February 24, 2020

Virginia Tech: Hokies miss opportunities, fall to Blue Devils

Quarterback Michael Brewer made his long awaited second start of the season, but that wasn’t enough to flip the script for the Hokies this season as they slept walk through another close loss to a decent opponent, losing 45-43 to Duke in four overtimes. It took the Blue Devils one play in the fourth overtime to score a touchdown and then quarterback Thomas Sirk powered across the goal line to give the Blue Devils the two point victory.

It was the Hokies’ third loss by one possession this season and their 13th in the last four seasons as they have perfected doing just enough to lose. Like in their losses to Miami, Pitt and East Carolina, the outcome was a real team effort. with mistakes on offense, defense and special teams all contributing to pushing the Hokies record to 3-5 and out of the ACC Championship game picture.

What was expected to be a defensive battle surprisingly started out fast in the points department as the Hokies and Blue Devils traded touchdowns on the first three possession and the Hokies added a field goal on the sixth possession of the game to make it 14-10 Blue Devils just a few minutes into the second quarter. Things settled down after that as the Blue Devils and Hokies combined for five punts and a missed Duke field goal attempt to close out the half.

That would change on the Blue Devils first possession of the second half as they quickly went 80 yards on four plays in 1:13 to make it a 21-10 lead. The big play of the drive coming on a 58 yard touchdown run by Shaun Wilson on a option play the Hokies failed to cover. It was exemplary of how the Hokies defense played well overall, but had significant breakdowns at the worst possible times.

The Tech offense finally found its groove when the offensive coaches remembered that they had Travon McMillian and Sam Rogers as the two combined for a clock eating 77 yards on 12 plays with McMillian finishing off the drive with a two yard touchdown run to make it 21-16. Overall it was a 20 play drive for the Hokies that ate 9:46 off the clock.

Then things got weird. First the Hokies made a strange decision to go for two to try to make it a three point game calling a bizarre fake run pass for Brenden Motley that failed keeping the game at 21-16. Then they attempted a surprise quasi-onside kick to try to get the ball back that ended up getting kicked right to a Duke player giving the Blue Devils favorable field position.

The Blue Devils responded with a 41-yard field goal by Russ Martin, making up for the 29 yarder he missed earlier, and giving Duke an eight point advantage with 12 minutes to go in the game.

After an aborted comeback drive attempt and defensive stop Tech got the ball back with 7:57 left to go. Another long drive ended with a Bucky Hodges touchdown and Travon McMillian two point conversion that tied the game at 24 with barely over two minutes remaining the Tech defense let the Blue Devils make a quick drive down to the Hokies’ 29 yard line to set Russ Martin up for a game winning field goal with a minute left. Martin bounced it off the right upright for his second miss of the day and give the Hokies the ball back with one timeout and a minute to score.

However, poor clock management led to the Hokies only getting three plays off to get down to the 50 yard line with two seconds left and their timeout remaining. Head coach Frank Beamer elected to let Joey Slye try a 67 yard field goal that fell woefully short and let the Blue Devils try an Auburn-like return that was snuffed out by Sam Rogers to send it to overtime.

All hell broke loose in overtime as the Hokies and Blue Devils traded points tit for tat: two field goals in the first overtime, two touchdowns in the second and two more field goals in the third. In the fourth overtime McMillian took over the game again, gaining 12 yards on four carries and his second touchdown of the game. However, the Hokies failed on their mandatory two point conversion. The Blue Devils responded with a quick touchdown pass and a Thomas Sirk run to win it.

In the losing effort McMillian finished the game with a career high 142 yards on 29 carries, also a career high and two touchdowns. Brewer shook off the rust as the game went along and finished with 24-45 for 270 yards and three touchdowns. But that’s little consolation for a Hokies team that saw it’s season come to a premature end in a hard fought battle.

About James O'Hara

James O’Hara is a Contributor to District Sports Page covering Virginia Tech football. James is a 2014 graduate of Tech and a diehard Hokie fan. He has serious nostalgia for Blacksburg and always gets pumped up by the opening bars of “Enter Sandman”. James also writes about the Nationals for Citizens of NatsTown and general MLB for the Washington Post Fancy Stats blog. Follow him on Twitter @nextyeardc.

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