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

Dec 5, 2020; Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; Virginia Cavaliers quarterback Brennan Armstrong (5) runs with the ball past Boston College Eagles defensive back Jahmin Muse (8) en route to a touchdown in the third quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia-Virginia Tech game is matter of ‘hot’ vs. ‘not’

Virginia and Virginia Tech reach the regular-season finish line heading in opposite directions.

The Cavaliers (5-4, 4-4 ACC) are riding a four-game winning streak and haven’t lost since Oct. 24 entering Saturday night’s Commonwealth Cup clash in Blacksburg, Va. The host Hokies (4-6, 4-5) are on a four-game losing streak and haven’t won since Oct. 31.

Virginia’s offense has averaged 43.3 points and 463.3 yards during the hot streak. Virginia Tech’s defense has given up 38.8 points and 460.3 yards during its cold snap.

While the Cavaliers are looking for their first five-game winning streak since 2007, the Hokies will end with a losing record for only the second time since 1992.

“Wrapping it up with this final win, and at Blacksburg, would just add more to the story of the team,” Virginia safety Joey Blount said Monday. “It’s going to be a hell of a game, for sure.”

This contest — the 102nd meeting in a series dating back to 1895 — was originally scheduled for Sept. 19 before COVID-19 issues in the Hokies’ program forced the postponement to the end of the calendar. Virginia Tech owns a 58-38-5 lead in the rivalry, including 24-9-1 at home.

The Cavaliers snapped a 15-game losing streak to the Hokies with a 39-30 win last season in Charlottesville. Virginia scored nine points in the final 1:23 with a 48-yard field goal by Brian Delaney and Eli Hanback’s recovery of a Virginia Tech fumble in the end zone.

“Breaking that streak last year was a pivotal point in the (program’s) culture and what we are trying to do at UVA,” Blount said. “I hope it’s a snowball effect, where it just keeps going and going and going and trending the right way.”

Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong is facing Virginia Tech for the first time, and he’s coming in hot with back-to-back games with more than 400 yards of total offense.

Armstrong passed for a career-high 383 yards and four touchdowns vs. Abilene Christian on Nov. 21, then rushed for a career-high 130 yards and a touchdown in last Saturday’s win over Boston College.

Armstrong ranks fifth in the ACC in total offense with 298.4 yards per game. His offensive line has allowed just 16 sacks, tied with Clemson for the fewest in the league.

Virginia Tech counters with the ACC’s No. 1 running game (238.9 yards per game). Khalil Herbert is second in the league in rushing with 1,020 rushing yards and leads with 7.6 yards per carry. He has seven touchdowns.

The status of Hokies quarterback Hendon Hooker is uncertain after he exited Saturday’s 45-10 loss at Clemson. He was seen shivering uncontrollably on the sideline before heading into the locker room. His father, Alan Hooker, told the Roanoke Times his son experienced muscle spasms due to temperatures in the low 30s.

“Talking to him today, we feel confident he’s full recovered,” Alan Hooker said Monday. “He’s fine. He’ll be ready to go. Hendon is resilient.”

Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente, who is on the hot seat with a 37-26 record since taking over in 2016, said he doesn’t want his situation to distract his players.

“I don’t want anybody to play for me,” he told reporters Monday. “I want them to play for each other.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2020; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) warms up with his team before the game against Pittsburgh at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 Clemson clubs Va. Tech, earns spot in ACC title game

Trevor Lawrence ran for two touchdowns and passed for another as No. 3 Clemson pulled away to a 45-10 victory over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., on Saturday.

Lawrence completed 12-of-22 passes for 195 yards and was intercepted once. He gained 41 yards on the ground as the Tigers outscored the Hokies 28-0 in the second half.

Clemson (9-1, 8-1 ACC) clinched a berth in the ACC Championship game and will face No. 2 Notre Dame in Charlotte on Dec. 19.

Virginia Tech (4-6, 4-5) committed three second-half turnovers and used three quarterbacks due to injuries. The Hokies have lost four straight and are 0-4 against ranked opponents.

Khalil Herbert rushed for 96 yards on 21 carries and scored Virginia Tech’s lone touchdown.

