After playing one half of defensive football, No. 21 Virginia Tech (1-0) and No. 22 West Virginia (0-1) opened up the offenses in the second half and traded touchdowns for the last 30 minutes. In the end, the Hokies held on for a nail-biter of a win, 31-24 thanks to a brilliant debut from quarterback Josh Jackson.
The freshman had some rough moments but still turned in an admirable effort against a West Virginia team that can play some decent defense as well. Jackson passed for 235 yards and a touchdown and rushed for a team-high 101 yards and another score. Justin Fuente needed his young quarterback to shine in a back-and-forth game like this on the big stage, and he got it. Jackson emerged as a star in his first game, and the Hokies overall look once again to be a top contender in the ACC Coastal Divison, and they could even be ready to make a run at the conference crown if they play like this all season long.
Not to be overlooked in the loss is the play of West Virginia quarterback Will Grier. In his first start since 2015 with the Florida Gators, Grier passed for 371 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. Grier also put together 52 hard-earned yards on the ground, highlighted by a hurdle to keep a drive moving on the final drive of the game. Grier put the Mountaineers into position to tie the game, but a couple of last-ditch efforts were unable to get in the endzone.
West Virginia running back Justin Crawford also turned in a 106-yard performance, and both teams went for over 200 yards on the ground. The teams also combined for 50 first downs and had just one turnover in the game. An interception thrown by Grier led to nothing more than a Virginia Tech punt three plays later.
It was a toss-up game from start to finish, and ended with both teams having chances to grab a win. Virginia Tech just managed to find a few more plays.
There are few games you witness and feel good about both teams heading forward this early in the season. Both West Virginia and Virginia Tech look as though they will be able to have strong seasons if Sunday night was any indication of what to expect from each this fall. Both the Big 12 and ACC should be put on alert about these two teams.
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen cost his team some yardage in the second half when he crossed the line and stepped on the field. This season, officials are being more strict with coaches stepping on the playing field. Moments after chasing down a ref over a call he didn’t like, Holgorsen had a flag thrown on him for stepping on the field while West Virginia was being called for a holding penalty. The 15-yard penalty to Holgorsen helped turn a 3rd and 1 into a 3rd and 26, moving the ball from the Virginia Tech 23-yard line back to the Tech 48-yard line.
Virginia Tech will open up their home schedule next week against Delaware. West Virginia will also play at home next week, as they host East Carolina (who just lost to the top-ranked FCS team, James Madison).