After extending their win streak over Virginia to 15, many wondered if Virginia Tech could build on that momentum to extend their bowl streak to 26-straight against a Marshall team on a 3-game winning streak at 8-3 overall.
Many expected this to be a close game given the Thundering Herd's strong season and very good defense, but the Hokies had other ideas.
Virginia Tech used a dominant 31-6 first half to beat Marshall 41-20 and improve to 6-6 on the season (4-4 ACC), earning the Hokies' 26th-straight bowl appearance. Meanwhile, Marshall fell to 8-4 on the season (6-2 Conference USA).
The Hokies' offense shined in the first half putting up 31 points while the Hokies' defense forced a pair of turnovers and picked up a fourth down stop to shut down Marshall's offense. VT's passing game was particularly impressive as Willis went 12-16 for 254 yards and 4 touchdowns with the Hokies' offense having 306 yards in the first half.
The Hokies' offense wasn't as good in the second half, but they were able to do enough to keep Virginia Tech well out in front of their opponents controlling the clock and avoiding any turnovers.
VT's defense relied on turnovers in the first half giving up 235 yards but only 6 points while allowing Brenden Knox to have 158 yards on 15 carries. However, the Hokies' defense was able to play better to start the second half before giving up some yards down the stretch as they brought in some backups.
Ryan Willis was very good going 18-26 for 312 yards and 4 touchdowns in what was one of his best games of the season especially after a 12-16 first half where he had 254 yards and 4 touchdowns. After struggling with accuracy during the past few weeks, Willis made several great throws down the field that gave the Hokies plenty of big plays and multiple touchdowns in what was a great performance for the redshirt junior QB.
Tre Turner led the Hokies' receiving corps with 3 catches for 99 yards including a touchdown in what was another very good performance for Turner. Meanwhile, Hezekiah Grimsley had 2 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown while Eric Kumah had 4 catches for 63 yards and a touchdown and Dalton Keene had 5 catches for 20 yards.
Steven Peoples led the rushing attack with 14 carries for 78 yards and a 7-yard touchdown reception. Deshawn McClease had 2 catches for 57 yards and 8 carries for 10 yards while Jalen Holston had 4 carries for 54 yards including a 40-yard touchdown carry in the second half.
Defensively, Rayshard Ashby led the way with a career high 15 tackles including one for loss along with 2 QB hurries. Meanwhile, Ricky Walker had 6 tackles including a strip sack on the first non-special teams play of the game while Dax Hollifield had 9 tackles. Bryce Watts had his first career interception during the first half along with 2 tackles and 1 pass breakup.
Virginia Tech built off the momentum of last week's win against Virginia and appears to be carrying some confidence that was missing during much of October and November. In addition, the Hokies' young roster should benefit from the fact that they'll have another month of practice to get back to the basics and develop as football players, something that should help VT out a lot.
Virginia Tech came out firing on defense with Ricky Walker forcing a fumble on a sack that was recovered by TyJuan Garbutt at the Marshall 17. However, Virginia Tech's offense went 3 and out with Brian Johnson making a 32-yard field goal to give the Hokies a 3-0 lead.
Marshall's next offensive possession started a little better with Isaiah Green gaining a first down on a 3rd and 10 scramble. Marshall kept it going with a pair of back-to-back first down gains a couple plays including a 27-yard gain from Green to Armani Levias on a broken pass play to get fairly deep into VT territory. The Herd moved into the red zone two plays later with a 12-yard pass play to Tyre Brady. However, Virginia Tech had another turnover coming with Bryce Watts getting his first career interception off of an overthrown pass by Isaiah Green in the end zone, giving VT the ball at their 20.
Virginia Tech started their next drive with five-straight runs including an 8-yard gain from Ryan Willis on a third and short. The Hokies used their first pass play for an 18-yard gain to Hezekiah Grimsley to move into Marshall territory after those five run plays. A couple plays later, Willis once again found Grimsley who was wide open on a well-run slant route and took it 46 yards for a touchdown to give the Hokies a 10-0 lead.
VT's defense came out strong holding Marshall to their first 3 and out of the day with VT getting the ball near midfield. However, the Hokies' offense didn't have much with a second down sack of Ryan Willis dooming VT to a 3 and out.
Marshall found their first huge play on the second play of the drive with Brenden Knox breaking out for a 67-yard before Bryce Watts chased him down inside the VT 5 to prevent a touchdown. However, Marshall scored three plays later via a 2-yard touchdown from Knox, but Marshall missed the extra point, giving VT a 10-6 lead to end the first quarter.
Virginia Tech had a quick start on their next possession with a 16-yard gain to Tre Turner to start before a pair of carries by Steven Peoples and Ryan Willis put VT in Marshall territory. On the next play, Ryan Willis found an open Tre Turner in the end zone on a post route for a 45-yard touchdown to give the Hokies a 17-6 lead early in the second quarter.
Marshall started out their next drive with a pair of first down gains to get the ball almost to midfield. However, Marshall's offense stalled out after that with the Hokies getting back-to-back stops on third and fourth down with 1 to gain, giving the Hokies the ball at their 42. However, the Hokies went 3 and out on their next possession and had Marshall pinned inside their 20 if it wasn't for Jovonn Quillen catching the punt while bumping into the Marshall punt returner, leading to a 15-yard fair catch interference penalty.
