After 14-straight victories, many saw tonight's 100th edition of the Commonwealth Cup as Virginia's best chance during the Hokies' winning streak to take down the Hokies. With Virginia at 7-4 in the midst of their best season since at least 2011 and Virginia Tech at 4-6 in serious trouble of their first losing season since 1992, this looked like Virginia's best opportunity to end the Hokies' reign of dominance in the Commonwealth Cup rivalry.
Despite the records, this game turned out to be as even of a game as we've seen with a back and forth second half including an incredible Virginia Tech drive inside the final 3 minutes with a Steven Peoples fumble being recovered by Hezekiah Grimsley in the end zone to set up overtime.
From there, the Hokies' offense did nothing other than a Brian Johnson 43-yard field goal after an 0-3 run for Ryan Willis. However, the Hokies had one more moment to remember and Virginia had one they'll hope to someday forget as Bryce Perkins and Jordan Ellis botched a handoff with Emmanuel Belmar recovering it to win the game and extend the Hokies' winning streak to 15.
Virginia Tech won the game 34-31 over Virginia to improve to 5-6 overall including 4-4 in ACC play while Virginia fell to 7-5 on the season including 5-3 in the ACC play. With the win, the Hokies will face Marshall next Saturday at noon in search of their sixth win to extend their bowl streak to 26 years.
The Hokies' win was a wild game of twists and turns with the Hokies taking a 14-0 lead at halftime before Virginia scored four touchdowns on their first four second half possessions to take a 28-24 lead. However, after UVA took a 31-24 from a Ryan Willis interception, Virginia Tech put together an insane three-play stretch starting with an incredible third down catch by Dalton Keene on a prayer from Willis and capped off by Steven Peoples run and fumble recovered by Hezekiah Grimsley in the end zone for a touchdown.
In overtime, the Hokies found just enough with Brian Johnson making a 43-yard field goal that would be the difference before the Hokies' defense recovered the game-ending fumble in a night where turnovers provided plenty of twists and turns.
Special teams had their ups and downs, but mostly their positives in the Hokies' favor from Tre Turner's blocked punt recovered for a touchdown by Jovonn Quillen to a pair of muffed punts by Virginia and a 43-yard game-winning field goal for Brian Johnson. After giving up a punt return touchdown last week to Jeff Thomas, special teams made a big difference for the Hokies in the outcome of this game.
Virginia Tech opened the game with the football after a touchback by Virginia and got the ball moving with four gains of 5+ yards including a 14-yard completion to Eric Kumah to get the ball past midfield. A few plays later, Ryan Willis converted a 4th and 1 read option to keep the Hokies' drive moving. However, the Hokies' drive stalled out after that with Jordan Stout missing a 43-yard field goal.
Virginia's first possession didn't last long as a illegal block below the waste set up a three and out for the Cavaliers. Virginia Tech gained 15 yards via a roughing the passer to move into Virginia territory to start their drive. However, the Hokies weren't able to do much after that with minimal gains before a short-field punt that went out the back of the end zone.
Virginia's next possession was once again defined by a penalty with a first down false start putting the Cavaliers behind the sticks before the Hokies held UVA to a singular completion and their second 3 and out. The Hokies' offense didn't have much a response with one first down before a Hezekiah Grimsley drop on third down ended VT's drive.
Virginia found their first offensive momentum of the day on their next possession with a pair of first downs despite a drop by Tavares Kelly on a wide open deep ball in between the two first downs. UVA ended the first quarter by gaining a first down via a short run from Jordan Ellis to get into VT territory. UVA kept the momentum going on the ground with a trio of first downs to get the ball inside the 15. However, Ricky Walker stepped up on the next play stripping the ball out of Bryce Perkins' hands with Dax Hollifield recovering the ball.
