Once again, Virginia Tech faced an FCS opponent and ended up in a four quarter. Like Furman, the Hokies were able to take care of business picking up a victory on a day where Virginia Tech's pass defense made this game far too interesting.
Virginia Tech beat Rhode Island 34-17 to improve to 4-2 overall on the season while Rhode Island fell to 1-5 with the loss. The Hokies have a big game coming up next week against North Carolina that will provide a great barometer to see how good this VT team is with Hendon Hooker at the helm.
Virginia Tech's offense was the major positive from this game as the Hokies reached the red zone on 6 of 8 drives (exculding their final one that started in URI territory) with only 1 drive, a 3 and out, not reaching Rhode Island territory. While it was disappointing to see the Hokies kick field goals twice on possessions where VT had first and goals at the 5 or closer, Virginia Tech's offense had a solid performance overall even given the competition.
Meanwhile, the Hokies' defense was a disappointment allowing 310 yards of offense to a Rhode Island team that hasn't been very good this year. The pass defense was disappointing in particular as URI QB Vito Priore was 26-42 for 286 yards and a touchdown with WR Isaiah Coulter being particularly good, having 9 catches for 152 yards.
The Hokies' pass defense was a major problem with the secondary struggling in man coverage outside of Caleb Farley and Chamarri Conner. Going forward, the Hokies are going to have to make some adjustments, even if that means more reliance on zone, to try to fix the issues VT has had. Additionally, Rhode Island seemed to follow the four and five receiver formation pass attack template that Duke exposed and other teams are certain to try to take advantage of.
Hendon Hooker played well going 16-27 for 261 yards and 3 touchdown while running for 43 yards. Hooker put his passes in great spots with a few drops by Damon Hazelton preventing Hooker from having a career day. Hooker also didn't have a single close call through the air with the only close turnover coming via a bad snap late in the game.
Damon Hazelton had an up and down with drops holding him back some on what was a great game overall having 5 catches for 93 yards and 2 touchdowns. Dalton Keene was also very good with 4 catches for 53 yards and a TD while Tayvion Robinson had 4 catches for 48 yards and 13 rushing yards. Deshawn McClease was very good on the ground with 124 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries as the veteran RB was once again impressive.
Virginia Tech's offense took a few plays to get going with a 14-yard completion to Dalton Keene getting the Hokies' offense going. Two plays later, the Hokies found Damon Hazelton for a 12-yard gain to set up a 3rd and 1 at the VT40 with Hendon Hooker running it for a first down. A Keshawn King 8-yard carry got VT into Rhode Island territory at the 47 before gaining 3 more for a first down. On the next play, Hooker found a wide open Keshawn King for a 40-yard reception to set up a first and goal at the 5. However, the Hokies were unable to punch it in with Brian Johnson making a 22-yard field to give the Hokies a 3-0 lead.
Rhode Island started at their own 25 on their first possession and while they did have a pair of short completions, they needed a fourth down penalty by the Hokies to pick up their first 1st down. The Rams were able to gain a couple more short gains, but were unable to get a first down and punted with Hezekiah Grimsley fair catching it at the VT 14.
The Hokies started their drive off well with Damon Hazelton gaining 9 on a drive opening completion followed by an 18-yard gain on a screen play to Dalton Keene. VT then got their running game going as Tayvion Robinson gained 18 yards on a well-designed reverse followed by a 21-yard gain by Deshawn McClease to get VT into the redzone at the 20. A third down pass interference gave the Hokies a first and goal on the URI 4. Three plays later, Hendon Hooker found Damon Hazelton for a 9-yard touchdown to give the Hokies a 10-0 lead.
After a second down sack by Alan Tisdale, Rhode Island gained 51 yards on a 3rd and 19 short reception and long runout by Isaiah Coulter, setting URI up at the VT 33. However, Rhode Island was unable to get a first down after that with the Rams settling for a 41-yard field goal to cut the Hokies' lead to 10-3 early in the second quarter.
Virginia Tech started at their own 34 after a short kickoff by Rhode Island. The Hokies used a trio of runs, including 2 runs by Hooker to gain a first down at the VT 46. VT moved it into Rhode Island territory on the next play with a 17-yard gain on the ground by Keshawn King. Two plays later, Hendon Hooker found an open Damon Hazelton who stiff armed a defender and took it 37 yards for a touchdown to give Virginia Tech a 17-3 lead.
Rhode Island got their drive going with a 2nd and 7 completion to Isaiah Coulter for a 16-yard gain and a first down. Rhode Island had a 7-yard carry and 7-yard reception on first and third downs to gain a first down at the VT 42. Rhode Island then used a slant to Isaiah Coulter on a 4th and 2 to pick up a first down at the VT 25. Next play, Rhode Island found Coulter again for a 22-yard gain to the VT 3 with Jovonn Quillen once again getting beat by the URI WR. However, Rhode Island was unable to punch it in with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct after a third down failure setting up a 36-yard field goal to make it a 17-6 game.
After a Damon Hazelton drop on a perfect deep pass on first down, Dalton Keene turned a route into the flat into an 18-yard gain to get the Hokies to the VT 47. After a 6-yard screen pass to James Mitchell, Deshawn McClease broke out for a 17-yard run to get the Hokies to the Rhode Island 30. An 8-yard sack by Andre Johnson and 6-yard loss on a poor rushing play set up a 3rd and 24 that went for no gain. Virginia Tech did go for one more play with 1 second to go in the first half and while Damon Hazelton did catch it, he was out of bounds to end the half.
Virginia Tech had a solid first half overall outgaining Rhode Island 245-144, but the Hokies struggled to contain Isaiah Coulter who had 105 yards on 5 receptions, giving Reggie Floyd and Jovonn Quillen issues in man coverage. Playcalling also got in the offense's way at times though the Hokies did score on 3 of their 4 possessions with Hendon Hooker also not having a single close call with a turnover.
