CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Kyron Drones threw three touchdown passes, Bhayshul Tuten scored on a 32-yard run and a 94-yard kickoff return and Virginia Tech beat Virginia for the 18th time in the last 19 meetings, 55-17, on Saturday to achieve bowl eligibility.
Drones threw touchdown passes of 44, 84 and 34 yards and the Hokies (6-6, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) also scored on two long runs. They had a 294-60 yardage edge at halftime and boosted their total to 378 on Drones' 84-yard pass to Da'Quan Felton on their first play from scrimmage after halftime to go ahead 31-0.
The Hokies pulled out all the stops to make sure their players understood the importance of the game, having Hall of Fame coach Frank Beamer and former defensive coordinator Bud Foster address the team and showing them numerous video messages from former players expressing the same message.
“We made a strong effort to make sure this group understood what this game really means, what it’s about, and not really for UVA, for our group, for our fan base, for Virginia Tech, for all the players in who played in this game,” second-year coach Brent Pry said.
Tuten's big day came a week after he carried twice for minus three yards.
“It seems like we just keep feeding him the ball and good things happen. He’s hard to tackle, he’s got great vision, he's tough and he’s fast. He can do it returning kicks. He can do it catching the ball and he can do it running the ball out of the backfield. So he’s a special player for sure,” Pry said.
Virtually nothing went right for the Cavaliers (3-9, 2-6), who were facing their top rival for the first time in two seasons because last year's game was cancelled after the fatal shootings of three Virginia players with two weeks left in the season.
When they finally scored on a field goal midway through the third quarter, Tuten took the ensuing kickoff up the Virginia sideline, raised his left arm in triumph 20 yards shy of the end zone and cruised in with no defenders even close.
Later, Virginia muffed a punt and the Hokies recovered, leading to Drones' 34-yard scoring pass to Da'Quan Felton, their second touchdown of the game. The Hokies' point total was the highest for either team in the 104-year history of the series.
“We've got to do a better job of showing up to play,” safety Jonas Sanker said. "I think a big area we need to grow in is I think we need to be internally motivated more, and that’s just going come down to guys looking themselves in the mirror, me included. I think a lot of people on the outside can put it on the coaches and find every reason to blame, but at the end of the day, the players are the ones on the field and we got to find our own ‘why,’ we got to find our own reasons to want to make the play, want to win the one-on-ones.”
Virginia freshman Anthony Colandrea was sacked five times and got no support from a running game that finished with 43 yards. He showed no signs of the fearless flair that he'd shown previously this season until the Cavaliers trailed 38-3. He did hit Malachi Fields with a pair of second-half touchdown passes.
Drones finished 10 for 22 for 244 yards — he also had a 74-yard scoring throw nullified by a holding call — while Tuten gained 117 yards on 16 carries and Felton caught three passes for 133 yards. The Hokies outgained Virginia 500-286.
The lone bright spot for the Cavaliers was Malik Washington, whose 14 catches for 115 yards allowed him to set an ACC single-season record of 110 catches, breaking in 12 games the mark of 108 Duke's Jamison Crowder set in 2013 in 14 games.
Washington, a transfer from Northwestern who never had a 100-yard game there, finished with 10 such games this season, including a school-record seven straight.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies used Drones' power running ability at 234 pounds very effectively, especially on a fourth-and-2 play from the Cavaliers' 44. He rolled right, drawing at least three defenders as receiver Stephen Gosnell slipped behind the distracted secondary and caught a walk-it-in 44-yard scoring pass to make it 10-0.
Virginia: The Cavaliers had won three of their last six, but looked overmatched from the start. They didn't get a first down until their fifth series, when the they got two on consecutive roughing the passer penalties. Shortly thereafter, they trailed 24-0.
The Hokies, whose fans travel well, await their bowl destination.
The Cavaliers season is over.
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