Virginia Tech came out quick with a 43-yard gain via Tre Turner of the jet sweep to start the drive and get the Hokies into UVA territory. However, the Hokies' drive stalled out after that with VT gaining only 1 more yard on their next 3 plays before punting. Virginia wasn't able to get much on their next possession either with one first down before a tackle for loss by Emmanuel Belmar and Ricky Walker stopped the UVA drive quickly.
The Hokies opened their next drive with a 15-yard play action screen completion to Chris Cunningham to get into Virginia territory. Deshawn McClease kept the momentum going with 19 yards on 2 plays before the Hokies got into the red zone via a completion to Hezekiah Grimsley. After that, Virginia Tech got their 1st first and goal via a screen pass to Steven Peoples. Then, Tre Turner had the highlight of his season with a one-handed touchdown catch from 7 yards on UVA's star CB Bryce Hall in what may be VT's catch of the year, giving the Hokies a 7-0 lead late in the 2nd quarter.
Virginia Tech's defense stepped up shutting down Virginia's offense and forcing a punt deep in UVA territory. Then, Tre Turner had another big play blocking the punt with Jovonn Quillen diving on the ball in the end zone to give the Hokies a 14-0 lead with 1:40 left in the first half.
The Hokies' defense kept their momentum going quickly holding UVA to a 3 and out with Justin Fuente using his final 2 timeouts to give the Hokies 1:14 and the ball at their own 18. Despite using those timeouts, the Hokies simply ran the ball for three-straight plays burning the clock down to 17 seconds along with forcing Virginia to burn 2 timeouts.
However, Virginia muffed the punt with Virginia Tech recovering it at the UVA 31. On the next play, Ryan Willis threw an interception to Tim Harris who seemed bound to score before Willis chased him down less than 20 yards away from the end zone, preserving the Hokies 14-0 lead at halftime.
Tre Turner was the star of the first half with two catches for 13 yards including an impressive one-handed 7-yard touchdown catch against Bryce Hall, a blocked punt that Jovonn Quillen recovered for a touchdown, and a 43-yard carry.
Ryan Willis was so-so in the first half going 8-15 for 72 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception while running for 7 yards on 3 carries. However, Willis' biggest play came at the end of the half when the Hokies' starting QB made a touchdown-saving tackle to end the half on the Tim Harris interception where Harris seemed gone.
Steven Peoples was second in the first half in rushing with 7 carries for 33 yards while Deshawn McClease had 4 carries for 31 yards. Chris Cunningham had a solid first half with 2 catches for 21 yards while Hezekiah Grimsley had 2 catches for 18 yards.
Ricky Walker was the star of the first half defensively with a forced fumble on Bryce Perkins, 3 tackles, and 0.5 tackles for loss. Rayshard Ashby led the Hokies with five first half tackles while Dax Hollifield had 4 tackles. Robert Porcher IV was credited with a sack in the first half while Emmanuel Belmar had 3 tackles including an assisted tackle for loss.
Virginia converted a third down to get their opening drive of the second half going. Virginia's drive got a big boost when Bryce Perkins escaped the pocket and found Hasise Dubois for an 18-yard gain to get into VT territory. Virginia kept it moving with a pair of Jordan Ellis runs to get the ball inside the VT 30. On the next play, Perkins found Joe Reed, who beat Bryce Watts, for a 29-yard touchdown on a very nice catch to cut the Hokies lead to 14-7.
Virginia Tech found some momentum on the ground early on their opening second half drive with a 10-yard second down run from Steven Peoples. Virginia Tech had their first third down conversion of the first half with a 13-yard reception by Hezekiah Grimsley followed by a 17-yard gain from Grimsley on a jet sweep to get to the UVA 30. Ryan Willis kept it going with a 12-yard scramble for a first down on a 3rd and 10, one play after a Kyle Chung penalty wiped out a first down. The Hokies' drive stalled out inside the red zone, but Brian Johnson made a 31-yard field goal, giving VT their first points in the third quarter at home against FBS competition this season.
