Virginia Tech pretty literally fumbled away an opportunity to upset an SEC team. Several key turnovers by the team in inopportune times and places, aided by a frequent lack of personal control on aggravating penalties downed the Hokies, who couldn't get or stay in a rhythm. Their defense wasn't perfect, either, with problems covering the run consistently from both the quarterback Josh Dobbs and the huge running back Jalen Hurd. But the consistent inability to hold onto the ball is killing the Hokies, and it sure killed them in this game.
First drive out of the half for Virginia Tech started promising, with two decent downs of stops before Kamara gained a first down. A new set of downs allowed for another third down opportunity for the Hokies on defense, and a good hit by Mook Reynolds broke up the pass, beating a tight end in for the breakup.
After a deep punt and a fair catch, the Hokies resumed on their own 15. What appeared to be a first down ended up in a Virginia Tech lost fumble by Travon McMillian. This was the 7th fumble by Virginia Tech on the year, continuing the problem of giving opposing offenses good field position. After the Vols took over at the VT 29, the Hokies managed a sack on first down by Ken Ekanem. A Vinny Mihota tackle on an option brought up a quick third down, which almost resulted in a Chuck Clark interception. The kick by Medley was then missed, so the defense held.
Virginia Tech's second drive started at their 29 with a quick Tennessee sack, putting them in a hole. Ford quickly caught a second down pass, but that only gained 11 yards. Third and long resulted in another sack, as Colt Pettit got demolished on a block. There was a picked up flag, but a very short punt gave Tennessee good field position. This was further aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Hokies.
Tennessee resumed play after the short punt and penalty, and a short Vol run ended with Mihota on the ground. Once he left the field, Josh Dobbs gained a lot of yards in a sprint up the middle on a zone read. At that point it was 12 carries and 79 yards for Dobbs. After an incomplete pass and a deep drop for a loss, another touchdown followed on a dump-off pass in the flat to Kamara.
Greg Stroman made a good return, and aided by a penalty the Hokies started on the VT 49. A short run by Sam Rogers was followed by a pass interference penalty against a man covering Bucky Hodges. The resulting first with an option pitch to McKenzie and a quick pass to Cam Phillips resulted in yet another first down. Bucky ran for another 5 on an option to about the 11, and Shai McKenzie was upended on second down. Evans pushed forward on a third down, but that meant a fourth down for the team- Evans wouldn't let go of the ball or couldn’t find an open receiver as the pocket was quite tight. That's about when we heard that Evans had a medical issue with his shoulder. But Joey Slye stopped a huge Tennessee 31 point run with a 26-yard FG.
A touchback and a first down incomplete pass into double coverage and another into the defensive line brought up a quick third down. Chuck Clark was then flagged for pass interference, with an added poor decision by Woody Baron on a roughing call. The ensuing first down resulted in a short run after a false start. Second down was a drop for a loss, and an incomplete on third and long forced a punt.
McMillian got the ball on the VT first down, rushing for about three. Bucky then carried for about five on a sweep play. The pass on third down was deflected at the line, bringing up a punt that ended at the Tennessee 33.
Jalen Hurd then carried for a first down. Another first down carry followed, only giving up a couple yards as the clock kept ticking. That ended the third quarter with Virginia Tech down 14.
Fourth quarter resumed with an interception by Mook Reynolds in traffic, leading to the first VT takeaway of the game. This was problematic, though, due to a 10 yard penalty for a block in the back and an unsportsmanlike conduct on Mook himself. It lost 25 yards. The drive started off with a near fumble but a 2 yard gain on a quarterback draw. Another failed play resulted in a third and long. But Cam Phillips rescued the team with a catch in the middle for a first down. A first down incompletion was followed by a dropped draw play for a loss. Jerod Evans saved himself with a long run up the middle for a first down. Another pass to Sam Rogers resulted in a big hit by Rogers and a first down. Another first down followed on a slant to Ford. Evans overthrew the next pass to Phillips- he tossed it high and it was slightly deflected...resulting in a complete pass to Phillips who then fumbled for his third fumble on the year.
Two running plays resulted in a 3rd and 11, and Hurd was swarmed by a group of tacklers, resulting in a punt…which was muffed by Greg Stroman, resulting in a Tennessee possession. It likely would have hit another Hokie on the play, but it just continued a string of terrible luck.
First down for Tennessee was a pass for about nine yards, followed by a 2 yard run that converted a first. Hurd then ran for another five yards right up the gut, and Dobbs then broke a long run for a touchdown which definitely put the game out of reach. A point after made it 38-17.
A touchback then resulted in another Virginia Tech fumble on a very high snap, which Tennessee of course recovered. That made it five turnovers, and three consecutive fumbles in a row for the Hokies. A touchdown then followed. 45-17. Game beyond over, but the Hokies tried to fight back.
A couple catches and some runs by a collection of Hokies, especially Shai McKenzie, who scored a touchdown, but of course it was a junk time TD. 45-24.
This is a team that still needs a LOT of work, guys. It’s not going to be easy. There’s a long way to go.