Sep 3, 2021; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA;  Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Braxton Burmeister (3) runs the huddle during the first quarter against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

No. 15 Virginia Tech takes fast start to West Virginia

VVirginia Tech’s last 3-0 start came in 2017.

It has been much longer since West Virginia lost to a nonconference opponent at home.

Hitting the road for the first time in 2021, the No. 15 Hokies look to remain undefeated on Saturday against the Mountaineers at Morgantown, W.V.

Following a 17-10 upset of then-No. 10 North Carolina and 35-14 win over Middle Tennessee on Saturday, Virginia Tech (2-0) plays its initial road game with an eye toward that 2017 team, which opened the season 4-0. The Hokies are just 7-8 away from home since the start of the 2018 season.

West Virginia (1-1) has won six consecutive games at home and is 18-0 against nonconference opponents at Morgantown since a 47-21 loss to then-No. 2 LSU on Sept. 24, 2011. That was also the last time the Mountaineers hosted a ranked nonconference team.

“Incredible challenge for our football team,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said.

“We’re excited for it, we’re excited for the opportunity, the challenge to this team on the road in a hostile environment — and see how we can perform. This is part of why you play the game.”

The Hokies’ early success has been based on a solid defensive effort in which they’ve yielded 703 total yards, recorded nine sacks and four interceptions through two games.

Offensively, Virginia Tech quarterback Braxton Burmeister has thrown for 311 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also leads the team with 94 rushing yards on 17 carries.

Virginia Tech did endure a blow after talented tight end James Mitchell (five receptions, 42 yards, one touchdown in 2021) went down with a season-ending knee injury.

The Hokies have won three in a row over West Virginia, but this is their first meeting since 2017.

The Mountaineers opened their season with a 30-24 loss at Maryland, where they rushed for just 48 yards and committed four turnovers. West Virginia, however, rebounded with an easy 66-0 rout of Long Island University last weekend.

“We sit here at 1-1, and now our chance at redemption, a chance to really make a mark is on Saturday,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said.

“It’s going to be one of the biggest home games we’ve had here in my tenure. … (I look) forward to the opportunity.”

Virginia Tech’s defense looks to continue its strong start while trying to contain multi-threat Mountaineers quarterback Jarret Doege and running back Leddie Brown.

In his fifth collegiate season, Doege has thrown for 536 of his 7,982 career yards in 2021. He threw three of his four touchdowns this season against LIU. Brown, with 1,927 rushing yards over 34 collegiate contests, saw limited work against LIU after running for 73 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries versus Maryland.

Brown’s five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving) are tied for second in the country to enter the week.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA;  Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Braxton Burmeister (3) runs the ball against Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders defensive lineman Zaylin Wood (96) during the second quarter at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ryan Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Raheem Blackshear’s 2 late TDs lead No. 19 Virginia Tech

Raheem Blackshear rushed for two second-half touchdowns Saturday as No. 19 Virginia Tech broke a close game open and cruised to a 35-14 non-conference decision over Middle Tennessee in Blacksburg, Va.

Blackshear capped drives with 6- and 1-yard runs that gave the Hokies (2-0) a four-touchdown advantage. It capped a stretch that saw Virginia Tech score on its first three possessions of the second half.

The Hokies’ defense also played another strong game. After notching six sacks and three interceptions in last week’s 17-10 win over then-No. 10 North Carolina, they limited the Blue Raiders (1-1) to just 66 yards on 36 rushes and registered three sacks.

Quarterback Braxton Burmeister completed 14 of 24 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown for Virginia Tech. The Hokies finished with 383 total yards, 224 of them on the ground. Blackshear’s 54 yards led a balanced rushing attack.

Middle Tennessee starting quarterback Bailey Hockman was good on 19 of 32 passes for 207 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Backup Chase Cunningham completed 7 of 8 for 76 yards and a score in the final minute.

The Hokies took a 7-0 lead when Burmeister hit Tayvion Robinson on a 6-yard scoring strike with 21 seconds left in the first quarter, finishing a 17-play, 79-yard drive that lasted 7:36.

Connor Blumrick’s 2-yard run with 8:54 remaining in the second quarter upped the margin to 14-0. The Blue Raiders sliced the deficit in half as Hockman found CJ Windham for a 5-yard touchdown at the 5:17 mark.

But Virginia Tech pulled away in the second half as its offense found a rhythm. Jalen Holston ripped off a 29-yard scoring jaunt with 7:55 left in the third quarter, followed by Blackshear’s consecutive touchdowns.

Cunningham’s 6-yard scoring strike to Marquel Tinsley with 30 seconds remaining in the game made the final margin a bit closer.

