Under cloudy skies and cold temperatures, the Virginia Tech Hokies and Cincinnati Bearcats met at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to play the 2018 Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman. The Virginia Tech Hokies are coming off consecutive victories against the Virginia Cavaliers and Marshal Thundering Herd while Cincinnati has won four of their last five, only losing to the undefeated No. 13 UCF Golden Knights and Temple Owls all season.
The Bearcats won the coin toss and deferred their option to the second half. Ryan Willis and the Virginia Tech offense took to the field right around the time the rain showed up. Offensive coordinator, Brad Cornelson, and head coach, Justin Fuente, came out firing. VT converted a fourth down, setting up an impressive contested 21-yard touchdown catch by Eric Kumah!
Cincinnati was able to take advantage of VT’s defensive miscues, a problem that has plagued the Bud Foster led unit all season. Missed tackles and out of position players allowed the Bearcats to rack up four first half plays of 20+ yards, including a 38-yard catch and run touchdown. Another 32-yard reception put Cinci on VT’s one-yard line which the Bearcats turned into another TD. Deshawn McClease started to frustrate the Cincinnati defense and set the Hokies up for a Steven Peoples’ touchdown run to tie the game, 14-14, before the half.
The Bearcats received the ball to start the third, but only mustered three yards before punting. Deshawn McClease continued to find seams, and runs of 26 yards, 19, yards, and eight yards got Brian Johnson close enough to hit a 28-yard field goal after missing a 41-yard attempt in the second quarter. Shortly thereafter Cincinnati’s RB, Michael Warren II, ripped off a 41-yard touchdown run after bursting out of the line untouched, putting the Bearcats up 21-17.
Jalen Holston also began to find success running on Cincinnati. His efforts coupled with another up-for-grabs catch by Kumah sent the Hokies back to the Bearcats’ red-zone. Willis found a new target in TE Chris Cunningham who hauled in a two-yard TD pass to put the Hokies up, 24-21. The tackling woes caught up with VT when the Bearcats backup QB, Hayden Moore, ran for a 19-yard TD where at least four VT players had a hand on him. Terius Wheatley responded with a 50-yard kick return before Willis hit Tre Turner for 40 yards. A targeting call against Cincinati’s Tyrell Gilbert resulted in his ejection and the penalty yards put the Hokies on the Cincinnati six-yard line. Two plays later Willis ran the ball in himself giving the Hokies a 31-28 lead.
On the Bearcats ensuing drive Dylan Rivers picked off Moore and the Hokies offense took over on the Cincinnati 12-yard line. Sadly, the Hokies netted zero points when Ryan Willis slipped and fumbled the ball on a fourth down conversion attempt. With just over three minutes left in regulation Michael Warren II continued his exposure of VT’s rushing defense, gouging the Hokies for 31 yards to start the drive. A few plays later Warren punched it in for his second TD and put the Bearcats up 35-31.
After the kick off, Ryan Willis and the Hokies had 84 seconds to drive the length of the field, but James Wiggins intercepted a deep Willis pass to end regulation. With the loss the Hokies finish the season 6-7, ending the program’s streak of winning seasons at 25.