Virginia didn't need long for a response as Joe Reed made Divine Deablo and Khalil Ladler miss, taking the Bryce Perkins pass 75 yards for a touchdown to cut Virginia Tech's lead to 17-14. With the touchdown, this became the fifth-straight home game during which the Hokies allowed at least 14 points during the third quarter.
On the second play of the Hokies' next drive, Tre Turner had his latest big play taking a perfectly-thrown Ryan Willis pass 45 yards to the Virginia 29. Ryan Willis kept the drive going keeping a speed option and going 20 yards on a third down two plays later to set up a first and goal at the 3. Three plays later, Deshawn McClease opened the quarter by beating Virginia to the outside and diving into the endzone for a 2-yard touchdown to give Virginia Tech a 24-14 lead.
Virginia came out firing with Bryce Perkins keeping a read option and gaining 29 yards to the VT 46 to start the drive. A Bryce Watts pass interference moved Virginia deeper into Virginia Tech territory at the Hokies' 31. Virginia Tech and Virginia traded a pair of penalties leading to minimal movement to the VT 30. Perkins gave UVA some momentum with an 18-yard carry to get Virginia to the VT 13. On the next play, Jordan Ellis took the ball 13 yards for a touchdown to cut the Virginia Tech lead to 24-21 with 12:55 to go.
Deshawn McClease got the Hokies going on their next possession with a 9-yard second down gain to get VT their a first down. However, the Hokies' drive stalled out after that with Virginia Tech being forced to punt.
Virginia got to midfield quickly on their next drive with their second play being a 36-yard gain from Perkins to Olamide Zaccheaus. UVA kept it moving with a Perkins' 8-yard gain followed by an 11-yard completion to Terrell Jana. Two plays later, Perkins found Hasise Dubois who easily got away from Caleb Farley for a 29-yard touchdown to give UVA their first lead of the game at 28-24 with 6:51 to go.
Virginia Tech didn't have a response on their next drive with a 3 and out followed by Virginia muffing a punt, but recovering it quickly. However, Virginia Tech's defense finally stepped up with the Hokies getting their first defensive stop of the second half holding the Cavaliers to a 3 and out.
However, the Hokies' offense continued to sputter with Ryan Willis throwing his first pass away followed by 2 batted balls at the line of scrimmage with the latter one being intercepted by Charles Snowden at the UVA 11. The Hokies' defense prevented UVA from getting a first down, but Brian Delaney made a 28-yard field goal to give Virginia a 31-24 lead with 2:41 to go. However, that left the door open for the Hokies to have a chance for a comeback still.
Virginia Tech's offense continued to struggle, but Dalton Keene made an incredible catch on a third down prayer to gain 45 yards and get the Hokies to the UVA 30. After that, Willis scrambled away to find Tre Turner for an 11-yard gain to get the Hokies into the red zone. On the next play, Steven Peoples broke through, but fumbled with Hezekiah Grimsley recovering the fumble on a wild play in an end zone for a touchdown with Brian Johnson making the extra point to tie the game at 31.
Virginia Tech's defense stepped up again holding Virgnia to one first down before forcing a UVA punt. Steven Peoples then opened the Hokies' drive with a 13-yard carry to the UVA 37 with Ryan Willis spiking the ball with 30 seconds to go. Peoples gained 7 more on the next play while getting out of bounds with 25 seconds to go. Then, VT ran it for one-yard with Deshawn McClease with Virginia calling a timeout with 10 seconds to go, leading to a Virginia Tech punt that left 2 seconds on the clock at the UVA 4 before Virginia took a knee to send the game to overtime.
Virginia Tech was ineffective with three incompletions on their first overtime possession with Brian Johnson making a 43-yard field goal to give VT a 34-31 lead. However, disaster loomed for Virginia as a botched handoff on their second play was recovered by Emmanuel Belmar to win the game and the 15th straight victory over Virginia.
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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