Marshall found their ground game on the next possession with Brenden Knox gaining 38 yards on the second play of the drive. However, the Marshall stalled out with a near sack turning into a big third down loss via Rayshard Ashby on a dump away screen pass with Marshall's fourth down QB pooch pass going through the endzone for a touchback.
Virginia Tech started out their next drive with a pair of solid plays before a clearout screen pass gave Deshawn McClease lots of room to gain 54 yards to the Marshall 13. Three plays later, Willis found an open Steven Peoples as he was looking to scramble for a 7-yard touchdown pass to give the Hokies a 24-6 lead.
Marshall wasn't able to find much on their next possession before punting with Damon Hazelton returning it to the VT 37. From there, the Hokies got the ball moving with multiple double-digit gains by an 11-yard Steven Peoples carry and a 20-yard Eric Kumah reception to move into Marshall territory. Two plays later, Willis found Eric Kumah on a streak down the left sideline for a 32-yard touchdown to extend Virginia Tech's lead to 31-6 late in the first half. Marshall ran out the clock after that to send the game to halftime.
Ryan Willis had one of the best halves of football of his career going 12-16 for 254 yards and 4 touchdowns with lots of great throws down the football field. After weeks of regression, Willis found the accuracy that had completely gone away over the past few weeks.
Virginia Tech had 4 players with 50+ receiving yards in the first half with Hezekiah Grimsley leading VT with 2 receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown. Eric Kumah had 3 receptions for 61 yards and a TD while Tre Turner had 2 receptions for 61 yards with all three starting WRs being over 60 yards. Steven Peoples led the Hokies' RBs with 5 carries for 30 yards and a 7-yard touchdown reception while Deshawn McClease had a 54-yard reception and 11 yards on 5 carries.
Defensively, Rayshard Ashby led the charge with 11 tackles including 1 for loss while Dax Hollifield had 7 tackles and Ricky Walker had 5 tackles including a strip sack fumble recovered by TyJuan Garbutt. Bryce Watts has started to emerge as a quality cornerback and had his first career interception in the first half along with 2 tackles and an additional pass breakup.
Virginia Tech's offense put on an aerial display on their way to outgaining Marshall 306-235. Meanwhile, the Hokies' rush defense struggled giving up 8 yards per carry including 158 yards and a TD to Brenden Knox on 15 carries. However, the Hokies' defense was able to force some turnovers to help blow the score wide open with a strip sack via Ricky Walker and an interception in the end zone from Bryce Watts.
Virginia Tech's offense started out the second half strong with a 38-yard gain from Willis to Turner on the second play of the Hokies' opening drive. However, the Hokies' offense stalled out after Ryan Willis took a pair of sacks that took VT out of field goal range. Despite that, Oscar Bradburn and the Hokies' punt coverage unit were able to pin Marshall at their own 4. Virginia Tech's defense was able to take avantage holding Marshall to a 3 and out with Damon Hazelton and an illegal formation penalty on Marshall giving VT the ball at the Marshall 43.
However, Virginia Tech's offense went 3 and out, but Oscar Bradburn had another great punt to pin Marshall at their own 7. Marshall wasn't able to get anything going on their next possession as the Hokies held the Thundering Herd to their second 3 and out to start the second half.
Virginia Tech used their rushing game to move into Marshall territory thanks to a 12-yard carry from Steven Peoples. Virginia Tech kept it moving with multiple 6-9 yard gains to move into the Marshall red zone. VT's drive stalled out in the red zone, but Brian Johnson made the 32-yard field goal to give the Hokies a 34-6 lead late in the third quarter.
Marshall picked up their first 1st down of the second half on a 12-yard reception to Tyre Brady with a 21-yard reception by Obi Obialo moving Marshall into VT territory. On the next play, Isaiah Green found Reggie Gaines for a 34-yard touchdown to cut the Virginia Tech lead to 34-13 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Virginia Tech's drive took advantage of a defensive holding to gain their opening first down of the drive, but weren't able to get much going after that. Marshall started out their next drive with a double-digit gain from Brenden Knox before a Jarrod Hewitt personal foul moved the ball into VT territory. Marshall took advantage with a 25-yard gain to Marcel Williams to move right outside the red zone. However, the Thundering Herd's drive stalled out before Tyree Rodgers had a tackle for loss on fourth down to end the Herd's drive.
Virginia Tech used a completion to Dalton Keene and a carry for moderate gain by Steven Peoples to gain a first down before a fourth down offsides on Marshall gave the Hokies a new first down. After steadily getting into Marshall territory, Jalen Holston broke out on third down to take the ball 40 yards for a touchdown, extending the Hokies lead to 41-13.
Marshall gained a first down on the following possession via Brenden Knox, before converting a fourth down with an 18-yard completion to Armani Levias. Isaiah Green pushed Marshall deeper into VT territory with a 15-yard scramble followed by a 20-yard completion to Reggie Gaines to set up a first and goal at the VT 5. Two plays later, Brenden Knox ran it in from 5 yards to cut the Hokies' lead to 41-20 late in the fourth quarter. After that, the Marshall onside kick went out of bounds with VT running out the clock on their final drive.
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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