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PHOTO: Virginia's Greyson Lambert looks to pass as Virginia Tech Hokies defensive end Dadi Nicolas defends. Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
BLACKSBURG (HokieSports.com) – Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer’s touchdown pass to Bucky Hodges with less than two minutes left helped the Hokies continue their recent mastery over Virginia, as they knocked off the Cavaliers 24-20 in the Commonwealth Clash held Friday night at Lane Stadium.
The win extended Tech’s winning streak over the Cavaliers to 11 straight in the series. More importantly, the Hokies (6-6, 3-5 in the ACC) became bowl eligible for the 22nd straight year. Virginia finished 5-7 overall, 3-5 in the league.
“It’s important for a couple of reasons,” Tech coach Frank Beamer said of extending the bowl streak. “There are more practices with this football team. I’m proud of this football team, but we’re getting ready … you look and all our defense is going to be back, [Luther] Maddy is going to be back, the people on offense coming back and our kickers are back. We’ve got a chance to develop, and any time you can have three more weeks of practice, it’s going to help you down the road.
“This team deserves a bowl. We’ve been to a bunch of them in a row. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a team that deserved to go to a bowl more than this one. They’ve fought through some things. They overcame things and were relentless. I like this crowd.”
Tech’s maligned offense, which scored just three points in a double overtime loss to Wake Forest last Saturday, made the big plays late Friday night, as the Hokies rallied for the win.
Virginia had taken a 20-17 lead with less than three minutes left in the game. The Cavaliers had taken over at their own 11 with 6:50 left and went 89 yards in 10 plays, with quarterback Greyson Lambert completing seven of his nine pass attempts on the drive. Completions of 18, 3, 15, 14 and 10 yards got the Cavaliers to the Tech 20. On first down, Lambert threw the touchdown pass to tight end Zachary Swanson with 2:55 left in the game, and the extra point made it 20-17 in favor of the Cavaliers.
But the Hokies responded, aided by a couple of 15-yard penalties on the Cavaliers. On the first play of the drive, UVa’s Mike Moore was called for roughing the passer giving Tech a first down at its 40. Then, on the next play, Brewer hit Hodges for a 50-yard gain to the UVa 10.
A Sam Rogers run gained a yard, and then UVa’s Henry Coley was called for pass interference, giving Tech a first down at the UVa 4. A false start penalty pushed the ball back to the UVa 9, but Brewer came up big again, hitting Hodges on a quick slant for a touchdown. The extra point gave the Hokies a 24-20 lead with 1:48 left.Hodges caught three passes in the game – two on that final drive.
“I’d like to think everyone we have out there is a go-to guy, but with the coverage they gave me, I knew Bucky was going to be one-on-one,” Brewer said of the 50-yard pass play. “We like that matchup.”
“They were doing some stuff to me,” Hodges said. “It’s just part of the game. Sometimes, you’ll have big games, and the coaches told me to stay patient. That last drive, they called my number, and it felt good to deliver."
Tech’s defense then took care of the rest. Lambert was injured after Tech’s Dadi Nicolas and Ken Ekanem sacked him on the first play of the ensuing drive. UVa’s backup quarterback, Matt Johns, got the Cavaliers to the Tech 36 in the waning moments, but a sack by Ekanem on fourth-and-5 squelched UVa’s chances.
“We understood that, if we got another crack at them, they weren’t going to move the ball,” said Tech defensive tackle Corey Marshall said, who had two tackles for a loss and a sack. “It was time to do what we do. This program has been built on nasty defense, and that’s something we take pride in. We wanted to go out there and show everybody that, even though this season didn’t turn out in a lot of respects the way we wanted, we could still finish this game strong.”
Marshall led a Tech defense that held UVa to 314 yards, including just 38 yards on the ground. The Hokies rolled up 433 yards, including 198 on the ground.
J.C. Coleman led the Hokies with 118 yards on 18 carries. It marked the second 100-yard rushing game of his career (Duke, 2012).
“You talk about a guy that ran hard and ran tough,” Beamer said. “He ran a lot harder and a lot stronger than that 5-7 frame of his. I thought he ran terrific – hard, tough, knocking people back.”
Brewer completed 15-of-33 for 235 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.The Hokies now await their bowl destination. They will find out on Dec. 7, the day that bowl matchups are announced.