Post-game wrap: Hokies keep bowl hopes alive with 30-23 overtime win against last-place Boston College
Here is a quick version of tomorrow’s game story. Hopefully it gets updated with my final version soon.
Now for a few more notes and quotes from the post-game …
** The Hokies struggled most of the night against what was a reeling Boston College team that has only beaten Maryland and Maine this season. But they made plays in the end, tying the game on a late field goal by Cody Journell, getting a touchdown in overtime by tight end Randall Dunn and making a defensive stand after that to win the game.
For a team that had lost three straight overall and seven straight away from Lane Stadium, its longest drought since 1987-88, it was a welcome change.
“It just feels good,” linebacker Jack Tyler said. “We had a little losing streak there. It’s just nice to get a win again and just kind of get that monkey off our back finally.”
“We just talk about fighting. Keep on fighting,” head coach Frank Beamer said. “That’s kind of the story of the day right here.”
The Hokies (5-6, 3-4 ACC) barely stayed in the bowl picture with the win. They need to beat Virginia next Saturday at Lane Stadium to go to a bowl for a 20th straight season.
** The revised version of my game story focuses on Marcus Davis. The fifth-year senior was much-maligned this week after video of his lackluster effort in the Florida State game went viral and ended up on Deadspin. He was benched for the entire first half, something Beamer insisted was not planned for a fixed amount of time, even though the receiver played the very first snap of the second half.
From then on, he was outstanding. He had five catches for a game-high 104 receiving yards, including a 37-yard touchdown he hauled in over cornerback Sean Sylvia that gave the Hokies a 17-13 lead in the third quarter.
Davis said the benching was tough. Linebacker Bruce Taylor said he could tell Davis was down.
“You know a person, you know the personality,” Taylor said. “Me and Marc usually joke around a lot, we spend a lot of time together. You can tell when something’s bothering somebody.”
But he didn’t let it affect his play once he got a chance.
“I never take it personally,” Davis said. “I take it as, I need to get better. … I never doubt coach is believing in me. And when he told me [I’d play] the second half, a little fire lit up in me. … I just went out and did what I had to do.”
** The Hokies struggled mightily in the first half, trailing 13-3 despite out-gaining Boston College 183-145, the story of the season.
It was Davis who offered encouragement, though.
“The first half is over,” he remembered telling the team. “Just like they’ve been telling me all week, Thursday was over. And I was down about it. And I couldn’t let that affect me, just like we couldn’t let that first half affect how we played in the second half.”
** Virginia Tech did rally, though. Down 23-20 with 4:11 to play, the Hokies went 62 yards in 10 plays — getting catches of 12 yards and 33 yards from Davis — before Journell made a 41-yard field goal that glanced off the left upright and through, forcing overtime.
In the OT, Martin Scales had a key three-yard run, breaking a tackle behind the line to move the chains on third-and-1.
“I kept moving my feet and I was like, I can’t go down,” Scales said. “We’re taught you don’t let one person bring you down, so I was just like, ‘Look I’m tired of losing. I’ll just run my hardest every time I get an opportunity.’”
Three plays later, quarterback Logan Thomas rolled to his left and connected with tight end Randall Dunn for a 7-yard touchdown. The pass was high, but Dunn went up to get it and get a foot in before falling out of bounds. It was one of the Hokies’ two-point conversion plays, in which Dunn was the second option.
** It was a big moment for Dunn, who has been limited by an injury injury he suffered in the Bowling Green game in September when he took a helmet to the hand.
He’d been wearing a cast in practice and that put a dent in his confidence. It didn’t show Saturday in the overtime.
“I told [Thomas] throw it up,” said Dunn, who started the first game of his career. “I told him I’m going to make a move and we’re going to win.”
** Thomas had an up-and-down day. The junior was 16-for-33 for 247 yards and two touchdowns, the third time this year he’s completed less than 50 percent of his passes.
He started slow, just 8-for-20 at halftime for 123 yards, 69 of which came on a ball he threw into double coverage that got tipped into the air and caught by Corey Fuller.
“I guess things went our way in the way the ball was bouncing,” Thomas said.
Thomas had several near interceptions in the second half that glanced off receivers’ hands or were poorly thrown. He also nearly lost a couple of fumbles. One was at the Hokies’ 1-yard line in the third quarter when a BC defender hit his arm as he was winding up to throw. Another came late, but he jumped on the loose ball, allowing Tech to still kick the game-tying field goal.
