Draped in throwback uniforms that call back to the success of the century’s turn, channeling the energy of Michael Vick and the National Championship team, the Virginia Tech Hokies received the kick-off to start off their 19th meeting with the Syracuse Orange.
Braxton Burmeister and the VT offense took the field and immediately started things off with an eight-yard QB run. The Hokies largely focused their efforts on the ground game and converted on two long third downs with a Burmesiter run and a Robinson catch and run. After taking nearly seven minutes off the clock Braxton hit Drake Deluliis for the TD to put the Hokies up 7-0 halfway through the first quarter.
Garret Shrader and the Orange offense started at their 25-yard line, and immediately handed it off to Sean Tucker. Like VT, on their opening drive, Syracuse stuck largely to the run. Tucker ripped off a 20-yard run to take the Orange into Virginia Tech territory. The Syracuse running back was the name of the game as he scored on a 28-yard run when the Orange were facing fourth and short. The Hokies stuck with the run, focusing largely on putting the ball in Malachi Thomas’ hands with some seasoning of Blackshear for change of pace. Burmeister hit Robinson for a 30-yard catch that put the Hokies on the Orange eight-yard line. On second and goal Malachi Thomas found the endzone to put the Hokies up 14-7!
The VT defense held Syracuse to a three-and-out on the Orange’s first possession of the second quarter. Syracuse’s James Williams was the first punter to see the field and the Hokies took over at their 30. Burmeister foiled a Syracuse blitz with a dump-off pass to Blackshear that saw the Hokies get 30-yards on the play and make their way into enemy territory. Sadly, Virginia Tech went backwards, losing 17 yards due to a seven-yard tackle for loss and a ten-yard Burmeister sack. The VT punter found the field for the first time in 20 minutes of play and the Orange started on their 25-yard line after the touchback. The Virginia Tech defense balled out again and forced another three-and-out. Syracuse quickly returned the favor, but the Hokies pinned the Orange on their two-yard line. Shrader had a fantastic read in the end-zone to get Syracuse some breathing room before hitting Sharod Johnson for 38-yards and into Virginia Tech territory. Shrader hit another big pass for 24-yards and soon after Syracuse found their way into the VT redzone. A few plays later Shrader ran for a nine-yard TD. BUT the extra point was blocked and returned 95-yards for two points! The Orange hoped to tie it up, but the Hokies retained the lead, 16-13.
In the closing minutes of the second quarter VT showed some life on offense when Blackshear ripped off a 38-yard run, but the Hokies stalled and had to settle for a field goal, extending their lead 19-13. The VT defense continued to struggle against Shrader’s arm and legs and Syracuse quickly made their way into scoring position again. Shrader’s rushing ability really came to bear when he had two 20+ yard runs to put the Orange on VT’s one-yard line with 00:08 left in the half. A questionable timeout by the Hokies allowed the Orange to… MISS a 19-yard chip shot field goal attempt!
The VT offense looks different. Malachi Thomas is clearly the lead back today and getting the TEs and RBs involved in the passing game is paying off. Hopefully, the Hokies keep it up in the second half. The VT offense has shown a penchant for strong starts and then stalling, which they started to show during the last half of the second quarter with two three-and-outs and settling for a field goal. During the first quarter the VT defense did a decent job halting the Syracuse ground attack and forcing the Orange offense into passing situations. Unfortunately, during the second quarter, Shrader found a rhythm throwing and running the ball. At the half the Virginia Tech Hokies lead the Syracuse Orange are tied, 19-13. The Orange receive the kick-off to start the third quarter.