Disaster Almost Strikes
The weather in Annapolis was the determiner of how this contest was played, that is for sure. The Hokies had an immediate rain impacted disaster strike soon after the Tech defense opened the game with a 3 and out. Kyron Drones had ball handling problems all game, and the first big muff was a scoop and score fumble that put the Green Wave up 7-0 before the crowd even got back to their seats. It was a looming disaster on a turf field with the cold and rain definitely affecting the handling of the ball. It didn’t hurt that, as anticipated, the aggressive Tulane defense came out firing.
It didn’t take too long for Tech to get on the board, though. Unfortunately, it was a -4 as poor play calling and a few dropped passes resulted in a stall out in the red zone (like Hokie fans don’t know about those). But that long drive also brought something else to the table, and that was some positive momentum for the Hokies.
The Tech defense registered a 3 and out and the drive after the ensuing punt. Essentially cut up the Tulane defense. With 3:59 left in the quarter, and pinned inside the 10, the Hokies engineered a 5-play 93-yard drive on a muffed punt and 11-yard run by Drones. Tech would never fall behind the Green Wave, again.
Tulane would tie the game at 10, but Tech would drive the field in the 2nd quarter to go up 17-10 to close out the first half with an almost comical accidental onside kick. With 8 seconds on the clock Coach Holt called a squib kick to burn clock and keep the return from happening the ball hit a Tulane player and made it live. So with 8 seconds to go, the Hokies had the ball to end the half. Nothing happened, but you could feel the momentum shift going into the locker room for the half. Tech had won all 6 games that it led at the half, and there was a feeling going around.
Almost Disaster, AGAIN
Tech just sometimes can’t have good things. This time, they had some good, a Tulane fumble inside Tech’s 5, and some bad... two fumbles that resulted in touchdowns. The second of those was in the opening drive of the second half. The OC got cute in a driving rain and tried an overhand lateral to Jaylen Lane, who unfortunately caught and then dropped the ball before being pasted. It was way too close at the Tech 11 and Tulane managed to tie it up. The pall was starting to fall on the Hokies’ sideline as the good feelings of the end of the 2nd quarter fled and was replaced by the reality that there was about to be a dogfight in a downpour.
That feeling evaporated as Kyron Drones led another 5-play drive with both Bhaysul Tuten and Malachi Thomas gaining yards. But the 51-yard blast by Drones shoved the Green Wavers back on their heels, and they never recovered. Tuten ripped up a 9-yard touchdown on the ground to completely and permanently change the momentum in Tech’s favor.
Not Letting Bad Things Derail You
Tech stretched the lead to 10 with a field goal after a 58-yard stalled drive to end the 3rd quarter. Then ‘stuff’ just started to happen for the Hokies. They stopped the Green Wave deep in the red zone to hold them to a -4, and then Drones and company came out to stand on the accelerator. Tech seemed to have a love for 5 play dives because right after Tulane went to 20 points, Tech churned up a touchdown - this second one was a short pass to TE Benji Gosnell. (Drones had two TE Touchdown passes under the goal posts.)
The absolute put away score was induced by a fumble caused by a hard hit from Mose Phillips. He jarred the ball lose and the ensuing drive was capped by a huge Tuten 12-yard power scamper.
There was no way for Tulane to come back from that score down 21 and 2:54 left on the clock. After the stop, the backup offense including Grant Wells took to the field to burn off the remaining time.
The Stats are Both Amazing and Frustrating
Kyron Drones passing was 13 of 21 for 91 yards and two touchdowns. His big story was his legs. He gained 176 yards on 20 attempts and a touchdown. Bhayshul Tuten was right behind him with 136 on 18 attempts and 2 touchdowns. Even Freshman Ayden Greene came up with a contested catch, deep on the sideline for a critical 1st down. As mentioned, both Benji Gosnell and Harrison Saint-Germain caught touchdowns close in and helped to break through the red zone curse.
The Defense was Superb
Yes, there were some drives, but the defense held star big yardage running back Makhi Hughes to 88 yards on 15 attempts and no touchdowns. The Green Wave offense only managed to score 10 points off of Virginia Tech’s defense. 13 of their points were on short fields to add to their touchdown on the scoop and score.
There were some issues with run fits in some drives, and the linebacking corps still needs work, but Coach Marve got the defense rolling and kept it aggressive for most of the game.
HEY! A WINNING SEASON for 2024!!!!
We’ll have our reviews of the game, Bryan’s 5 Takeaways, and my Good, Bad, and Ugly. But for now, let’s just bask in the glow of the first bowl win since 2016. It was also the first win against a ranked team, and a team with a winning record this season. Also, the big note is that Tech finished 2023 7-6, with two big wins in a row, and returning most of the team on both sides of the ball.
2024 is going to be a really exciting season. We’ll restart coverage with the start of Spring Practice. The cameras will be out. The opportunities to cover will be taken. It’s going to be fun.