Virginia could not stop the run, pass or finesse of the Virginia Tech offense in a 55-17 loss Saturday afternoon at Scott Stadium. The Cavaliers (3-9, 2-6 ACC) fell far behind the Hokies (6-6, 5-3 ACC) early in the first half, allowing their in-state rivals to secure bowl game eligibility. Junior running back Bhayshul Tuten gave Virginia problems all game, running for 117 yards and returning a kickoff 94 yards to the house.
The first quarter was all Virginia Tech. On the first drive of the game, the Hokies kept the ball on the ground, running five times for 42 yards and cashing in a field goal. Virginia freshman quarterback Anthony Colandrea could not respond, going three and out after missing a wide-open graduate wide receiver Malik Washington on first down.
After a stop, Virginia tried to switch up their offensive looks. On first down, the Cavaliers tried a pitch to a sweeping Washington, who could only pick up three yards. Washington picked up a reception on third and five but came a yard short of the sticks.
After the resulting punt, the Cavaliers stopped the Hokies on third down, setting up a fourth and short. However, Virginia Tech kept the punting unit off the field as sophomore quarterback Kyron Drones faked a handoff, rolled out to his right and found senior wide receiver Stephen Gosnell for the 44-yard touchdown, bringing the score to 10-0.
Virginia had its third three-and-out in the following possession. After a personal foul from graduate tight end Grant Misch, the Cavaliers faced a first and 22 and could not move the sticks. Entering the second quarter, Virginia had no first downs.
Virginia Tech’s offense picked up the energy from its defense. A 74-yard touchdown reception was called back for holding, but Drones found sophomore tight end Dae'Quan Wright for a 39-yard pickup. Two plays later, sophomore wide receiver Tucker Holloway ran a reverse into the Virginia endzone, making it 17-0.
After the teams traded turnovers in Virginia territory, the Cavaliers finally found their first first down. On third and 10, Colandrea threw a pass well off-target to junior wide receiver Malachi Fields but stayed on the field as the Hokies were called for roughing the passer.
The very next play, the Hokies were again called for roughing the passer. But three plays later, they forced Virginia to punt after back-to-back sacks.
Virginia Tech put the game away on the ensuing possession. After a fourth-and-two conversion, the Hokies gave the ball to Tuten, who took the ball 32 yards for the score. Virginia Tech led 24-0 going into the half.
Some Virginia fans began to clear out of Scott Stadium, especially students watching on the hill. The Cavaliers totaled just five first downs in the half, with their largest play being a 17-yard reception to Fields.
Any energy Virginia tried to create in the locker room during halftime disappeared as the third quarter started. Virginia punted the ball away after six plays from scrimmage, giving the ball to Virginia Tech at their 12-yard line. On the Hokies first play, Drones found senior wide receiver Da'Quan Felton for an 84-yard touchdown, dusting multiple defensive backs to make it 31-0.
The Cavaliers' secondary struggled all day. They allowed 248 yards in the air but also struggled to contain explosive plays on the ground. In addition to Hollaway’s 33-yard score in the first half, Tuten picked up the game's largest run of 46 yards in the 3rd quarter.
The Cavaliers finally scored in the third quarter after a 31-yard pickup from Washington. On the next play, Colandrea found Fields for 11 yards, and a Virginia Tech face mask put the ball at the 11-yard line. Washington was tackled seven yards short of the stick on third down, setting up a successful 25-yard field-goal try.
The joy of scoring in the rivalry game was short-lived — on the ensuing kickoff, Tuten returned the ball 94 yards to the house, running to celebrate with Virginia Tech fans who took over the hill at the west end of the field. The Hokies led 38-3.
The Cavaliers responded with a touchdown reception to Fields, but it was too little too late. Entering the fourth quarter down 38 points, the benches started to clear on Virginia’s senior day. Senior quarterback Jared Rayman replaced Colandrea in the final drive of the game, in which he picked up a first down on an 11-yard run.
Overall, this year’s rendition of the Commonwealth Clash was an embarrassment for the Cavaliers. In a game that appeared to be a toss-up, Virginia suffered its largest loss of the season. After the clock hit zero, Virginia Tech fans took over Scott Stadium, celebrating with their bowl-eligible team at midfield.
“I gotta tip my hat to Brent,” Coach Tony Elliott said. “They did a heck of a job today. They were ready to play. They took it to us early on. I didn’t have my guys ready to play, but I’m not gonna make this bigger than what it is. This is one game. We’re gonna learn from it, and we’re gonna get better this offseason. We got to wait unfortunately for 365 days to get another shot.”
The game was won on the ground — the Hokies ran the ball for 252 yards compared to the Cavaliers' 43. Ironically, Rayman's feel-good run for 11 yards on senior day was Virginia’s longest run of the day.
After upsets against Duke and North Carolina, this season finale is a reminder of where Virginia stands in the ACC. The program is still rebuilding, shifting its culture in Elliott’s second season. Furthermore, the team is likely still healing from tragically losing teammates Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D'Sean Perry last season.
Next season, Virginia faithful will hope that returning Colandrea as their starting quarterback will bring consistency to the offense. Despite overshooting multiple deep targets Saturday, the athletic freshman is dangerous in play-action, unafraid to scramble out of the pocket.
However, the scene at Scott Stadium Saturday is concerning going into the offseason. Their rivals dominated them on both sides of the ball, and Hokie fans took over their turf on senior day. In the offseason, Elliott will attempt to turn around a team desperate for a revitalization.