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Virginia Tech football: 5 takeaways from Hokies’ win over Virginia

The Hokies keep the Commonwealth Cup.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Virginia Tech
Freshman linebacker Dax Hollifield drinks from the Commonwealth Cup in Friday’s win over Virginia.
Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

This was the year, right? The year where the Virginia Cavaliers finally defeated the Virginia Tech Hokies on the gridiron to gain possession of the Commonwealth Cup for the first time since 2003.

Well, not exactly.

UVA’s hopes of finally defeating its bitter in-state rival will have to wait at least one more year after the Hokies beat the Hoos 34-31 on Black Friday in the first-ever overtime matchup between the two schools.

With the win, the Hokies move to 5-6 on the year and get one more game; a meeting with Marshall this weekend in Lane Stadium in what is a makeup game for both schools. If the Hokies win, the bowl streak continues. If they lose, well, you know the drill.

Here are five takeaways from Tech’s thrilling win over Virginia.

Hokies came out fired up

The Hokies dominated the first half on both sides of the ball. It was clear, this was as motivated as we’ve seen this group all season long with the exception of the season-opening win over Florida State.

Defensively, Tech was hitting hard, filling gaps and keeping UVA in unmanageable situations. Offensively, the Hokies were running the ball well and freshman Tre Turner was a one-man show (more on him later).

That momentum seemed to take a hit a bit when quarterback Ryan Willis was picked off as time expired in the first half. Virginia ran the ball back over 60 yards and credit Willis with hustling to keep the Cavaliers from scoring.

Tre Turner has arrived

We’ve seen glimpses of the freshman receiver’s potential all season. When Willis is in trouble, he throws deep to Turner hoping his young receiver will go up and make a big play. He usually does. However, until this week Turner hasn’t really been featured.

No. 1 receiver Damon Hazelton didn’t get a lot of snaps at receiver in the game. Head coach Justin Fuente didn’t say much about if afterward other than Hazelton didn’t get a lot of practice time in last week.

That opened the door for Turner and he took full advantage. Turner caught four balls for 69 yards including a one-handed touchdown reception that was one the highlights of the weekend in sports. Turner also carried the ball once for 43 yards. His speed is evident but he has the makings of a future No. 1 receiver because he does everything well. This was the first of many huge games in Turner’s future.

Credit Willis

As usual, he wasn’t perfect, but he was effective and made some big plays in critical moments of the game. The earlier mentioned tackle on the interception was him saving his team after a bad mistake. There are several quarterbacks who wouldn’t have went all out quite like Willis did to save his team. It was a crucial play for the Hokies.

Late in the game on third down, Tech’s offense appeared poised to give the ball back to Virginia when Willis, scrambling left, heaved a ball down the field for tight end Dalton Keene. Not only did Keene make the play after wrestling the ball away from the UVA defender, the play set up Tech’s game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

After the game, Willis had a perfect quote for the play, per Norm Wood of the Daily Press.

One last play that won’t show up in the box score for Willis was in overtime. Willis was scrambling and appeared ready to take a sack that would’ve put Virginia Tech out of field goal range. While looking for something to open up downfield, Willis alertly tossed the ball out of bounds and the Hokies would kick the eventual game-winning field goal.

Willis was a gamer on Friday.

Play calling

I feel like this will continue to be an issue moving forward. For whatever reason, the play-calling can be downright confusing at times. Whether it’s rolling Willis out to his right continuously, cutting off half the field, or continuing to run dive plays, this offense just seems boring and unimaginative. I don’t know why, I just know similar offensive schemes are less predictable than this current Virginia Tech offense.

And what was up at the end of regulation? The Hokies had the ball in their own territory with a little over 30 seconds remaining. Sure, they had no timeouts but 30 seconds is an eternity in college football.

Instead, the Hokies run the ball on every play and appeared happy to be going to overtime. Keep this in mind, Tech led for most of this game and looked happy just to be going to overtime against a team its beaten 14 straight years.

This was one of the stranger offensive sequences in what has been a strange season.

What an ending

In overtime on its first possession, Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins completed a pass for a first down inside the Virginia Tech 15-yard line. There was this impending sense of dread that was taking over Lane Stadium yet again.

Then, on the next play, Perkins faked a handoff to his running back, but the ball hit the back and Perkins lost it. The next thing you see is Virginia Tech’s Khalil Ladler running wild across the field with his helmet off. The Hokies recovered the football. Game over.

Wow.

It was a fitting ending in one of the better games between these two schools. The Hokies deserved one like this after such a tough season and it was refreshing to see the players and coaches smiling on the field afterward. It’s been a long season that’s not only been frustrating for the players and coaches, but the fans, too. This win felt good for everybody.

One last note and you’ve probably heard this one before: If Virginia couldn’t beat Virginia Tech this year, when can the Cavaliers beat the Hokies?