Tech Outlasts WVU 31-24 As Last-Gasp Comeback Falls Short
LANDOVER, Md. – West Virginia had its chances. But it allowed a huge quarterback keeper by Josh Jackson for the game-deciding score, then couldn’t get off the field on a first and 30 or finish a potential game-tying drive as Virginia Tech escaped in claiming the Black Diamond Trophy in a 31-24 Mountaineer loss.
WVU quarterback Will Grier was brilliant, throwing for 371 yards and three scores against one interception in among the best debuts in school history. The passing performance already ranks in the top 20 in school history in terms of single-game yardage, and the junior nearly brought WVU back to tie before David Sills dropped a difficult game-tying touchdown with seconds left.
For all the defense that was in the first half, the second was filled with big plays in a game that went back-and-forth until the end. Trailing 10-7 in the third quarter, WVU got an initial stop and drove 58 yards behind deep passes from Grier to Sills and Ka’Raun White. The Mountaineers tied it at 10-10 with Mike Molina’s 34-yard field goal.
But Tech answered, moving 71 yards in just four plays – and taking just 88 seconds to do so – in capping the touchdown drive on Deshawn McClease’s 12-yard rush over the right side. That made it 17-10, and it looked like the Hokies would add on after West Virginia went three and out. But Tech kicker Joey Slye pushed a 38-yard field goal wide, and the Mountaineers took over at their own 21-yard line.
Grier was brilliant on the ensuing series, completing four of five passes for 79 yards in quickly carving up Virginia Tech’s corners. West Virginia tied the score on Sills’ second touchdown catch of the game, this on a quick slant after Tech moved the outside linebackers up to create a passing window. Grier took advantage, slinging a laser to Sills for a 17-17 game.
But Tech responded again, this time using a long kickoff return to the 32-yard line to set up a deep pass to down the sideline to a wide open Cam Phillips. Phillips scored, and once again WVU was on the short end of a 24-17 tally. The two teams traded possessions from there – the Mountaineers were knocked out of field goal range when head coach Dana Holgorsen was flagged for a personal foul penalty for arguing – and then WVU tied it on a two-play, 73-yard drive that took 29 seconds.
Grier was again on fire, finding Sills for 13 yards and then connecting with Gary Jennings on a 60-yard catch-and-run that tied that game at 24-24 with 12:37 to play. It seemed that momentum was building for the Mountaineers at that point, but a missed deep pass to Jennings thwarted a drive, and Tech used Jackson’s 42 yards quarterback keeper to score the go-ahead touchdown and take a 31-24 lead with 6:30 left.
The Hokies were able to hold West Virginia from there, and converted the key first and 30 via a pass interference call on a throw well out of bounds. From there, it was elementary and Tech closed out its third consecutive series win by holding WVU at the end once again despite a late field goal miss that could have padded VT’s lead.
West Virginia trailed 10-7 at the half. Grier had hit 15-of-24 passes to that point, but was intercepted on an off-balance throw against his momentum while rolling out on fourth and two early on. That negated a 39-yard field goal opportunity for the Mountaineers with a kicker who made 13-of-17 from that distance or closer last year.
The Hokies failed to take advantage, however, and West Virginia pieced together a 10-play, 86-yard drive that was capped by an 11-yard back shoulder touchdown catch by Sills. Showcasing their chemistry, Sills slipped the cornerback and hauled in the throw, which was right at the front corner of the end zone.
The score put WVU ahead 7-3, and the Mountaineers held that lead until Virginia Tech’s final drive, when the Hokies moved 47 yards in eight plays after benefiting from a short field. After completing a key third-and-nine pass for a first down to WVU’s eight-yard line, Jackson punched in on a keeper from five yards out for the 10-7 score at the break.