Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
Virginia Tech seemed bound for a Tennessee losing to Georgia State level after falling behind 14-3 in the first half with an offensive disaster where two turnovers set up two Furman touchdowns. However, the Hokies turned it around in the second half and found a way to avoid what would have been a rock bottom moment for the Virginia Tech program even as Furman nearly pulled off a last second comeback.
Virginia Tech beat Furman 24-17 thanks to 21-straight second half points to improve to 2-1 on the season with Furman falling to 1-2.
Two turnovers and an offense that couldn't take advantage of good field position combined with Furman taking advantage of turnovers buried the Hokies in the first half. Yes, the VT defense wasn't perfect but it was the Hokies' defense that kept Virginia Tech in this game. VT's offense got their running game going in the second half with Keshawn King putting on a show and receivers taking advantage of jet sweeps on a day where the passing game was mostly ineffective.
The Hokies outgained Furman 353-231, showing how turnovers gave Furman extra opportunities while 5 penalties came largely at drive-killing moments for VT. Tech did get the job done though on third down going 8-14 while holding the Paladins to 5-14.
Ryan Willis may have gone 17-21 but his 1 interception and 123 total passing yards combined with poor decisions on RPOs and other plays failed to inspire confidence in the Hokies' signal caller.
Keshawn King put on a show with 12 carries for 119 yards on 2 catches for 16 yards as one of the few bright spots on what was a day that raised more questions about Justin Fuente than inspired confidence about this season. Tre Turner had a first half fumble, but was quite good outside of that with 5 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown and 4 catches for 29 yards and a touchdown. Tayvion Robinson had 4 catches for a team-high 31 receiving yards along with a 21-yard carry while Deshawn McClease only had 10 carries for 24 yards.
Chamarri Conner was impressive with 8 tackles including 1 sack while Emmanuel Belmar also played well with 7 tackles including 1.5 sacks and 2 QB hurries. Dax Hollifield led the Hokies with 10 total tackles while Eli Adams had 7 tackles and a QB hurry in his first start for Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech opened with a poor return and a false start that put them in a poor spot with a 1st and 15 at their own 6. However, the Hokies were able to get out of there quickly with a solid couple plays involving Keshawn King before a 22-yard reception for Kaleb Smith on a crossing pattern got the Hokies moving. However, another false start penalty put the Hokies behind the chains with a 1st and 15 with VT being unable to make up the damage that was done especially with Ryan Willis being sacked on second down.
Virginia Tech's defense stepped up though holding Furman to a 3 and out that included DaShawn Crawford's first career sack, leading to a tough punt that gave the Hokies the ball at the Furman 44. The Hokies followed with a few short to moderate runs along with a screen play to get the ball moving deeper into Furman territory. However, after two first downs, the Hokies were unable to convert a third with Brian Johnson making a 35-yard field goal to give the Hokies a 3-0 lead.
Furman went 3 and out on their second drive of the game highlighted by a second down sack from Chamarri Conner. The Hokies had a big 16-yard gain from Keshawn King to open the drive before a Tre Turner gave Furman the ball in Virginia Tech territory.
Furman had their first big offensive play after the fumble with Devin Wynn gaining 20 to get the Paladins to the VT 21. A second down sack followed by a 12-yard gain on third down gave Furman a fourth and 1 at the VT 12, but a Jarrod Hewitt offsides gave Furman a first and goal at the 7. Two plays later, Furman opened the second quarter with a four-yard touchdown run from Devin Abrams.
Virginia Tech had a couple solid plays but a false start on Silas Dzansi led to a 3rd and 1 becoming a 3rd and 6 that was followed by Ryan Willis being sacked with Furman getting the ball at their own 49. Virginia Tech's defense was able to hold Furman to their third 3 and out in 4 possessions before Ryan Willis wildly overthrew Hezekiah Grimsley for his fourth interception of the season, giving Furman the ball in VT territory.
Furman got the ball moving on this possession with an eight-yard gain on second down through the air to set up a 3rd and 1 at the VT 33 before converting with a 2-yard gain on the ground. Furman converted enough third and short to get the ball into the Hokies' red zone at the VT 18 after a couple small to moderate gains. Three plays later, Darren Grainger escaped the pocket and took it to the house from 15 yards out to give Furman a 14-3 lead with 5:35 to go in the second quarter.
