Travon McMillian

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Ew, Pig Sooie! Virginia Tech scores 35-unanswered points to win Belk Bowl, 35-24

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For one half of football, it appeared as though Arkansas (7-6) could do no wrong in the Belk Bowl against No. 22 Virginia Tech (10-4), but the Hokies roared back from a 24-0 halftime deficit with 35 unanswered points in the second half to capture a wild bowl victory. It may be a tad cliché, but this truly was a tale of two halves that showed why football games are 60 minutes long.

Bud Foster coached up his defense to tighten things up in the second half, and they responded with flying colors. The Hokies sacked Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen six times in the second half, with Mook Reynolds notching two. Reynolds and Tremaine Edmunds each recorded an interception as well to help turn the game around in Virginia Tech’s favorite. With the defense doing its part to prevent Arkansas from scoring again after taking a short-lived, yet commanding 24-0 lead, the Hokies offense had to do their part as well. And oh boy did they.

The Hokies scored five touchdowns in the second half, starting early in the second half after the defense forced an Arkansas turnover on the third play of the half. Jerod Evans completed 21-of-33 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns and he led the Hokies on the ground with 87 rushing yards and two more touchdowns. Travon McMillian had 34 key yards as well, including a six-yard scoring run one play after rumbling 21 yards for a big gain. McMillian’s touchdown run was likely the final nail in the coffin for the Razorbacks, who went from being down four points to down 11. Arkansas went three-and-out on their next drive and fumbled the football away on their next offensive series after that.

The play of the game may have been a one-handed touchdown snag by Sam Rogers to help cut the Razorbacks’ lead to 10 points.

The comeback from Virginia Tech goes down as the third-largest comeback in a bowl game over the last 10 seasons. Last year’s Alamo Bowl saw TCU dig its way out of a 31-point deficit against Oregon. Texas Tech also played its way back form a 31-point deficit in the 2006 Insight Bowl against Minnesota, going from trailing 38-7 to winning 44-41 in overtime.

The ACC’s impressive bowl season continues

With Virginia Tech’s victory over the Razorbacks, the ACC improved to 5-1 in the bowl season. No other conference has won more than four games so far in the bowl season. The ACC’s lone bowl loss so far was suffered by Pitt in the Pinstripe Bowl (the Panthers lost to Northwestern of the Big Ten). The ACC has winning records against the SEC (2-0) and Big 12 (1-0), is even with the Big Ten (1-1) and owns a victory over the AAC champion (Wake Forest beat Temple in the Military Bowl). The ACC is close to clinching a winning record this postseason with six postseason games to go (seven if Clemson advances to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game).

The SEC drops to 1-4 this bowl season after South Carolina and Arkansas each lost today. The SEC still has a very good chance to see Alabama win a national championship and there are still six additional games to be played to turn things around this bowl season, but this is a bit of a sloppy start to the bowl season for the SEC.

Looking ahead

So, where do we go from here? At Virginia Tech, the Hokies will go into the offseason very positive about the future of the program under the leadership of Justin Fuente. In Fuente’s first season on the job, Virginia Tech won 10 games to capture the ACC Coastal Division and gave Clemson a good battle in the ACC Championship Game, and it all ends with a victory over an SEC school in a bowl game. The 2017 season will commence in Landover, Maryland against former Big East rival West Virginia from the Big 12 on September 2, 2017. The Hokies will play an ACC schedule that includes a home game against Clemson in addition to North Carolina and Pittsburgh and road games against Miami and Georgia Tech. The Hokies should be one of the teams to watch in the ACC once again in 2017 as Fuente’s offense continues to come together in year two.

Arkansas will go back to the drawing board and contemplate just how this season went so up-and-down and ended the way it did. The Razorbacks will still be a team worth paying close attention to and not take for granted in 2017, and if they can find any positive consistency next fall they should be at least a mnild factor in how the SEC West plays out. They won’t be likely to de-throne Alabama, of course, but they can mess with teams like LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn. Of course, Arkansas will only play Auburn at home, while Alabama and LSU will be played on the road and Texas A&M will be played in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Arkansas begisn the 2017 season at home against Florida A&M on September 2, 2017 in Little Rock, and the Razorbacks host TCU of the Big 12 on September 9, 2017 in Fayetteville.

No. 3 Clemson punches playoff ticket with ACC championship win over Virginia Tech

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For the second straight season, Clemson can say they punched their ticket to the College Football Playoff with yet another close ACC championship game victory.

The third-ranked Tigers jumped out to a big lead, led throughout and ultimately prevailed over Virginia Tech in a 42-35 win that was a tad closer than the final score indicated.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson continued his stellar play down the stretch this season, throwing for 288 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The signal-caller added another two scores on the ground to go with his team-high 85 yards rushing as well on a night where he made some clutch throws down the stretch to keep the team in front of a stingy Bud Foster defense.

Tailback Wayne Gallman also found the end zone in Orlando but was still relatively limited with just 59 yards on 17 carries.

The Hokies did make sure Clemson sweated out things by threatening in the second and third quarters. Quarterback Jerod Evans threw for 264 yards and a touchdown but couldn’t get any help from Virginia Tech’s normally reliable ground game and threw an interception with 71 seconds left to end a comeback. Evans also led the team in rushing and scored twice while running back Travon McMillian did the same but managed to do so on only 37 yards rushing.

With a second straight ACC title in the bag for Dabo Swinney and company, the only question left for Clemson is where will they stand on Sunday afternoon and what semifinal site they will head to. Alabama appears locked into the No. 1 seed in the Peach Bowl but could the close result against Virginia Tech — combined with Washington’s emphatic win in the Pac-12 title game — force a national title game rematch in Atlanta?