Still, he snapped a six-game streak of throwing at least one interception. And he had several well-placed passes on the Hokies’ final drive in regulation, then had the game-winning pass in overtime.
“I think he’d probably say parts of it were erratic,” Beamer said. “I thought a couple of his throws weren’t typical of Logan. But you know, again, I go back and he made some big plays at the end. He kept battling and playing tough. That’s kind of the story of our day.”
** Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig was very clear about how the pressure Virginia Tech put on him compared to every other game he’s played this year.
“Definitely the most,” he said.
The Hokies pummeled Rettig all afternoon, sacking him a season-high seven times. It was the fourth time in the last five games that Tech finished with at least five sacks.
“I just think it’s the will to get to the quarterback,” Tyler said. “For a while there, we were kind of hesitant. Now we’re just pinning our ears back and we have nothing to lose.”
Everyone got in on the action. Taylor and fellow linebacker Alonzo Tweedy had two sacks apiece as the Hokies continued to send blitzes from all angles, just like they did against Florida State.
Defensive linemen Tyrel Wilson and J.R. Collins each had one. Derrick Hopkins and Corey Marshall combined for one. Virginia Tech now had 30 sacks this season.
Amazingly, Tech did it Saturday without getting a sack from either James Gayle or Luther Maddy, arguably the team’s two best pass rushers.
“Some of it, we’ve blitzed our way into it,” Beamer said. “But a lot of it is just those four guys. … When you’ve got a front four that can get some pressure, then it allows you to play a lot of different coverages in the back end.”
The Hokies only allowed Rettig to throw for 129 yards, 151 below his season average. He was 13-for-30 with a touchdown and an interception.
** Virginia Tech wasn’t sharp wits its special teams early but came around in the end.
Michael Branthover resumed kickoff duties but booted his first try out of bounds for a penalty. The Hokies had a block in the back on their first punt return and allowed 40-yard punt return by BC’s Spiffy Jones to set up a field goal, all in the first quarter.
Demitri Knowles finally gave the Hokies something to feel good about, though, taking the opening kickoff of the second half back 75 yards to the Eagles’ 20 to set up a touchdown. It was his third kick return longer than 50 yards this season.
“That was a perfect spark, really,” Beamer said. “You think about it. You needed something good to happen, and sure enough.”
** Here are a few quick hitters …
- The Hokies wore a special white helmet, an unbalanced look that had a plain number on one side and a large, flexing Hokie Bird on the other.
- Knowles, Fuller and Kevin Asante started at wide receiver. Fuller had two catches for 72 yards. Asante left the game with a leg injury.
- BC’s Nick Clancy was credited with 20 tackles, 17 of which were solo stops.
- Tyler led Tech with 10 tackles. Taylor had nine, including three tackles for a loss. Tweedy was next with seven, including 2.5 for a loss.
- Antone Exum notched his third interception this year and the fourth of his career. He also had his 15 pass breakup, which leads the ACC.
- Tony Gregory led the Hokies with 69 rushing yards on 14 carries. The Hokies managed only 154 rushing yards and 3.2 yards per carry against a Boston College rushing defense allowing 228.4 yards per game coming into the night, near the bottom of the Football Bowl Subdivision.
- Rolandan “Deuce” Finch ran 26 times for 133 yards for the Eagles, part of a 162-yard rushing night. The Eagles entered the day third to last in the FBS, averaging 72.5 yards per game.
- Virginia Tech did not allow a sack, despite Thomas throwing the ball 33 times and feeling pressure on plenty of his dropbacks. That’s the first game the Hokies’ didn’t allow a sack.
- Branthover had six kickoffs and one touchback. BC’s average starting field position was its own 27.6-yard line.
** Although it was far from a perfect performance, it at least got Virginia Tech back in the win column for the first time since the Duke win on Oct. 13, 35 days ago.
“It feels really really good,” Taylor said. “I felt like we hadn’t won in like a month and a half or something like that. Like I told you guys before I hate losing. Just to be able to smile and joke with teammates after the game for a change, rather than being depressed is great. Overall I’m proud of everybody. We stuck through it and kept fighting.”