The Hokies converted 7 of 12 third downs and played a clean game, drawing just three penalties for 26 yards.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2021; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA;  Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Braxton Burmeister (3)throws a warmup pass before the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

No. 19 Virginia Tech taking nothing for granted vs. Middle Tennessee

As far as Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente is concerned, the challenge this week is simple.

“Turn the page,” he said.

That’s because the Hokies can’t bask in the laurels of their 17-10 season-opening win over then-No. 10 North Carolina any longer. There’s another game this week as Middle Tennessee comes to Blacksburg, Va., for a Saturday matchup.

And this is the type of game that Virginia Tech, which entered the Associated Press poll Tuesday at No. 19, has tripped up on in recent seasons. More than once after winning a big game against a Top 25 team, it’s followed up with a stupefying loss.

There was a 49-35 defeat at Old Dominion in 2018 less than three weeks after a dominating season-opening win at then-No. 19 Florida State. And a 31-17 loss at lightly regarded Syracuse back in 2016 after the Hokies routed then-17th-ranked North Carolina 34-3 the week before.

That’s why Fuente has an extra sense of urgency this week.

“Just take last week and put it in the bank, put it to the side and focus on our nonconference schedule,” he said. “You play nonconference games for postseason recognition, and it starts with Middle Tennessee this Saturday.”

Regardless of who the Hokies play, if their defense plays as fast and as firm as it did against North Carolina, they’ll give everyone fits. Second-year coordinator Justin Hamilton’s unit looked a lot like a Bud Foster defense, recording six sacks and intercepting Sam Howell three times.

Chamarri Conner recorded the game-clinching interception with 37 seconds left, topping off a performance that saw him record a team-high eight tackles. He was named Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Back of the Week.

Offensively, Virginia Tech wasn’t spectacular, but did keep the ball for nearly 35 minutes as it got an efficient performance from quarterback Braxton Burmeister. He was 12-of-19 for 169 yards and an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end James Mitchell late in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee opened last week with a 50-15 victory over FCS opponent Monmouth, although the final score doesn’t indicate that the game was competitive for three quarters.

The Blue Raiders never trailed but led just 28-15 early in the fourth quarter before putting the game away with 22 points. They cashed in four turnovers for 27 points and also scored their first touchdown on Jaylin Lane’s 70-yard punt return 16 seconds into the second quarter.

Middle Tennessee used three quarterbacks against Monmouth. Bailey Hockman started and threw a pair of touchdown passes in the last two minutes of the first half to snap a 7-7 tie. The Blue Raiders managed just 360 yards of offense.

Coach Rick Stockstill says this week provides unique obstacles for his team, including a seven-hour bus ride Friday from Murfreesboro, Tenn., to Blacksburg, Va.

“We’ve got to be able to handle that and then be ready for a loud stadium,” he said. “They were extremely loud last week against North Carolina, and we expect the same things this week.”

This will be the first meeting of the programs.

–Field Level Media

Jan 2, 2021; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7) walks off the field after being defeated by the Texas A&M Aggies at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 North Carolina starts season at Virginia Tech

It has been nearly a quarter-century since North Carolina’s football team has received this kind of attention entering a season.

That ought to have the 10th-ranked Tar Heels motivated, and it figures to have Virginia Tech on full alert when the teams collide Friday night in Blacksburg, Va.

North Carolina’s stock has risen largely because of last season’s Orange Bowl appearance and the presence of third-year quarterback Sam Howell, who has made lists as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.

“I know we should be in the Top 10, or higher,” North Carolina wide receiver Emery Simmons said. “But I just think our main focus now is — we’ve got so many non-believers that don’t believe in us that we should be there — so we’re trying to keep our head down and work.”

This opener is an Atlantic Coast Conference game between Coastal Division rivals. North Carolina is the preseason pick to win the division.

Last year in Chapel Hill, N.C., the teams met in early October with both clubs holding national rankings. The Tar Heels won 56-45, racking up 656 yards of total offense with a crowd limited to 7 percent of stadium capacity because of the pandemic.

This time there’s bound to be a different atmosphere at usually raucous Lane Stadium.

“We’re going to a hostile place that’s a very well-coached football team that doesn’t like us very much and has a circle around our head,” North Carolina coach Mack Brown said. “So get better. Quit talking about how good you are and continue to get better.”

Brown is entering his third season since returning to the helm of the Tar Heels. He coached the program to prominence through the late 1990s before heading to Texas.

This marks North Carolina’s highest preseason ranking in 24 years — when Brown was coach for a 1997 team that was undefeated going into a November showdown with Florida State.

