Virginia Tech ran through monsoon conditions to beat Tulane 41-20 to win the Military Bowl and achieve their first winning season since 2019 along with their first bowl victory since beating Arkansas 35-24 in the 2016 Belk Bowl. There were plenty of standout performances, but two Hokies stood out the most to earn our Hokies of the Game honors.
Offensive Hokie of the Game: Kyron Drones
The 2023 Military Bowl MVP Kyron Drones put on a show to close what was a breakout season for the Baylor transfer after taking over the starting QB job for Grant Wells due to injury and never letting go of the job.
Drones ran for a Virginia Tech bowl game record 176 yards on 20 carries adding a rushing touchdown in the process while also going 13-21 for 91 yards and two touchdowns through the air in less than ideal conditions. He did have a few fumbles, but made up for it and then some with his play throughout the game. He also became the first player since Lamar Jackson in 2017 to have at least 170 rushing yards and two passing touchdowns in a bowl game.
The fact that Drones showed impressive composure in this game to not let the conditions get to him and bounce back from his mistakes due largely to said conditions was impressive. Drones was game for whatever came his way and led the Hokies to a dominant victory in the end.
Bhayshul Tuten also was a star in this game for the Hokies with 136 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns on 16 carries plus two catches for 19 yards. The NC A&T transfer has proven to be one of the best running backs east of the Mississippi this year and should have a great chance at earning Preseason All-ACC honors in 2024.
Tech's tight ends also left their mark on this game as Benji Gosnell had two catches for 21 yards and a touchdown while Harrison Saint Germain had two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown. Saint Germain was also open in the seam early in the game for what would have been a touchdown if Drones didn't put a little too much air on the ball allowing the Tulane DB to get over in time to make a play.
Defensive Hokie of the Game: Pheldarius Payne
There were plenty of potential candidates but in the end, it goes to one of the four Hokies playing in his final game of college football: Pheldarius Payne.
Payne didn't have the biggest numbers, but he made a major impact despite that with two tackles including one for loss during which he forced a fumble after brilliantly launching through the gap off the snap and right into the quarterback forcing a turnover at the goalline. Payne also received the highest Pro Football Focus grade of any Hokie in this game with an 86.7 defensive grade.
Payne has overcome a lot during his collegiate career to get this point, becoming a star on the interior of the defensive line for the Hokies this season. In the process, Payne almost certainly has earned himself plenty of looks from NFL teams and it's fair to wonder if he could end up being drafted in April after looking dominant in his first season as a defensive tackle.
Alan Tisdale finished his collegiate career well with seven tackles including 0.5 for loss while fellow linebacker Keonta Jenkins added six tackles including two for loss. Mose Phillips had seven tackles and a forced fumble while Mansoor Delane had seven tackles plus a fumble recovery. Antwuan Powell-Ryland had a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery while Keli Lawson had three tackles including a sack plus a pass breakup.