stadium.
Virginia Tech beat Virginia 29-24 for their 19th win in the 21 matchups this century, keeping the Commonwealth Cup in Blacksburg for the second-straight year and giving J.C. Price a 1-0 record against UVA as Tech's head coach. The win also gets the Hokies to a bowl game with Price having one more game
Virginia Tech was led by a dominant rushing attack tonight as the Hokies ran for 320 yards while averaging 6.8 yards per carry. Tech may have been outgained 474-464, but VT had the knack for big plays averaging 7.4 yards per play compared to 6.8 for UVA. Virginia threw for 414 yards as their passing game was on fire and though Tech only had 7 completions, those 7 completions went for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns including one from Tayvion Robinson.
Defensively, Tech had a nightmare of a first half as UVA moved the ball at will outside of a Tae Daley interception. However, the Hokies turned it around in the second half holding UVA to only a field goal on their first drive while not giving up a single point inside the final 27.5 minutes including their four-down stand when UVA had a 1st and 10 in the redzone at the end.
Tech also did more of the little things well from having only 1 turnover compared to 2 for UVA plus the fumble that was recovered in the endzone by UVA for a safety which proved crucial in the end, to UVA's roughing the punter penalty that launched a Tech drive. Tech's playcalling and decisions on offense also avoided the biggest unforced errors that UVA had by going for it with all their 3 of their timeouts inside their own 20 and that 3rd down call at the end of a play to an offensive lineman lined up at tight end that was bizarre to say the least.
Raheem Blackshear was arguably the biggest star of the night for either team as he was electric with 18 carries for 169 yards and a touchdown averaging an insane 9.4 yards per carry. Blackshear was a high-end difference maker tonight and turned his best performance of the season tonight after a strong second half of the season overall.
Braxton Burmeister had a very good game overall going 6-14 for 141 yards and a touchdown while running for 115 yards on 12 carries plus having a three-yard TD reception. Connor Blumrick didn't have nearly as good of a game last week as his package proved too predictable on his way to 28 yards on 10 carries plus a late fumble that nearly proved costly for Tech.
Tayvion Robinson also had a big night with 3 catches for 89 yards including a 61-yard touchdown early in the game plus a 3-yard touchdown pass to Burmeister on a double reverse Philly special. Da'Wain Lofton's emergence continued with 2 catches for 42 yards while Malachi Thomas ran for 12 yards on 4 carries with Kaleb Smith having a 10-yard reception. Tre Turner was a healthy scartch for most of the game but recovered the onside free kick after the safety.
Tae Daley was the star of Tech's defense tonight leading the way with 9 tackles plus a big first half interception that was VT's only first half stop of the UVA offense and 2 pass breakups. Fellow transfer Jordan Williams also shined in his first Commonwealth Cup with 5 tackles including the strip sack of Brennan Armstrong that became a valuable safety for Tech preventing UVA from having the option of kicking a field goal to tie.
Dorian Strong had a rough first half, but stepped up in the second half finishing with 6 tackles including 1 for loss plus a pass breakup. Meanwhile, Alan Tisdale had 4 tackles including a sack while Norell Pollard had his forced fumble that he recovered and a pass breakup.
John Parker Romo made a pair of big field goals tonight while Peter Moore was quite effective with 2 punts inside the 20 and the other going for a net of 53 yards plus the draw of the roughing the punter penalty that gave Tech's offense a second chance that they took advantage of.
Brennan Armstrong had a big game for UVA going 30-46 for 400 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT while running for 2 touchdowns as well. Billy Kemp led UVA with 8 catches for 102 yards while Keytaon Thompson had 7 catches for 91 yards and Jelani Woods had 7 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. Nick Jackson led UVA with 10 tackles including 0.5 sacks while Elliott Brown had 4 tackles including 2 sacks, and Nick Grant had 8 tackles plus a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
This has been a long, frustrating season with a new coach on the horizon giving Tech fans excitement about the future, but this win should also juice up fans that the resilience and toughness that have defined Virginia Tech football are not at all gone, but still alive in the soul of Hokie football. Much of that toughness was shown by veteran leadership who might be gone, but that resiliency was also shown by stars of the future like Tayvion Robinson, Dorian Strong bouncing back after a rough first half, and numerous others.
In the end, there's no better way to sum up this wild game that ended in a memorable Tech win with Hokie fans storming the field at Scott Stadium than the on-field, postgame words of J.C. Price that sum up what this win means for every Hokie living in the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond.