"Cincinnati ranked No. 1 in the nation last season in tackles for loss and No. 2 in sacks. The Bearcats had co-Defensive Player of the Year Derek Wolfe wreaking havoc from the middle, along with senior John Hughes as well. Both ended up getting drafted. In two games this year, Cincinnati has eight total sacks and 17 tackles for loss -- both ranking in the top 10 in the nation."Washington Post:
Cincinnati escaped with a 27-24 victory after a wild fourth quarter in front of 46,026 at FedEx Field.
There were moments Saturday when it appeared Virginia Tech’s defense would be the lone saving grace for an offense that, at times, elicited boos from a pro-Hokies crowd. But after the Hokies scored the go-ahead points with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati wide receiver Damon Julien get behind cornerback Kyle Fuller to reel in a 39-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left on the clock for the game-winning score.
“I just made the biggest mistake I could ever make. That’s letting the receiver get behind me. That’s what happened,” a despondent Fuller said after the game. “I take responsibility.”
Virginia Tech (3-2) will now re-enter ACC play next week at North Carolina with two nonconference losses for the second time in three years.
Tech suffered from poor field position early on “it limited our playbook,” Logan Thomas said. Play-caller Mike O’Cain said he was more conservative and called more screens than usual because of Cincinnati’s pass rush. Whatever the case may be, wide receiver Marcus Davis (five catches, 101 yards) admitted the offense’s penchant for slow starts has become “troubling.”
The ending to this defeat was particularly painful, though, given the late resurgence by the Hokies’ offense. Virginia Tech didn’t gain a first down Saturday until 5 minutes 17 seconds remained in the second quarter, but managed to put together two fourth-quarter touchdown drives.
Thomas ended the game 17 of 30 for 242 yards, with a touchdown pass and two interceptions, but most of his damage was done in the fourth quarter when Virginia Tech gained 173 yards and the two teams combined for 31 points.
Thomas' longest completion of the day was a 56-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Corey Fuller that gave Virginia Tech a 24-20 advantage with less than two minutes left on the game clock.
But Cincinnati would soon transform an encouraging effort by the Hokies’ defense into a disappointing one. The Bearcats gained 214 yards in the fourth quarter alone and ended the game with 495 yards of offense.
“After that nice catch by Corey, we thought we had it,” said linebacker Jack Tyler, who finished with a team-high 11 tackles. “With how our defense had played all game, we thought this is our time. We’re gonna make a stop and the game will be over. We just didn’t get it done.”
It was a particularly rough day for Virginia Tech’s defensive backs. Antone Exum committed two face mask penalties and was called for pass interference twice. Michael Cole was the main culprit on Abernathy’s long touchdown catch. And freshman Donaldven Manning got beat by Cincinnati wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins (seven catches, 134 yards) on a 29-yard touchdown pass midway through the third quarter when Fuller left the game momentarily with cramps.
Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux completed just 19 of his 42 pass attempts, but finished with a career-high 376 yards passing and three touchdowns.
When the afternoon started, though, it appeared Virginia Tech’s offense would be the goat. The Hokies mustered just 72 yards in the first half, often looking out of sync, unimaginative and incapable of producing anything but a three-and-out on their first six drives.
“I thought we had it a couple times,” Coach Frank Beamer said. “There are some positive things out of this, but this is just a tough way to lose.”
At 3-2, the Hokies have fallen from the Top 25 and face a remaining conference schedule that includes both Clemson and Florida State. Virginia Tech has won six of the eight Coastal Division titles since the creation of the ACC's divisions in 2005. But that dominance, which includes a running streak since 2009, could be on the line if both sides of the ball don't improve.
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