Virginia Tech entered this week not only looking for a much better performance after last week's loss to Boston College but also looking for redemption for last year's loss to Old Dominion. While the Hokies were able to get redemption for last season, they left many fans feeling underwhelmed after two vastly different halves.
Virginia Tech beat Old Dominion 31-17 to improve to 1-0 on the season in front of just under 58,000; one of the smallest crowds for a home game in recent memory that was not a last minute schedule addition.
This game proved to be a tale of two halves as the first half went quite well as the Hokies' offense went on a trio of long drives and outgained ODU 238-70. More importantly, the Hokies had 0 turnovers in the first half with only one close call as the Hokies' passing attack was quite strong even with a running game that was lackluster outside the opening possession.
Defensively, Virginia Tech built on last week's strong second half only allowing 70 yards of offense while having three sacks. Additionally, the Hokies only had two first half penalties while also showing much improved tackling from what we saw last season.
However, after a solid start to the third quarter and an early touchdown to make it 24-3, Virginia Tech struggled from there as the Hokies' defense went Jekyll and Hyde on defense as VT missed their fair share of tackles with Stone Smartt looking like Michael Vick at times on the ground. Overall, the Tech defense gave up 254 yards in the second half in what was a head-scratching second half performance.
Meanwhile, the Hokies' passing attack was fairly good while the running game wasn't so much with a pair of fumbles from Ryan Willis and Deshawn McClease leaving the Hokies with a -2 turnover margin. Willis was also 5-8 through the air but had his fair share of struggles in what wasn't the most inspiring second half performance.
Yes, Virginia Tech did what they were supposed to in getting the win but outside of that, the Hokies leave this game with plenty of questions after a disappointing second half that felt like a different team after their quality, quick start in the third quarter.
Ryan Willis had a good but at times up-and-down game going 16-28 for 272 yards and 2 touchdowns while running for 34 yards including a touchdown. However, Willis, after a clean first half, had a fourth quarter fumble that was his fifth turnover in 2 games, an improvement from last week but still disappointing. Willis also came close to having an interception earlier in the game and still has some things to clean up.
Tayvion Robinson led the receiving corps with a strong game having 4 receptions for 62 yards. Meanwhile, Tre Turner had 3 catches for 60 yards with Hezekiah Grimsley having 2 catches for 45 yards including a spectacular touchdown, and Phil Patterson had 3 catches for 44 yards and a touchdown.
Deshawn McClease led the Hokies with 64 yards on 20 carries while Keshawn King had a 4-yard touchdown on his way to having 6 carries for 23 yards. However, the story after focused on King being benched during the first half for basically the rest of the game due to Justin Fuente's frustration with King's ball security. That play appeared to be after a weird situation in which King fumbled but the ruling was that forward progress ended the play, maintaining the Hokies' possession which VT appeared to know immediately while ODU did not.
Virginia Tech sought to establish the run on their opening drive with the first three plays being runs including 2 carries for 15 yards for Keshawn King. The Hokies opened it up in the air after that including a 32-yard gain for Tayvion Robinson, mostly due to yards after the catch that got them deep into ODU territory. Two plays later, the Hokies used a screen play to tight end to James Mitchell for a 20-yard gain to get themselves inside the 5. Keshawn King capped it off on the next play with his first career touchdown from four yards out, giving the Hokies a 7-0 lead 3.5 minutes into the game.
Old Dominion got better than normal field position at their own 35 after Brian Johnson sent his first kickoff of the day out of bounds. The Monarchs used all 3 downs to move the chains twice and get the ball inside the Virginia Tech 40. Lala Davis gave ODU their first big gain via an 11-yard run to push the Monarchs to the VT 25. However, the Hokies were able to get a stop even after an 8-yard third down carry from Chris Cunningham, holding the Monarchs to a field goal to hold on to a 7-3 lead.
Virginia Tech got their drive going with a second down pass interference that got them closer to midfield followed by a 20-yard gain for Tre Turner to get the Hokies into ODU territory. Three plays later, Ryan Willis found a wide open Hezekiah Grimsley down the field with Grimsley gaining several more yards after catch for a 36-yard gain to the ODU 6. However, the Hokies weren't able to punch it in the endzone with Brian Johnson making a 24-yard field goal to give the Hokies a 10-3 lead.
Old Dominion gained one first down via a 12-yard reception from Eric Kumah but couldn't get much going after that with Chamarri Conner picking up his first career sack on first down followed by Jermaine Waller's first career sack on a great cornerback blitz on third down. However, the Hokies were unable to do much on their next possession going three and out including a Tayvion Robinson drop that could've been a first down if he caught it.
Old Dominion used a second down end around for a first down early on the drive but a tripping penalty on first down set up a 1st and 21. From there, ODU QB Stone Smartt missed a wide open receiver on second down, instead being sacked by Jaylen Griffin, the first of his career, before punting two plays later.
The Hokies opened their drive with an 11-yard completion to Phil Patterson that got them into Old Dominion territory. Three plays later, Patterson had another big gain catching a third down and making a pair of guys miss to gain 20 yards. After Ryan Willis ran for a first down on a third and medium play, Hezekiah Grimsley made an impressive 9-yard touchdown catch having to juggle the ball before bringing it in just before hitting the ground to give the Hokies a 17-3 lead with 5:17 left in the first half.
