Virginia Tech looked to finish with 10 wins for the second-straight season, but faced a big challenge against a veteran Oklahoma State team looking to send Mason Rudolph and James Washington out with a victory.
The Hokies fought, but their offensive inexperience led to too many mistakes while the defense gave up a couple too many plays in the end.
Virginia Tech came up short against Oklahoma State 30-21 to finish the season 9-4 while the Cowboys finish with a 10-3 record. The Hokies will now await the decisions of Tremaine Edmunds, Tim Settle, and Terrell Edmunds to see if that trio will return next season. If they do, it's hard not to have the Hokies as a preseason top 15-20 team.
Offensively, the Hokies ran the ball the best they have all season averaging 5 yards per carry and running for 248 yards. VT's dominance on the ground helped them control the clock as the Hokies held the ball for 38:13 while Oklahoma State only had the ball for 21:47.
However, the Hokies made too many mistakes and missed a few opportunities that proved costly in the end against an Oklahoma State offense that takes advantage of mistakes. On their second drive of the game, VT had the chance to go up 14-3 but a lost fumble on the 1 after a 90-yard drive led to a 10-point swing with the Cowboys turning that into a field goal.
The Hokies also had a bad snap on a fourth down and a Eric Kumah drop in the end zone that proved costly. Jackson also had a pass that was behind Phil Patterson that ended up being costly as Patterson's drop and deflection ended up right in Oklahoma State hands for an interception.
In these mistakes and some of the dropped passes, the Hokies' youth showed. However, this young offense showed plenty of promise as Jackson was able to move the ball well at times especially on the ground with Deshawn McClease and Steven Peoples. Meanwhile, young receivers like Eric Kumah, Phil Patterson, and Hezekiah Grimsley all had solid games and gave Hokie fans plenty of reason to be excited about the future.
Of greater note, the Hokies also outgained a veteran Oklahoma State offense 518-492, an impressive feat against an offense with the Unitas and Biletnikoff Award winners.
Josh Jackson had a solid game overall going 22-41 for 248 yards, a TD, and an interception while running for 50 yards and 2 TDs on 16 carries. Jackson made some good plays, but also made some costly mistakes along with missing a few passes that could have benefited the Hokies a lot including a wide open Henri Murphy for what would have been an easy touchdown.
Jackson made some freshman mistakes with his youth showing tonight, but the young QB has a bright future. Though a competition with Hendon Hooker seems likely this spring, that shouldn't be seen as a bad thing or a sign that Jackson isn't the guy that can take VT even higher. We've seen plenty of young quarterbacks steadily improve, just look at Wake Forest's John Wolford who led Wake to their best season in years after struggling a lot more than Jackson did early in his career.
Deshawn McClease built on strong performances against Pittsburgh and Virginia with the best game of his career having 18 carries for 124 rushing yards. McClease was dominant making effective cuts and finding the holes he needed to. McClease's speed also made a big difference and made him extremely dangerous in space. Over the final three games, McClease has stepped up as the Hokies' top running back, and it's hard not seeing him as the number 1 guy when VT faces Florida State to open next season.
Steven Peoples also had a strong performance with 10 carries for 56 yards while Jalen Holston had 12 yards on 4 carries. Peoples has established himself as the #2 guy and power runner behind McClease while Holston has a bright future as a power runner who is continuing to get more comfortable in Justin Fuente's offense.
VT's receiving corps did have some costly drops, but the receivers showed lots of promise as a whole despite not having Cam Phillips to take the defense's primary attention. Eric Kumah led the way for the Hokies with 72 yards and a touchdown on 5 receptions including a pair of impressive catches. Kumah's touchdown catch was one that he won with will while he also went over the top of a DB to make another catch to set up VT near the goal line.
Phil Patterson had the best game of his career with 7 catches for 59 yards in what was a breakout game for him. Hezekiah Grimsley had another strong performance with 5 catches for 63 yards. The pair of 757 receivers were quiet for most of the season, but came along towards the end of it and show how VT is building a very formidable WR corps.
CJ Carroll had 3 catches for 21 yards while Henri Murphy had a 24-yard reception (and should have had a long TD), and James Clark had a 9-yard reception in his final game as a Hokie. Sean Savoy had a disappointing with only a 1-yard carry as the freshman WR struggled early and didn't see the field too much in the second half.
Defensively, the Hokies gave up 492 yards, but were effective in the red zone holding the Cowboys to three field goals in the red zone. However, VT had some issues giving up big plays including a 64-yard TD to James Washington, a 50-yard pass to Marcell Ateman that put Oklahoma State on the 1, and a big run by Justice Hill that put Oklahoma State in field goal range to help give them a 30-21 lead.
The Hokies were able to get a good amount of pressure on Mason Rudolph with 3 sacks. VT gave up some quality runs to Justice Hill, but VT's rush defense was able to contain Hill a good amount especially on interior runs. Virginia Tech had some good moments in pass coverage as well, but they also gave Oklahoma State too much room off the line of scrimmage at times as well.
Andrew Motuapuaka wore the #25 jersey well and was one of three Hokies who led Virginia Tech with 7 tackles in addition to having a tackle for loss and a big pass breakup. Tremaine Edmunds had 7 tackles and made some important open-field tackles while Reggie Floyd also had 7 tackles. Deon Newsome wasn't too bad in his final game as a Hokie with 4 tackles and 1 sack while Brandon Facyson and Greg Stroman each had 3 tackles with Facyson also being credited with a pass breakup.
Virginia Tech's defensive line had a strong performance all around as Ricky Walker and Houshun Gaines each had 4 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 sack. Trevon Hill also had a solid night with 2 tackles for loss and a sack. Tim Settle had a quiet night in part due to suffering a minor injury at one point during the game.
For the first time in years, the Hokies may return all four of their starters along the defensive line if Tim Settle chooses to stay. If he does, the Hokies will have one of the best defensive lines in college football returning next season.
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