Hooker had a strong first half overall going 10-15 for 163 yards and 2 touchdown while running for 3 yards, a number limited by 2 URI sacks. Damon Hazelton had a couple drops, but was good overall with 4 catches for 67 yards and 2 touchdowns while Dalton Keene was once again effective with 3 catches for 50 yards. Keshawn King also had a good first half with a 40-yard reception and 5 carries for 23 yards while Deshawn McClease was more effective on the ground with 5 carries for 43 yards.
Alan Tisdale was the defensive star for the Hokeis in the first half with 3 tackles including 2 for loss, one of which was a sack, and a pass breakup. Rayshard Ashby led the Hokies with 5 tackles during the first half. Overall, Virginia Tech's defense had a solid first half but struggled to contain URI WR Isaiah Coulter who beat Jovonn Quillen and Reggie Floyd multiple times during the first half.
Rhode Island opened with an 8-yard carry from Zoe Bryant followed by a 16-yard gain through the air to Aaron Parker to get to the VT 49. Two plays later, Isaiah Coulter gained 11 via another quick pass play. Zoe Bryant then gained 22 yards with a 9-yard horsecollar tackle penalty setting up a 1st and 9 for Rhode Island at the VT 9. Three plays later, Vito Priore scrambled and found an open Ahmere Dorsey and converted a two-point conversion to cut the Virginia Tech lead to 17-14 with 12:26 to go.
Poor decision-making on a pooch kickoff meant that Virginia Tech started at their own 7 for their opening possession of the second half. However, VT was able to get away from their goalline immediately with a 26-yard reception for Damon Hazelton followed by another 7-yard gain for Tayvion Robinson. Two plays later, a 12-yard pass interference gave the Hokies a first down at the Rhode Island 48. After 4 yards over the next 2 plays, Hendon Hooker had a perfect pass caught by James Mitchell for a 27-yard gain to the Rhode Island 17. Two plays later, Hendon Hooker ran for 10 yards and a first down at the URI 7. After a 4-yard Deshawn McClease carry, Hooker found Dalton Keene for a 3-yard TD to give the Hokies a 24-14 lead with 7:57 to go in the third quarter.
A short kick and good kick coverage by Virginia Tech led to Rhode Island starting at their own 15. A second down offsides set up URI with a 2nd and 4 at their own 21 but a third down false start turned a 3rd and 1 into a 3rd and 6. However, a pass interference on Caleb Farley gave Rhode Island a first down at their own 34. The Rams then gained 16 on a pass from Vito Priore to Ahmere Dorsey to get to the 50. A 7-yard carry by Zoe Bryant set up a 3rd and 3 for Rhode Island at the VT 43 with URI converting via a 14-yard completion to a wide open Ed Lee. However, URI wasn't able to do much after that, but made a 41-yard field goal to cut the Hokies' lead to 24-17.
Deshawn McClease started the drive well with an 8-yard gain on first down with Hendon Hooker gaining 4 on third down to pick up a first at the VT 37. A 31-yard reception by Tayvion Robinson two plays later set the Hokies up at the VT 32. VT then got into the red zone with a 6-yard carry by Hendon Hooker followed by a 7-yard carry from Keshawn King, ending the third quarter. Two plays later, Deshawn McClease gained 18 yards to set the Hokies up with a first and goal at the 1. McClease punched it in on the next play, giving the Hokies a 31-17 lead with 13:41 to go.
Rhode Island started in a hole with a delay of game setting up a 1st and 15 at their own 20. URI made that up and more on the next play with a 12-yard completion from Vito Priore to Isaiah Coulter. The Rams gained 5 on the next play through the air to pick up a first down at the URI 37. However, Rhode Island had three-straight incompletions after that, forcing the Rams to punt.
Virginia Tech started at their own 28 after the punt, but was held to their first 3 and out of the day with Damon Hazelton failing to find a deep ball on first down and having what appeared to be a drop on third down.
Rhode Island started their next possession at their own 30, and opened with an 11-yard reception to Isaiah Coulter. Three plays later, Vito Priore found Coulter again for a 13-yard gain and a first down, but Coulter suffered an injury on the play. Meanwhile, a 15-yard targeting was called against Reggie Floyd, suspending him for the first half of next week's game against North Carolina and ejecting him from this one. URI then had a huge 4th and 9 conversion gaining 25 yards on a completion to Aaron Parker to set up a 1st and 5. However, Chamarri Conner sacked Vito Priore on the next play for a 14-yard loss. That sack set the tone as the Hokies were able to force a turnover of downs by a Rhode Island team looking for a touchdown to cut the lead to a one-score game.
Virginia Tech gained possession at their own 19 with an illegal formation setting up a 1st and 15 at their own 14. An offsides gave the Hokies a 2nd and 10 after no gain on VT's first down run. Hendon Hooker gained 11 yards after that to pick up a first down. On the next play, Deshawn McClease broke out for a 25-yard gain for a first down at the Rhode Island 45 followed by another 25-yard gain to the URI 20. After gaining 3 on his first collegiate carry, Tahj Gary broke out for a 16-yard gain to set up a first and goal on the 1. However, a bad snap led to a 2nd and goal at the 11 for VT with Brian Johnson making a 22-yard field goal to give VT a 34-17 lead with 2:06 to go.
Rhode Island gained 2 on second down on their final possession with Mario Kendricks and Robert Porcher IV combining for a sack on third down. Rhode Island was unable to convert on fourth down despite a 10-yard gain, giving Virginia Tech the ball at the URI 27. VT then ran out the clock with a pair of short carries to Tahj Gary.