Virginia Tech was able to have a better start to their drive with a 11-yard completion to Tayvion Robinson followed by a 17-yard third down gain by Tre Turner three plays later. Virginia Tech got their running game on the next two plays with a 6-yard gain from Keshawn King followed by a 12-yard jet sweep from Tre Turner. A first down sack put the Hokies behind the chains before Brian Johnson had his long field goal hit the left upright and drop short.
After no gain on first down, Darren Grainger gained 15 yards on the ground on second down to get Furman near midfield, giving Furman a chance to push to open an even wider lead before halftime. However, Furman wasn't able to do much of anything after that with the clock running out as the Paladins led the Hokies 14-3.
Offensively, Virginia Tech was a train wreck with 2 turnovers costing the Hokies dearly as VT had turnovers within the first 2 plays of their drives, sending a tired defense back out on the field. While the Hokies' defense had their mistakes, they also weren't that bad allowing only 107 yards of offense compared to 127 for Furman including a trio of 3 and outs forced on Furman's first 4 possessions.
Ryan Willis may have been 9-12 for 81 yards but his interception was a major mistake that set the Hokies up for failure while he also wasn't able to consistently make plays. Keshawn King led the ground game with 6 carries for 38 yards showing why he is clearly the Hokies' best running back while Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson each had a pair of receptions for 20+ yards. Chamarri Conner led the defense with 6 first half tackles including a sack while Dax Hollifield had 5 tackles of his own.
Furman started their first drive of the second half with a pair of solid gaines from Darren Grainger and Devin Wynn. However, the Hokies' defense tightened up and stopped the Furman offense just before midfield, getting the ball at their own 17 for their first possession.
Keshawn King launched the Hokies on their next drive with a 15-yard carry followed by a 54-yard gain to get the Hokies to the Furman 14. VT cut their distance to the endzone in half on the next play with a 7-yard gain from Tre Turner off a jet sweep. Three plays later, Virginia Tech scored their first touchdown of the game via a three-yard carry from James Mitchell.
The Hokies forced a turnover of their own as Dax Hollifield forced a fumble almost immediately that was recoverd by VT at the Furman 26. Tre Turner then started the drive with a 9-yard carry before a short completion by James Mitchell gave the Hokies a first down in the red zone. Ryan Willis then gained 12 on the ground before throwing a two-yard touchdown to Tre Turner to give the Hokies a 17-14 lead, their first since the end of the first quarter.
Furman picked up 15 yards on their first 2 plays but the Hokies stopped them before midfield with Paladins starting QB Darren Grainger leaving the field with an injury during this drive.
Virginia Tech started the drive with a 7-yard gain from Keshawn King followed by a 10-yard gain by Tayvion Robinson on a 3rd and 9 after a Ryan Willis got VT to their own 20 followed by a 13-yard gain via Keshawn King on a screen two plays later. However, the Hokies' drive stalled out there while King left during that drive to go to the locker room with a trainer.
Furman QB Darren Grainger returned with the Paladins using a pair of moderate gains on the ground to get a first down and get their drive going to end the third quarter. Furman then gained a first down near midfield after a 15-yard pass interference on third down by Divine Deablo. However, an Emmanuel Belmar sack and Furman false start set up a 3rd and 18 that buried the Paladins drive and led to a punt.
Virginia Tech used a screen and a pair of runs from Deshawn McClease and Ryan Willis to get their opening first down of the possession at the VT 29. Ryan Willis suffered a sack on first down and though they gained 11 back on a completion to Dalton Keene, Willis had a wild incompletion that ended the drive.
However, Furman gave the ball back quickly as Caleb Farley intercepted an overthrown Darren Grainger pass on the second play of the Paladin drive. Virginia Tech got their drive going quickly with Tayvion Robinson gaining 21 yards off a jet sweep on the second play of the drive. Ryan Willis suffered an injury though two plays later after a hard hit near the ribs/hip on his right side with Hendon Hooker coming in after that. On the next play, Tre Turner took it 29 yards for a touchdown off a jet sweep to give Virginia Tech a 24-14 lead with 5:04 to go.
Furman kept their rushing attack going and gained a first down on the ground near midfield to start their drive. Furman then had a 13-yard gain on a 2nd and 15 to give themselves a chance to get into VT territory and did just that as Devin Abrams gained 48 to get to the VT 3. However, the Paladins weren't able to punch it in, settling for a field goal to make it a one-possession game at 24-17 with just under 2 minutes to go.
Furman then recovered an onside kick but a block that was too soon forced the Paladins to re-kick with the Hokies recovering. Ryan Willis returned to start this possession with Tre Turner sealing the victory with an 11-yard gain off a second down jet sweep.