It was a wild game in Blacksburg with an environment fitting for a big time college football game but in a game of inches, Virginia Tech came up just a few inches short against #14 Notre Dame.
The Hokies fell 32-29 to the Fighting Irish after Jonathan Doerer made a 48-yard field goal with 18 seconds left. The loss drops Tech to 3-2 on the season while Notre Dame improves to 5-1 with a big bounce back victory after their home loss to Cincinnati last week.
One of the issues offensively came in the red zone as the Hokies turned only 2 of their 4 red zone appearances into touchdowns with 2 field goals on the others. The most egregious came in the second quarter when Tech had 1st and goal at the 1 and got cute which was headlined by a play action rollout from Connor Blumrick rather than going with some QB sneaks.
This came as Notre Dame scored touchdowns on all 4 of their red zone appearances with those failures to convert in the red zone proving costly.
Tech was outgained 401 to 321 with Tech's defense struggling down the stretch to contain Jack Coan and not handling the ejection of Dax Hollifield. Tech also had issues initially when Tyler Buchner was brought in which came right after the failure inside the 1 yard line. However, Justin Hamilton and Tech's defense adjusted and contained the mobile Buchner forcing him into passing errors including the big pick 6 by Jermaine Waller.
This was the first time Tech has given up 30+ points this season which says a lot about the improvement of this defense this season, but also shows how this unit has some work to do before facing a talented Kenny Pickett who is having a breakout year that has some calling him a Heisman sleeper.
Quarterback will be a point of conversation after both Braxton Burmeister and Connor Blumrick suffered injuries with Burmeister returning after Blumrick's injury.
Burmeister had an up-and-down performance going 15-30 for 184 yards and 1 INT plus 10 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown on what was a performance full of guts but also some inconsistency. Blumrick went 2-4 for 3 yards while running for 29 yards on 5 carries though his injury situation appears worse than Burmeister given Tech's starting QB's return.
Tre Turner had 6 catches for 80 yards to jump to tenth all-time in receptions at Virginia Tech plus 2 carries for 10 yards though he'll probably be wishing he can have late drop back. Tayvion Robinson had 5 catches for 53 yards while Raheem Blackshear was the leading rusher among non-QBs for Tech with 8 carries for 35 yards and a touchdown.
Nasir Peoples led Tech's defense with 12 tackles plus a big interception while Jermaine Waller had 5 tackles plus the big interception return for a touchdown. Amare Barno had a better game with 6 tackles including a sack plus a QB hurry while Dax Hollifield had 8 tackles but his late targeting (that was a bizarre call) will cause him to be suspended against Pittsburgh for the first half.
In the end, Virginia Tech was up 8 points entering the final 4 minutes with all the momentum. Notre Dame found something with Jack Coan, but the Hokies just had no answers crumbling defensively while the offense misfired from an overthrown out pass by Braxton Burmeister to a drop from Tre Turner.
Additionally, there was some valuable time lost as Justin Fuente didn't get the timeout till about 8 seconds trickled off before the field while Malachi Thomas' decision to return the kickoff cost another 5, basically taking away 2 plays.
While those are quite bad, there are a multitude of other missteps that incorporate both execution and playcalling errors that caused the Hokies to come up short in a game that was there for the taking.
Football is a game of inches and once again, Tech made a couple too many missteps that have them falling to 3-2 instead of being at 5-0. In a wide open 2021 season of chaos, the heartbreaking nature of Tech's losses will give fans plenty of nightmares and rightly raise even more questions about Justin Fuente's ability to get the job done and restore Tech to the level that they should be at but are far from currently.