That’s probably not on the minds of the Tigers on Saturday night as they rightfully celebrate yet another league championship and look like a dangerous team to face at the end of the month.

No. 3 Clemson holds halftime lead over Virginia Tech in ACC title game

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The Power Five championship games so far this weekend have mostly been runaways and No. 3 Clemson appeared to be doing their part early on to add the ACC title game to that list.

The Tigers jumped out to a three score lead on Saturday night before Virginia Tech clawed their back into the contest and cut the Clemson lead to 21-14 heading into halftime.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson continued to make a late season run at the Heisman Trophy with a performance to match in the half, going 14-of-19 for 117 yards and two scores through the air while adding another touchdown on the ground. Tight end Jordan Leggett caught both of Watson’s passes in the end zone and led the team with 44 yards receiving.

Virginia Tech couldn’t get much going on either side of the ball before the second quarter, giving up over five yards per play and committing several big penalties on defense while failing to move the ball effectively on offense. The Hokies first touchdown only came as the result of both a fake punt and a fullback pass to get the team into the red zone, where Travon McMillian punched it in at the goal line from one yard out.

Things started to turn around in the second quarter though, as Bud Foster’s  defense tightened up and the offense finally started to click. There was no run game to speak of for the Coastal Division champions but the passing game picked up as the game went on and added a second touchdown to cut into the lead late.

There’s still plenty of time for Virginia Tech to make things even more interesting since they get the ball to start the second half. On the flip side, all Clemson likely needs to make the College Football Playoff is a win so if they can regain the momentum they had early in the game, they’ll be well on their way.

Stingy defense and fullback Sam Rogers help Virginia Tech top Miami

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Virginia Tech turned up the pressure on defense and made an underutilized offensive weapon into the star of the show on Thursday night as they blasted Miami 37-16 to keep pace in the ACC Coastal race.

Fullback Sam Rogers had a huge game from out of nowhere to get the Hokies’ offense going with several big plays. His first came halfway through the second quarter when he snuck out of the backfield and rumbled 52 yards just short of the goal line to set up the first touchdown of the night.

He saved his best for the second half however as he actually threw a touchdown to all but seal the victory on a bit of trickeration, rolling right before finding fellow fullback Steven Peoples on a wheel route.

Quarterback Jerod Evans threw for 259 yards and two scores while rushing for 98 and a touchdown on the ground as well. Sophomore tailback Travon McMillian also chipped in 131 yards on the night for a lofty 7.3 yards a carry.

The story of the night for Miami was just how under siege the offense was as Bud Foster’s defense pressured quarterback Brad Kaaya on nearly every dropback and wound up with eight sacks. The Hurricanes signal-caller did throw for over 300 yards and two scores while tossing a few NFL-caliber passes but it just wasn’t enough with the game resting squarely on his shoulders. The ground game never got going as they rushed for under two yards a carry.

The win allows Virginia Tech to keep pace in the ACC Coastal as they pull even with North Carolina at 3-1 in the conference but take first place in the division on account of their head-to-head win. The Hokies remain in the driver’s seat for an ACC title game berth as they take on Pitt next week.

For Miami, the loss was their third straight on the year after dropping a heartbreaker to Florida State earlier in the month. The Hurricanes continue to deal with injures and lost several more players on Thursday as they head back to South Florida looking to regroup after a rough outing against the Hokies.

Hokies keep hopes for one last BeamerBall bowl very much alive

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With Frank Beamer announcing earlier this month that 2015 would be his last as Virginia Tech’s head coach, much was made of this being the long-time Hokie boss’ final Thursday night game.  In the end, the Hokies turned it into a night to remember for the departing coach.

Trailing by two touchdowns early on, VT was able to come back late in the first half, then again late in the second to secure a 23-21 win over Georgia Tech.  The win improved the Hokies to 5-5 on the season, meaning Tech needs to win one of its last two (North Carolina, at Virginia) to ensure Beamer will be going bowling one last time in his storied career and the Hokies won’t be home for the postseason for the first time in more than two decades.

VT had appeared in 22 straight bowl games — all under Beamer — entering the 2015 season, the second-longest streak in the country behind Florida State’s 33 in a row that will be extended to 34* this season.  GT, meanwhile, tumbled to 3-7, meaning their streak of 18 straight bowl appearances has officially come to an end.  That streak had been tied for third nationally with in-state rival Georgia.

The Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, only to see the Hokies score two unanswered touchdowns in the last six minutes of the second to knot the score at 14-all entering the half.  A Brant Mitchell pick-six off a Michael Brewer pass a minute into the third quarter gave GT a seven-point lead at 21-14, with a Joey Slye field goal from 27 yards out slicing the Hokie deficit to four a little less than five minutes later.

Scoreless through the rest of the third and the first third of the final quarter, a Broderick Snoddy fumble was recovered by the Hokies at their own 32-yard line with 10:41 remaining. A three-and-out gave the ball right back to the Yellow Jackets at their own 20-yard line… only to see GT generously hand the ball right back to VT on a fumble of their own on their first play following the punt. Aided by a third-down pass interference call, Travon McMillian‘s four-yard touchdown run, coupled with a missed extra point, gave the Hokies a 23-21 lead, its first of the night, with less than seven minutes left.

That missed PAT didn’t prove costly for the Hokies, however, as the Yellow Jackets failed to get into field goal range on either of their last two drives.

The Hokies outgained by the Yellow Jackets 343-258, and won the turnover battle 3-2 as well.  McMillian led all rushers with 135 yards on the ground, throwing in a pair of touchdowns for good measure.

Tonight’s game was the Yellow Jackets’ 31st on ESPN’s Thursday night package, the most of any FBS program.  The second-most?  Their opponents, the Hokies, with 30.

(*I refuse to comply with this FSU nonsense. The Seminoles’ streak is at 34 straight.)