Virginia Tech sent a message this weekend that their loss to Old Dominion was a major fluke with a dominant 31-14 win over previously 22nd ranked Duke
. Virginia Tech had plenty of standout performances but in a week that saw VT lose Josh Jackson to injury and Trevon Hill be kicked off the team, Ryan Willis and Houshun Gaines stepped up to earn Hokie of the Game honors.
Offensive Hokie of the Game: Ryan Willis
Ryan Willis had arguably the best performance we've seen from a Virginia Tech quarterback since Josh Jackson's debut against West Virginia, going 17-27 for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Blue Devils. This was the third time Willis broke the 300+ passing yard mark in a game with this being Willis' first career win as a starting QB.
Willis gave the Hokies a vertical passing threat that helped stretch the field and create more space for the Hokies to make plays on crossing and checkdown passes. In addition, Willis and the Hokies' passing game rose to the occasion with VT converting multiple third and longs in a manner that I haven't seen in a while in the college game.
Some wondered what Ryan Willis could do, but it's clear that the Hokies' offense should be just fine without Josh Jackson.
Damon Hazelton led the Hokies' passing game with 4 receptions for 65 yards including a touchdown catch that was a great over the shoulder catch with perfect placement from Willis. Steven Peoples led the Hokies' rushing attack with 16 carries for 47 yards and a TD along with an 11-yard reception. Dalton Keene led VT with 82 receiving yards on 2 catches including a 67-yard touchdown reception that was the best play of his career to date.
Defensive Hokie of the Game: Houshun Gaines
With Trevon Hill gone, Houshun Gaines stepped up and had one of his best games with 4 tackles including 2.5 sacks in a game where he could have easily had another sack or two. Gaines was dominant as a pass rusher even when the Hokies simply sent 3 to go after Daniel Jones. Gaines even dropped into coverage at times with the eight-person zone Bud Foster went with and was more than capable in that role.
Though most of the focus was on how guys like Emmanuel Belmar and TyJuan Garbutt would fill the hole left by Hill, it was Gaines who stepped up even more and showed that he may be one of the ACC's best defensive ends. Going forward, expect Gaines to be one of the ACC's top pass rushers and a playmaker that Notre Dame has to pay attention to.
In addition, Gaines had this type of performance under circumstances that are less than ideal.
To say Gaines' performance last night was impressive would be understating all the different factors that make his 2.5 sack game as impressive as it is.
Jovonn Quillen may not have started, but the junior cornerback stepped up and provided some very good play with 7 tackles while also possibly opening some competition with Bryce Watts and Caleb Farley at cornerback. Reggie Floyd made some big plays with 8 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss while Ricky Walker had 5 tackles including 0.5 sacks and 1 total tackle for loss. Meanwhile, Rayshard Ashby led the Hokies with 15 tackles, the most for a VT player since Tremaine Edmunds in 2016.
Congrats to Ryan Willis and Houshun Gaines on being the Hokies of the Game against Duke.
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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