There have been plenty of great moments over the years for Virginia Tech on Thursday nights. However, Thursday nights in recent years hadn't been nearly as good for the Hokies with big losses to Miami in 2015, West Virginia in 2022, and other disappointing performances.
Tonight, Tech turned back the clock and put together not only an old school Thursday night dominating rout, but also the best performance of the Brent Pry era to date.
Virginia Tech beat Syracuse to improve to 4-4 on the season including 3-1 in ACC play while the Orange fell to 4-4 overall including 0-4 in ACC play.
The Hokies put on a show in the first half with the best half of football we've seen under Brent Pry. Tech's defense was dominant allowing only 62 yards of offense while having seven tackles for loss including four sacks. Meanwhile, Tech's offense went up and down the field with ease putting up 341 yards of offense and scoring 30 points, more points than Tech scored in any game during the first season of the Brent Pry era.
Of the two units, Virginia Tech's defense was the better allowing only 137 yards for Syracuse all night including those meager 62 first half yards. Tech shut down the Syracuse rushing attack while also getting after Garrett Shrader all night having 12 tackles for loss in this game including eight sacks with one being a safety. With tonight's performance, the Hokies now have 30 sacks on the season in eight games, significantly more than the 23 they had in 11 games last season.
Meanwhile, Tech's offense moved up and down with relative ease for a Brent Pry era record 528 yards of offense. Tech specifically dominated on the ground with 318 rushing yards while averaging 6.0 yards per carry, moving the ball on the ground with relative ease led by the 1-2 punch of Bhayshul Tuten and Malachi Thomas and accentuated by Kyron Drones. Tech also had a massive time of possession advantage of 41:42 to 18:18.
Tech's passing attack was also pretty effective in this game though Drones did make some head-scratching decisions at time. Despite that, Drones did pass Sean Glennon for the most passes without an interception since at least 1987.
Tech did once again have issues finishing off drives with five drives that got inside the 30 but ended in field goals including four prior to the Hokies starting to bring in many of their second and third string players. That's an area that needs to improve ahead of a big game against Louisville where Tech could be in a stunning driver's seat for a spot in the ACC Championship game with an upset.
Bhayshul Tuten and Malachi Thomas both had big games with Tuten having 118 rushing yards and a touchdown on 18 carries plus an 11-yard reception, while Thomas had 13 carries for 87 yards plus a 4-yard reception and a 16-yard touchdown pass to Da'Quan Felton. Tuten and Thomas both have started to get consistent holes in recent weeks and have shown how talented this 1-2 punch is for the Hokies, the best since Khalil Herbert and Raheem Blackshear.
Kyron Drones played well outside of a few risky throws going 15-24 for 194 yards and a touchdown while adding 56 yards on the ground in another solid performance for him. Jaylin Lane led Tech's receivers with six catches for 72 yards while Da'Quan Felton had a knack for the big play tonight with three catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
Antwaun Powell-Ryland led a dominant defensive performance with four tackles including two sacks while Keyshawn Burgos had 3 tackles including 1.5 for loss with a sack and Cole Nelson had the strip sack for a safety. Keli Lawson led the Hokies in tackles with 7 including 1 for loss plus a QB hurry while Alan Tisdale had 4 tackles and a pass breakup.
Mario Kendricks had 3 tackles including two for loss with one sack while Norell Pollard had a sack and a QB hurry. Pheldarius Payne had 3 tackles including 0.5 for loss and Derrick Canteen had 2 tackles plus a pass breakup.
Tech's special teams also had a great night led by John Love who went 5-5 on field goals. Tucker Holloway shined on punt return with four punt returns for 96, nearly averaging 25 yards per return plus a 23-yard return on a safety punt. Peter Moore only had three punts but averaged 45 yards per punt with two punts inside the 20.
Virginia Tech's hopes of reaching a bowl game seemed left for dead just a month ago following a 1-3 start that includes losses to Purdue, Rutgers, and Marshall. While most understandably wrote off those bowl hopes, the Hokies put in a ton of work and have made big strides.
Offensively, Tech found their identity with Kyron Drones at quarterback and an offense built on running the football and getting playmakers like Bhayshul Tuten and Jaylin Lane in space. The Hokies also tightened up their run defense shutting down the big runs that had killed them the first four games of the season while continuing to get strong play from their pass defense.
Virginia Tech not only has put themselves in a solid position to make a bowl game, but are legitimately in the ACC Championship Game race at 3-1 with a huge game at Louisville next week. Win that game, and Tech's odds of reaching in Charlotte will suddenly become quite good.
The fact that Tech is even at this point is a tremendous testament to the work that the Hokies have put in to turn this season around after a rough 1-3 start where all of this after eight games would have been imaginable.