Virginia Tech's 24-20 win over rival Virginia Friday a game in which they clinched a 22nd consecutive bowl appearance was a microcosm of their 2014 season -- moments of promise, intertwined with ineptitude and mistake-laden football. The Hokies got off to a good start, enjoying leads of 3-0 and 10-3 in the first two quarters. The touchdown came on a blocked punt that was recovered in the endzone by tight end Bucky Hodges, a play reminiscent of the schools "Beamerball" glory days.
Redshirt sophomore Brenden Motley was also impressive early in his first meaningful action this season, as he platooned with junior Michael Brewer. Motley showed off his ability as a dual threat quarterback, leading Virginia Tech down the field where they scored the games first three points.
Then the wheels began to come off for the Hokies.
Motley suffered an injury to his toe on the following drive, and although he returned, still appeared hobbled before finally being ruled out in the second half with a concussion. In the second quarter Brewer followed suit, injuring his shoulder on a goal line deflection that went for a three yard interception for Virginia's David Dean, making the score 13-10 Cavaliers. The play was one of many Brewer was pressured and hit on, due to a stellar Virginia front seven and another subpar performance from the Hokies offensive line. Much of Virginia Tech's on field offensive struggles have been placed on the offensive line, and their inability to allow time for plays to develop.
The first half also saw several lapses from Bud Foster's defensive unit. Virginia took advantage of breakdowns from the Hokies on the ground and through the air, leading to a pair of field goals for the Cavaliers. Deon Newsome was also disqualified from the game in the second quarter on a very questionable call of launching with the crown of his helmet. Newsome didn't appear guilty of the infraction, but put himself in position for the call by coming in late on a play that was already nearly dead on a tackle.
The second half began with each side trading turnovers, and both clamping down on their defensive effort. The 13-10 score remained unchanged until the final 15 seconds of the third quarter when Brewer connected with Cam Phillips on a 36 yard touchdown reception to give the Hokies a four point lead, 17-13 heading into the final 15 minutes.
After a promising drive for Virginia Tech stalled early in the fourth quarter, the Hokies defensive was spared from a backbreaking play when a 72 yard reception by Cavaliers senior Darius Jennings was called back on an ineligible receiver call. The Cavaliers finally appeared to deliver the dagger with a touchdown pass from quarterback Greyson Lambert to Zachary Swanson with 2:55 left.
But the Hokies, showing only the heart a rivalry game can bring out, marched 75 yards down the field in 1:07, culminating with what would be the game winning touchdown pass from Brewer to Hodges. The Defensive unit would bend, but not break in the final 1:48, and the Hokies were improbably bowl eligible once again.
There are several takeaways for Virginia Tech to hang their hat on following Friday's game, despite playing anything but a perfect game. Michael Brewer again proved to be a warrior. The junior finished 15 of 33 for 235 yards with a pair of touchdowns, showing he will probably never be a top quarterback in the nation, but anyone who spends more time on the floor than all of Mike Tyson's early opponents combined and continues to get up has to earn the respect of fans.
The Hokies also got a performance from their running game that they desperately needed. The team's backfield has been riddled with injuries, but finally got the breakout performance from J.C. Coleman they have hoped for in recent weeks. Coleman finished with 118 yards on 18 attempts on Friday.
And finally, the team pulled together around their embattled head coach Frank Beamer, to extend his bowl streak, and perhaps tenure in Blacksburg. The young Hokies showed heart in pulling out a win to extend a season that has been largely disappointing. They beat rival Virginia, qualified for a bowl and showed why the future could be a bright one. A great night in not such a good season.