Virginia Tech scratched their way into a bowl game by scheduling an emergency 12th game at the end of the regular season, and the Hokies made sure to take advantage of their bowl eligibility right at the start of the Military Bowl in Annapolis this afternoon. Virginia Tech marched right down the field on the game’s opening possession against Cincinnati, and the Hokies and Bearcats are knotted at 14-14 at halftime in Annapolis, Maryland.
Ryan Willis completed a 21-yard pass to Eric Kumah on Virginia Tech’s opening possession for a touchdown at the end of a 10-play drive. The instant replay booth had to take a look at the catch to verify the result on the field before the Hokies could officially enjoy their early lead. The lead did not last for long, however, as Cincinnati responded with a touchdown drive of their own on their first offensive series. On 3rd & 8 from the Virginia Tech 38-yard line, Desmond Ridder dumped off a screen pass to Charles McClelland who followed some key blocks down the field as he found an open path for a long touchdown to even the score at 7-7.
Cincinnati lost Ridder at quarterback to a right leg injury late in the first quarter, with Hayden Moore stepping in to guide the offense. Ridder returned to the Cincinnati sideline later in the second quarter but was seen with a boot on his leg, thus ruling his return out of the question for the Bearcats.
Despite playing with Moore at QB and after some initial rhythm issues as he first entered the game, Cincinnati would take the lead early in the second quarter in somewhat bizarre fashion. Virginia Tech forced a fumble by Cincinnati running back Michael Warren II. The loose ball was recovered in the end zone by Kahlil Lewis of Cincinnati for a Bearcats touchdown.
Virginia Tech tied the game with a goal-line push of their own, without the aide of a fumble recovery, when Steven Peoples pushed across the goal line on a second down play. The Hokies had a chance to take a lead just before halftime, but a long field goal try by Brian Johnson slipped just wide of the goal post despite having the distance.
It’s been six years since Virginia Tech last played Florida State and it’s safe to say that Justin Fuente is a bit of a difference maker in the latest meeting between the ACC rivals. The Hokies’ head coach was masterful calling plays early as his team jumped out to a 17-3 lead against the Seminoles in a fun, offensive-filled first half at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Tech needed 10 plays on their opening drive to cover 75 yards before finding the end zone, opening the season as about as well as possible. While the Hokies mixed in three different tailbacks, it was Deshawm McClease who really seemed to surprise the defense with several nice runs to the outside and went into the locker room with 66 yards on the ground. That strong run game opened things up for quarterback Josh Jackson, who looked solid in the pocket and on the move while recording 102 yards and a touchdown through the air.
Not to be outdone, there was a bit of BeamerBall as well as Virginia Tech’s Chris Cunningham blocked a punt just before the end of the second quarter that was recovered in the end zone by Eric Kumah. That extended the team’s lead to two scores and sapped whatever momentum the home team might have had and quieted the crowd on the road (an ensuing interception by Caleb Farley didn’t hurt either).
While Bud Foster’s defense did look a lot better than anticipated for such a young group, Florida State was still able to move the ball early. Making his first start since being injured in the team’s opener against Alabama a year ago, Deondre Francois was sharp passing the ball and was already up to 214 yards and nearly had a touchdown throw of his own too. It was a good thing he was on point because the much vaunted rushing attack for the Seminoles was kept in check for the most part. Sophomore Cam Akers only had seven on the ground and Jacques Patrick wasn’t terribly better but did manage 43 yards.
FSU still managed nearly six yards per play and moved the ball well on their drives but simply lost momentum when they entered the red zone and also missed a field goal early.
It’s all is trending toward a fun second half as playmakers on both sides are really stepping up. It’s not often you have a key conference game to open the season but this one is certainly shaping up to have a fun finish in Tallahassee.