Photo Credit: ACC Media
The old saying is that you throw out the records when it comes to rivalry games. Even with that, a struggling Virginia Tech team on a four-game losing streak wasn't a hot pick at all against a surging Virginia team that had won four-straight games. Combine that with the fast-rising speculation about the future of Justin Fuente and you had a Virginia Tech team that was picked against by most with plenty of good reason.
However, that old adage about rivalries proved true with Virginia Tech putting together arguably their best game of the season.
Virginia Tech beat Virginia to reclaim the Commonwealth Cup after seeing their 15-straight win streak end last season in Charlottesville. The win pushed the Hokies to 5-6 on the season including 5-5 in ACC play while UVA fell to 5-5 including 4-5 in ACC play.
This was an all-around dominant performance from the Hokies as Tech outgained the Cavaliers 464-322 while having multiple 40+ yard plays, winning the big play battle. The yards advantage was even more impressive given how Tech averaged 6.93 yards per play compared to 4.74 for UVA in what was arguably the best game from VT's defense this season.
More importantly, Tech was really good on third down on both sides of the ball converting on 9-16 third downs while UVA was 6-14 with 3 of those coming on their opening touchdown drive. Tech also had only 1 turnover of the night compared to 2 for UVA with Tech taking advantage of UVA turnovers and the Cavaliers failing to do so.
Braxton Burmeister got the start at QB and had the best game of his Hokie career by far going 15-22 for 212 yards and 1 touchdown while running for 36 yards on 7 carries. Burmeister showed much improved accuracy down the field while he also did a great job of throwing the football away when he had no good options and using his legs to extend plays or turn a nothing play into at least something, even if it was a minimal gain.
Khalil Herbert also was extremely good as he had 20 carries for 162 yards including a 76-touchdown and a 39-yard gain early in the game. In the process, Herbert broke into the top 4 for all-purpose yards in a single season in Virginia Tech history as he has made it clear that he deserves a place among the all-time great Virginia Tech running backs.
Tayvion Robinson had his best game of the season with 5 catches for 98 yards including a 60-yard touchdown. Jalen Holston had 14 carries for 58 yards while James Mitchell had 3 catches for 67 yards though he also had a muffed punt early that UVA failed to turn into points after a missed field goal. Tre Turner had 3 catches for 25 yards plus a 6-yard rushing touchdown off a jet sweep during the first half.
Divine Deablo shined in what may be his final game inside Lane Stadium with 6 tackles plus a late interception and 2 pass breakups as he was all over the field making plays and certainly impressing the multiple NFL scouts in attendance. Amare Barno also had a big game with 6 tackles including 2 for loss, 1 of which was a sack plus a QB hurry.
Dorian Strong also had a very good game with 5 tackles plus an interception while Chamarri Conner had 5 tackles and 2 pass breakups. Rayshard Ashby had 5 tackles including a sack while Jarrod Hewitt had 4 tackles including a sack and Armani Chatman had a sack of his own plus a pass breakup.
There has been plenty of frustration surrounding this season with some starting to doubt if the Hokies were as talented as we thought they were. Tech proved that they were as talented as we thought in their impressive performance that, even with the expected departures, gives Tech the potential to bounce back in a big way in 2021.
The win also guarantees that Tech will receive some sort of bowl invite with the ACC bowl games that are still being played, and Pitt and Boston College also declining bowl bids, opening up some more ACC slots.
In the interim, the focus will turn tomorrow to whether Justin Fuente will return next season after the first losing regular season in almost 30 years with a team that showed tonight that they were significantly more talented than the record they achieved. The questions are rightfully raised and the odds of a Fuente return, even with this victory, are definitely up in the air.
For now though, Tech fans have plenty to celebrate with the Commonwealth Cup returning to its rightful home in Blacksburg.