Justyn Mutts kept his promise and was down on the field in a maroon and orange set of coveralls to lead the stadium in cheers prior to the iconic Virginia Tech Hokies “Enter Sandman” entrance. The sold-out crowd at Lane stadium was raucous, proud, and loudly singing along!
The West Virginia Mountaineers received the kick-off to start the game. The Fighting Gobbler defense was not interested in seeing what JT Daniels and the WVU offense could do and forced the punt after a three-and-out. After a booming Peter Moore punt pinned the Mountaineers on their two-yard line, West Virginia drove down the field, helped significantly by four VT defensive penalties and multiple missed tackles, to hit a 23-yard field goal. The Hokies answered with a touchdown drive of their own, claiming the lead, 7-3, when Grant Wells hit Kaleb Smith for a 28-yard score. Throughout the first half the Hokies struggled to get anything going on the ground, rushing 11 times for 12 yards. West Virginia was able to put together two more scoring drives. The first was on the back of WVU freshmen RB, CJ Donaldson, but VT held them to another field goal. The Hokies had a chance to answer with 1:50 left in the second, but only managed to take 49-seconds off the clock and punted it away. The Mountaineers marched down the field, 70-yards in 50 seconds, and Daniels hit Sam James for a 24-yard go-ahead TD and the first half ended with WVU in the lead 13-7.
To start the second half the Hokies received the ball and quickly submitted a three-and-out that only took 1:25 off the clock. The football gods smiled upon the Mountaineers when they muffed a punt and the ball squirted out of bounds. West Virginia drove down the field but continued to find adversity in the Virginia Tech redzone and the Hokies held them to their third field goal. Grant Wells and the offense were able to quickly return the favor, and Ross hit a 44-yard field goal after the VT drive stalled in WVU territory, closing the deficit, 16-10. West Virginia, with another drive kept alive by Hokie defensive penalties, scored their second TD off a Justin Johnson Jr. six-yard run. Then the Hokies responded with an immediate three-and-out. West Virginia decided to keep playing the hits and kicked another FG to make the score 26-10. A few minutes later Wells threw a pick sick and broke the Hokies’ back and put WVU up 33-10. Adding insult to injury, Stroman was ejected for a clear targeting penalty with five minutes left in the game. He won’t be around for the first half of the UNC game. The game ended shortly thereafter with a final of 33-10.
Throughout the night pass protection was solid, and Grant Wells was largely left un-harassed, but the run-blocking and middle rushing attack was abysmal. Despite providing nine WVU first downs due to penalties, the Virginia Tech defense did a fantastic job keeping the Hokies in the game through the fourth quarter. VT gave up over 100 penalty yards for the second time this year, and the team seems to be undisciplined. This season was never going to be pretty, and the Hokies were always going to be an on-the-cusp bowl team. There is a lot of season left, but this rebuild is going to take time, and it might get uglier before it gets prettier. The Hokies have some extra time to learn from this disappointment before they face the North Carolina Tar Heels at Chapel Hill. Don’t quit on these young men.