Virginia Tech-Syracuse seemed set to be a low-scoring defensive fight but both teams had their best offensive games in ACC action for the Orange and of the season for the Hokies. Unfortunately for Hokie fans, Virginia Tech didn't have enough offense when they needed it while Syracuse had a 42-yard passing touchdown to Damien Alford right at the end with the Hokies blowing an 8+ point lead for the second time in 3 games and the game ending in a sea of "Fire Fuente" chants.
Virginia Tech fell to Syracuse 41-36 as the Hokies fell to 3-4 overall including 1-2 in the ACC while the Orange improved to 4-4 including 1-3 in ACC play. This comes as Tech had a 9-point lead in the fourth quarter but were unable to hold on, the second time in 3 games that they blew a lead of 8 or more points in the final 10 minutes of a game.
The Hokies' offense found their rhythm as they averaged 6.6 yards per play and had a season high 437 yards of total offense. That was rooted in the fact that Tech found some offensive identity again as a run-first football team with the Hokies running the ball averaging 6.8 yards per carry on a day when they ran it 44 times.
Tech's defense had all sorts of fits with Garrett Shrader who had his best game for the Orange who threw for 236 yards and 2 touchdowns, and ran for 174 and 3 touchdowns as Tech had no answers for the Orange's mobile QB. This was just a bad across the board defensively as Syracuse averaged 7 yards per play after averaging over 8 in the first half.
Tech's pass rush had flashes but struggled as a whole while failing the contain Shrader which proved critical to keep Syracuse's final game-winning drive alive. Meanwhile, Tech's secondary had a rough day with Dorian Strong struggling, and appearing to be a little banged up at times, while their safeties and nickelbacks didn't have great days either.
Special teams were big for the Hokies as John Parker Romo made a pair of field goals including a 48-yarder while Tech most importantly blocked a Syracuse extra point (Chamarri Conner had the block) with Dorian Strong returning it for 2 points, creating a crucial 3-point swing. Tayvion Robinson also had a good returning punts though Tech's kick returns were average outside of the wrong decision once again by a Tech return man, this time Malachi Thomas, to return a kick instead of fair catching it.
Malachi Thomas was the unexpected and biggest star for the Hokies as he was the surprise bell cow RB and a stud with 21 carries for 151 yards and 3 touchdowns in what was a breakout game that should have him as part of a two-man tandem going forward. Raheem Blackshear was a strong, change-of-pace compliment with 78 yards on 10 carries plus a 30-yard reception on a screen play.
Braxton Burmeister had a solid day going 10-20 for 177 yards and 1 touchdown while running for 14 yards (with that number being less due to sacks). Tayvion Robinson led Tech receivers with 3 catches for 57 yards while Kaleb Smith had 2 catches for 48 yards and Drake DeIuliis had a 22-yard touchdown reception. Tre Turner also passed Antonio Freeman on Tech's all-time reception list with his 2 catches for 12 yards plus 2 carries for 19 yards.
Nasir Peoples and Tae Daley shared the team lead in tackles with 11 each as Daley had one of his for loss plus a forced fumble while Peoples also had a pass breakup. Dax Hollifield had 9 tackles including 0.5 sacks plus 2 QB hurries while Alan Tisdale had 7 tackles with 2 pass breakups and 1 QB hurry. Amare Barno had 3 tackles and 2 QB hurries while Brion Murray had a tackle and 2 pass breakups.
Yes, this was a solid day for the offense, but the Hokies once again blew a large late game with a 9-point, two-score lead well in the fourth quarter being something that shouldn't be blown especially against a Syracuse offense that may have played well today but hadn't all year.
This is also the third three-game home losing streak in 4 years, something that happened only twice under Frank Beamer as mentioned by David Teel of the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Twitter. That combined with Tech potentially headed towards their third losing season in four years continues to make it clearer that the Hokies are headed for a coaching change.
And that seems more than fair given how the Hokies have fallen over the past four years with issues in all facets headlined by a lack of program identity causing a spiral.
After the game, Justin Fuente was asked about if he's feeling the pressure and gave a tense answer that, while deflecting that he's thinking about it, seemed to show that the reality of an impending coaching change in Blacksburg is setting in on everyone including the Hokies' current head coach.
From that answer to the "Fire Fuente" chants, the winds of impending change are blowing harder and harder in Blacksburg with everyone feeling them.