Virginia Tech nearly stunned the college football world yesterday before losing a heartbreaker at Notre Dame 21-20 on a 7-yard touchdown run from Ian Book in the final minute. Despite the loss, the Hokies' performance was admirable with several players standing out.
Two Hokies stood out the most making multiple big plays to earn this week's Hokies of the Game honors: Damon Hazelton and Divine Deablo.
Offensive Hokie of the Game: Damon Hazelton
Virginia Tech's offense had their struggles, but one player who stepped up and had a big game was Damon Hazelton. The redshirt junior wide receiver was reliable throughout the game and looked like the star receiver that his injury held him back from becoming to start the season.
Hazelton led the Hokies with 5 catches for 63 yards and the Hokies' lone offensive touchdown making some spectacular catches and running great routes that made life easier for Quincy Patterson. Hazelton became reliable underneath and was a big reason why the Hokies' offense was able to find a rhythm.
Even if the passing offense wasn't very good in this game, Hazelton showed why his future will be on Sundays, and how dangerous a duo that he and Tre Turner could be especially once they have their best passing QB, Hendon Hooker, back next week.
Turner and Patterson took a while to find their rhythm, but Turner had a big 50-yard reception that set up one of the Hokies' second half field goals and finished with 2 catches for 58 yards. The fumble between Turner and Patterson on a jet sweep hurt, but Turner kept his head in the game even when things between the duo didn't sync up for much of this game.
Defensive Hokie of the Game: Divine Deablo
Divine Deablo hasn't lived up to some of the lofty expectations many had for him entering this season but on Saturday in South Bend, Deablo looked like the playmaker he's shown the potential of becoming.
Deablo had two of Virginia Tech's biggest plays with a 98-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown and a second half interception that stopped one of Notre Dame's best scoring opportunities before their game-winning touchdown drive at the end. Deablo also had 5 tackles on a day where he continued to fight and stay in the game even after a slow start.
Deablo showed how he is at his best when he's allowed to either be a deep safety or brought into the box on run defense. Going forward, it would be wise to use Deablo more in that deep safety over the top especially next week with Jermaine Waller out for the first half and Caleb Farley not appearing to be 100%.
Rayshard Ashby showed once again why he's an All-ACC First Team Linebacker this year with 13 tackles including 3 for loss plus forcing the fumble that Deablo returned 98 yards. Dax Hollifield has received criticism, but he put together his best game of the season to date with 7 tackles including 2 for loss with 1 being a sack and an early interception at a time when Notre Dame had all the momentum.