It’s not so rosy for Virginia Tech after last year’s 5-6 record, ending a string of 27 consecutive years of bowl appearances. The Hokies lost five of their last seven games.

A better offseason has improved the outlook.

“I feel great about where we’re at and what’s in front of us,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said.

Fuente is in his sixth season in charge of the Hokies, and an upgrade in results is bound to be required to secure his future with the team.

“We’ve got some guys who have made some physical strides that may give them the opportunity to help us from a depth standpoint,” Fuente said. “But they’re going to have to do that on the field before I feel better about it.”

The Hokies haven’t fared well against highly ranked teams in season openers. They’re 0-9 in openers vs. Top 10 opponents, most recently a 2015 loss to No. 1 Ohio State.

The Tar Heels and Hokies have played memorable games in Blacksburg, including Virginia Tech’s six-overtime 43-41 victory two years ago at home. In the Tar Heels’ 2015 visit, they upended Virginia Tech in overtime in legendary coach Frank Beamer’s final home game.

Virginia Tech is 6-3 at home in the series.

North Carolina’s 8-4 record last year came with upset losses at Florida State and Virginia. The mark also included a defeat to Texas A&M in the Orange Bowl, which was played without standout North Carolina running backs Javonte Williams and Michael Carter because they opted out of the game.

Replenishing the backfield behind Howell has been one of the objectives for the Tar Heels. Some of that figures to come with the addition of Ty Chandler, who transferred from Tennessee.

Howell’s 68 touchdown throws are the most in ACC history for a player through two seasons.

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2018; Annapolis, MD, USA; A general view of the field as Cincinnati Bearcats prepare to snap the ball against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the first half at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Va. Tech LB Isi Etute charged with second-degree murder

Virginia Tech linebacker Isi Etute has been charged with second-degree murder, according to multiple reports.

An incoming freshman, Etute was arrested in connection with an incident that occurred on May 31 and resulted in the death of a Blacksburg, Virginia, resident.

A hearing for Etute, who has been suspended indefinitely by the university and the football team, has been set for Thursday morning.

“The Virginia Tech and Town of Blacksburg communities are united in our shared concern for the welfare of all,” the university said in a statement. “Together, we denounce all acts of violence and stand together in support of one another. You don’t need to be close to this to be affected by this. If you need assistance or support, you are encouraged to reach out for help.”

A native of Virginia Beach, Etute was a three-star member of the Hokies’ 2021 recruiting class. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder out at Frank W. Cox High School enrolled at Virginia Tech in January.

Etute is being held at Montgomery County Jail without bond.

–Field Level Media

Oct 3, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies head coach Justin Fuente reacts as his team plays against the Duke Blue Devils in the second half at Wallace Wade Stadium. The Virginia Tech Hokies won 38-31. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia Tech, Kansas State opt against participating in bowls

Virginia Tech and Kansas State have opted against seeking bowl bids and will end their respective seasons, the schools announced Wednesday.

The Hokies’ decision ends the nation’s longest bowl streak at 27 years. They join fellow Atlantic Coast Conference schools Boston College, Pittsburgh, Virginia and Georgia Tech in declining to participate in bowl games this season.

Virginia Tech (5-6) posted its first regular-season losing campaign since posting a 2-8-1 record in 1992. A .500 record requirement for bowl consideration in the 2020 season was waived due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We had a team meeting and our players have decided to not play, and I’m going to support them 100 percent,” Hokies coach Justin Fuente said on Wednesday. “It speaks to the difficulty of the season they’ve been through. There were players who wanted to play, but we were going to do this all together or not, and it became evident that it was a very difficult situation.

“There’s kids that would like to go home for Christmas. This is ultimately about our kids. I think they’ve sacrificed enough. They’ve been at this for some time and given up freedoms and plenty of opportunities, so we’re going to turn the page and get ready to go.”

The Wildcats’ reasoning for their decision is that they would not have enough players to prepare for a bowl game. Instead, the school announced that it is pausing football activities following its most recent COVID-19 test results and contact tracing.

“This has been an unbelievably challenging year for everyone, but we were very excited to have the opportunity to end the season in a bowl game,” Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor said. “But, with new positive cases and additional close contacts in our program, we would not have enough players to continue practices and field a team for the bowl game. I want to thank our student-athletes and coaches for their tireless effort this year and for being flexible during a time when every day presented new challenges.”

The Wildcats were eligible to compete in a bowl after finishing with a 4-6 overall record and 4-5 mark in Big 12 play.

