In what was the 100th matchup between Virginia and Virginia Tech, the Cavaliers fell short once again. It was a game that could have gone either way after the Hokies had a dominant first half. Virginia lost in overtime for the second consecutive week in what was a heartbreaking loss to their in-state rival.
The Cavaliers (7-5, 4-4 ACC) lost 34-31 to the Hokies (5-6, 4-4 ACC), with Virginia Tech kicker Brian Johnson’s 42-yard field goal proving to be enough in overtime for the Hokies to continue their dominance in the rivalry. Virginia had the ball on the Virginia Tech 14-yard line, but junior transfer quarterback Bryce Perkins fumbled and the rest was history.
The first quarter was a defensive battle.
Virginia Tech started with the ball. The Hokies went on a long drive, converting on 4th and 1 at the Virginia 35 to get into field goal range. Kicker Jordan Stout, however, missed wide right on his first-ever field goal attempt, giving the ball to Virginia.
The Cavaliers couldn’t do anything on their first possession with the ball, with an incomplete pass and a blocking penalty leaving them in a third-and-long situation. Junior transfer quarterback Bryce Perkins felt the pressure on third down and was forced to throw the ball away. He came up limping, but returned on Virginia’s next offensive possession.
Virginia stopped Virginia Tech on the subsequent possession, and the Hokies forced the Cavaliers into another three-and-out.
It was another uneventful drive for Tech, and then Virginia got the ball back. The score was 0-0 after one quarter of play.
Virginia got a drive going to start off the second quarter. The Cavaliers made progress the way they have throughout this season — by tiring out the opponent through rushing the football. They made it into the red zone behind some strong runs from Perkins and senior running back Jordan Ellis, but Perkins fumbled the ball just as the Cavaliers were within reach of scoring their first points. The call was highly questionable, but referees ultimately went with the ruling on the field after review.
The teams exchanged a couple of uneventful possessions before the Hokies finally got something going by turning to their ground game, which the Cavaliers’ defense has struggled to stop in previous weeks.
Virginia Tech scored on a fade to Hokies’ freshman wide receiver Tre Turner, who made a miraculous one-handed grab to put Virginia Tech up 7-0 with 2:44 to go in the half.
Again, with Lane Stadium buzzing, the Cavaliers couldn’t manage to generate any offense. The subsequent play made things even worse — Turner, just after scoring the first touchdown of the game, blocked the punt. The Hokies recovered in the end zone, and went up 14-0, leaving Virginia in a big hole.
Virginia almost changed the game right at the end of the half.
The Hokies punted the football away with less than 20 seconds left in the half, content to go in to the second up two scores, but Virginia sophomore punt returner Chuck Davis fumbled the football, giving Virginia Tech another chance at points.
The next play, however, Hokies junior quarterback Ryan Willis threw a pick. Senior cornerback Tim Davis, who has stepped up in recent weeks, jumped the route to make the interception, nearly cutting the deficit to seven points. He was tackled by Willis at the Virginia Tech 10-yard line just as time expired.
The Cavaliers’ offense struggled mightily in the first half. Perkins had just 34 yards passing, completing just five passes on 16 attempts.
Virginia would need to improve offensively to have a chance to win the game.
The Cavaliers did just that to start off the second half, quieting Lane Stadium for the first time all day on an impressive eight play, 75-yard drive capped off by a 29-yard connection between Perkins and junior wide receiver Joe Reed that made the score 14-7. Reed made an incredible one-handed catch to immediately put Virginia back in the game.
Virginia Tech responded with a good drive of their own. Willis was huge on the drive, picking up a crucial first down with his feet on 3rd and 10 to put the Hokies in field goal range. This time, sophomore kicker Brian Johnson converted, making it 17-7 Virginia Tech.
The Cavaliers were not finished. Joe Reed had more to say. The junior wide receiver had his second touchdown of the day on a 75-yard catch-and run, cutting the Hokies’ lead to three. It was 17-14 Virginia Tech with 3:57 to play in the third.
But Virginia Tech continued to overwhelm Virginia’s defense. On the subsequent drive, the Hokies made it 24-14. A 45-yard reception by Tre Turner and a 20-yard run by Willis were critical in putting Virginia Tech in position to score.
Virginia kept the train rolling the next drive by getting it done on the ground. Perkins ran for 29 yards, his longest run of the day, and Ellis ran 12 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-21 Hokies.
The Cavaliers’ defense stepped up with their first stop of the second half on the subsequent drive, and Virginia’s offense continued its dominance, with Perkins handing the Cavaliers their first lead of the game, 28-24, with a touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Hasise Dubois.
Virginia appeared to be headed to victory at the end of regulation after sophomore linebacker Charles Snowden came up with two consecutive blocked passes, one of which he intercepted to give Virginia an easy field goal, making it 31-24 Virginia.
Virginia Tech, however, had the ball with one last try to send things to overtime. Ultimately, they did just that, in miraculous fashion. It took a 45-yard prayer from Willis and a fumble recovery in the end zone to tie the game up at 31.
In overtime, Virginia Tech’s offense was stymied, forced to kick a 42-yard field goal that kicker Brian Johnson managed to convert.
The Cavaliers, however, were still in good position to win after Perkins completed an 11-yard pass to Dubois. The next play, however, Perkins fumbled the football after it hit Ellis on a miscommunication on the handoff, and the Hokies immediately stormed the field. Virginia Tech miracuously pulled off their 15th consecutive victory over Virginia.
Despite the painful loss, there were many bright spots for the Cavaliers. Bryce Perkins was certainly one of them. Despite his fumble, Perkins had an outstanding second half, completing 9 of 13 passes with 225 yards and three touchdowns. He also finished with 112 yards rushing.
The fight that Virginia showed after being down 14-0 at the half was admirable, and they were in good position to win the game after putting up 31 second half points.
The Cavaliers now await their selection to a bowl game.