The Hokies' defense built on the momentum with a quick three and out as ODU wasn't able to do much of anything. After VT had two rushing plays go nowhere, Tayvion Robinson took a short crossing route 17 yards for a first down to get the Hokies near midfield. The Hokies got into ODU territory two plays later via a 13-yard reception from Kaleb Smith. The Hokies used a solid gain from Robinson and short rush by Deshawn McClease to get deeper into ODU territory. However, a sack and a holding penalty by Lecitus Smith put the Hokies behind the chains with Deshawn McClease having a 14-yard third down carry to give VT a chance. However, Brian Johnson missed the field goal from 54 yards with ODU kneeling to end the first half.
Virginia Tech was dominant overall in the first half outgaining Old Dominion 238-70 in the first 30 minutes. The biggest improvement came in the turnover category with the Hokies having 0 first half turnovers though Ryan Willis came close to an interception late in the first half. Meanwhile, the Hokies' defense had another strong half holding ODU to an aforementioned 70 yards while having 3 sacks from Chamarri Conner, Jermaine Waller, and Jaylen Griffin. Bud Foster showed off his defensive mind with plenty of misdirection especially with the Waller sack as the Hokies' defense found their rhythm.
Ryan Willis had a good first half overall going 11-20 for 191 yards and a touchdown along with 3 carries for 4 yards. Virginia Tech had 6 different receivers with receptions in the first half highlighted by Tayvion Robinson who had 4 catches for 62 yards and Hezekiah Grimsley with 2 catches for 45 yards including an impressive nine-yard touchdown catch. Keshawn King also made a big splash with 6 carries for 23 yards including his first career touchdown coming on a four-yard carry.
Rayshard Ashby led the Hokies in the first half with 6 total tackles as the Hokies' mike linebacker continues to be extremely reliable in the heart of the Hokies' defense. Chamarri Conner had plenty of big plays with 3 tackles, 2 of which came for loss including a sack while Jermaine Waller also had 3 tackles including a sack.
Old Dominion started the second half with a pair of plays involving former Hokies Eric Kumah and Chris Cunningham that combined for no yards. While, a 15-yard Caleb Farley pass interference penalty on third down kept the ODU drive alive, the Monarchs were not able do anything else before a rugby style punt pinned the Hokies inside their own 10.
Virginia Tech continued their improved third quarters going as the Hokies opened their drive with a beautiful 32-yard gain from Ryan Willis to Tre Turner. The Hokies used some moderated gains to drive into ODU territory including 14 total yards over 3 plays from Deshawn McClease before McClease had a 21-yard carry a few plays later to get the Hokies in the red zone. Virginia Tech used two moderate gains to set up a first and goal by a 1 that they capitalized on two plays later with a Ryan Willis touchdown run to give the Hokies a 24-3 lead.
Old Dominion was able to make a couple solid gains on their next drive with an 11-yard Stone Smartt scramble getting ODU into Virginia Tech territory. Three plays later, Old Dominion had a 25-yard completion from Smartt to Jake Herslow to get into the redzone. A pass interference by Caleb Farley set Old Dominion up with a first and goal at the Hokies' 3 with Stone Smartt finishing it off with a touchdown on the next play to cut the Hokies' lead to 24-10.
After a loss on first down, Virginia Tech got their drive with a 19-yard reception by Kaleb Smith right before the end of the third quarter. However, the Hokies weren't able to get much going beyond that before punting.
A 26-yard scramble by Stone Smartt got Old Dominion going to near midfield before Smartt had another impressive 33-yard run two plays later to get into the redzone. Smartt then capped it off with a 15-yard touchdown run to cut the Virginia Tech lead to 24-17 with 13:15 to go.
Terius Wheatley gave the Hokies some much-needed momentum with a long return that set Virginia Tech up at the Old Dominion 17. After going back and forth for a few plays, Virginia Tech got the touchdown they needed with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Willis to Phil Patterson to give the Hokies a 31-17 lead with 11:56 to go.
After failing to get a first down on their first 3 plays, Stone Smartt converted on fourth down with a scramble that got just enough to convert the 4th and 3. That helped ODU get going with Lala Davis gaining 14 yards two plays later to get ODU to the 50. However, Virginia Tech was able to shut ODU down with Robert Porcher IV and Jarrod Hewitt sacking Smartt on fourth down to give the Hokies' offense possession at the 45.
Ryan Willis started the possession with a 13-yard scramble, but Willis fumbled at the end and was called as such after the play with Old Dominion recovering it near midfield. However, Old Dominion was able to do nothing and simply punted it away.
Hendon Hooker came out at quarterback on the Hokies' next possession with the Hokies looking to run down the clock with Hooker gaining a first down on a 3rd and 1 to get VT moving. However, Deshawn McClease fumbled the ball on the next play with Old Dominion getting the ball in Virginia Tech territory but 15 yards deeper after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Monarchs.
Old Dominion's first play saw Stone Smartt make a short gain but suffer an injury that brought in backup Messiah DeWeaver. With their backup QB in, ODU was able to convert a fourth down via a scramble from DeWeaver to get the Monarchs a first down. Kesean Strong made a Hokie miss for a double-digit gain that got ODU into the red zone at the Virginia Tech 16. After a first down holding penalty, starting QB Stone Smartt returned to the game but was unable to do anything with a near interception on a 3rd and 18 and Caleb Farley breaking up the fourth down pass.
Virginia Tech came back out with a purely running package again with Hendon Hooker, but went 3 and out. ODU was able to get a good early gain from Stone Smartt to Steven Williams to get a first down. ODU kept it going with a fourth down conversion via a 26-yard Lala Davis run. However, a sack from Emmanuel Belmar and Mario Kendricks stopped ODU momentum though Belmar suffered an injury on the play. ODU gained 13 yards on their final play as the clock ran out on a 31-17 victory for Virginia Tech.