“It certainly is a bittersweet ending to the season, but playing 10 regular-season games throughout all of this uncertainty was nothing short of a miracle,” Kansas State coach Chris Klieman said. “I want to thank our players, especially our seniors, for continuing to battle each and every day, no matter what circumstance was put before them. This season was difficult and frustrating, but I think it is also one that we will remember for the rest of our lives. I hope we will all learn from it and become better, both as coaches and players, as we head into the offseason.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 29, 2019; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies head coach Justin Fuente stands on the field during warm-ups prior to the Cavaliers  game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Fuente to return as Virginia Tech coach in 2021

Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente will return for his sixth season in 2021.

Athletic director Whit Babcock told reporters on Tuesday he met with Fuente for four hours on Monday and “saw and heard what I wanted to see, and it energized me.”

The Hokies (5-6) finished the regular season with a 33-15 victory against rival Virginia on Saturday night in Blacksburg. This is the first time Virginia Tech has finished a regular season with a losing record since 1992.

It remains to be seen whether the Hokies will extend their 27-year bowl streak, the nation’s longest active streak.

Fuente, who replaced the legendary Frank Beamer in 2016, has compiled a 38-26 record. He was 26-23 during four seasons as the head coach at Memphis from 2012-15.

“We felt like this is the most likely successful path,” Babcock said. “I feel good about it. I’m paid to do what is best, not what is easiest or meant to pacify others.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 29, 2019; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies head coach Justin Fuente stands on the field during warm-ups prior to the Cavaliers  game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Va. Tech to keep embattled coach Fuente

Virginia Tech will keep embattled head coach Justin Fuente, according to a report Monday night from The Athletic.

Fuente, who is in his fifth season in charge of the Hokies, is coming off a 5-6 regular season. He has a 38-26 record at Virginia Tech, but his teams are 16-18 against FBS opponents over the last three seasons.

Last weekend, Fuente said he refused to worry about his job security or things beyond his control.

“The biggest thing for this is a sigh of relief that the regular season is over,” Fuente said. “Win, loss, whatever. This is a wrap. That is a huge relief. I wish I was a better orator to describe how difficult it’s been. It has nothing to do with winning and losing. The strain and stress on everybody has just been remarkable.

“I’ve had 11 conversations at midfield and they have all been the same before each game. It’s the hardest thing anybody has pulled off, and some people have played four games. They have no idea of what it’s like to do what we tried to do. I mean, just can’t say enough about our young people.”

Fuente has four years remaining on his contract. He served as head coach as Memphis before coming to Virginia Tech.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Braxton Burmeister (3) throws during pre-game warm-ups before playing the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 47-14. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Herbert powers Va. Tech to win over Virginia

Khalil Herbert rushed for 162 yards and an explosive second quarter propelled host Virginia Tech to a 33-15 victory over rival Virginia in Atlantic Coast Conference action Saturday night in Blacksburg, Va.

The Hokies (5-6, 5-5 ACC) snapped a four-game losing skid and ended a four-game winning streak by the Cavaliers (5-5, 4-5) to reclaim the Commonwealth Cup. Virginia Tech has now won 16 of the last 17 meetings in a series that dates back to 1895.

Herbert, who was leading the FBS with 1,629 all-purpose yards entering the game, had a 76-yard touchdown run among his 20 carries. Braxton Burmeister passed for 212 yards and one touchdown, and Brian Johnson kicked four field goals for Virginia Tech.

After gaining 400-plus yards of total offense in each of Virginia’s last two games, Brennan Armstrong was held to 259 yards on 25-of-46 passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

The Hokies scored 24 unanswered points in the second quarter to build a 27-7 halftime lead. They did it with a big drive and two big plays.

Tre Turner’s 6-yard touchdown run was the 17th play of a 75-yard drive. After Johnson’s 47-yard field goal made it 13-7, Virginia Tech struck quickly on its next two possessions. Herbert’s 76-yard burst was the Hokies’ longest rush of the season, and Tayvion Robinson’s 60-yard touchdown catch was their longest pass play of 2020.

Each team scored once in the third quarter. Another 47-yard field goal by Johnson put Tech up 30-7. UVA cut it to 30-15 with Armstrong’s 23-yard TD pass to Tony Poljan and two-point conversion pass to Terrell Jana.

Johnson’s 30-yard field goal with 12:47 left in the game completed the scoring.

The Hokies outgained the Cavaliers 464-322, including a 252-55 edge in rushing yards.

Virginia led 7-3 after one quarter with both teams scoring on their opening possessions. Johnson kicked a 46-yard field goal and the Cavaliers answered with Armstrong’s 11-yard TD pass to Keytaon Thompson.

–Field Level Media