The Tigers were poised to stretch their seven-point halftime lead midway through the third quarter but Divine Deablo picked off Lawrence in the end zone.

Lawrence soon redeemed himself after Mario Goodrich recovered a Braxton Burmeister fumble at the Hokies’ 12-yard line. Lawrence scored two plays later on a 7-yard scamper to give his team a 24-10 lead.

After Burmeister was injured, Hendon Hooker replaced him at quarterback and fumbled a shotgun snap later in the quarter. The Tigers’ Derion Kendrick returned it 66 yards for a touchdown.

Lawrence connected with Cornell Powell on a 65-yard pass play with 10:16 remaining to make it 38-10.

Darien Rencher added a 50-yard scoring run with four minutes left.

The Tigers led 17-10 at halftime.

B.T. Potter’s 28-yard field goal opened the scoring for Clemson. Virginia Tech took the lead on Herbert’s 4-yard run. Burmeister’s 48-yard completion to Tayvion Robinson highlighted that drive.

Clemson regained the lead on Lawrence’s 17-yard scoring run but Brian Johnson tied it on a 54-yard field goal.

Lyn-J Dixon’s 19-yard run with 1:06 remaining in the half put the Tigers back on top.

Virginia Tech nearly scored on a Hail Mary pass as the clock expired but Raheem Blackshear was stopped just shy of the goal line on the 42-yard completion.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Marquis Williams (14) breaks up a pass intended for Virginia Tech Hokies wide receiver Tre Turner (11) during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt crushes Va. Tech behind Pickett’s 3 TDs

Senior Kenny Pickett passed for 404 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another, leading the host Pittsburgh Panthers to a 47-14 win over the Virginia Tech Hokies in an ACC game on Saturday.

Senior wide receiver DJ Turner caught 15 passes for 184 yards and one TD, helping Pitt (5-4, 4-4 ACC) win its second straight game. Turner’s 15 receptions were one short of a school record.

Pickett completed 35-of-52 passes, with one interception. He threw 40 times in the first half alone. A.J. Davis ran 12 times for 80 yards and one score, and Alex Kessman added four field goals, including boots of 53 and 52 yards for the Panthers.

Quarterback Hendon Hooker and wide receiver Tre Turner led the Hokies (4-5, 4-4), who have lost three straight games.

Hooker completed 13-of-22 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 14 times for 53 yards. Hooker entered the game ranked first in the nation in rushing yards by a quarterback and second in TD runs by a QB, but he was kept out of the end zone by Pitt.

Tre Turner caught three passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the Panthers were without 16 players, including three starting offensive linemen and star wide receiver Jordan Addison.

Virginia Tech was without 12 players, including one starter on each line and two key defensive backs.

Pitt, which never trailed, led 23-14 at halftime, and the Panthers started the game with three Kessman field goals.

Virginia Tech cut its deficit to 9-7 on Hooker’s 55-yard touchdown pass to Turner, who ran a deep post.

The teams traded long touchdown drives on the next three possessions.

Pitt got a touchdown on Vincent Davis’ one-yard run; Turner went up to catch a high, seven-yard TD throw from Hooker; and Pickett fired an 11-yarder to Jaylon Barden.

On that last play, Pickett made a brilliant spin move to avoid a sack and then threw across his body to Barden, who scored his first career TD.

The Panthers put the game away in the third quarter, getting another Kessman field goal, Pickett’s 64-yard TD pass to Turner and Pickett’s one-yard run to make it 40-17. On the TD pass, Turner beat the Hokies over the top and then dragged two defenders into the end zone.

Davis’ one-yard run with 2:39 left in the fourth quarter gave Pitt a 47-14 lead, capping the scoring.

–Field Level Media

Oct 10, 2020; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Hendon Hooker (2) passes the ball to tight end James Mitchell (82) as North Carolina Tar Heels linebacker Chazz Surratt (21) pressures in the third quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt, Virginia Tech hoping to play despite COVID-19 concerns

You could say there are three opponents in play for Saturday’s ACC game between the Pitt Panthers and Virginia Tech Hokies at Heinz Field. The interloper is COVID-19, which could force a postponement.

As of Tuesday, Pitt’s football activities were shut down because of the virus, which forced the postponement last week of the Panthers’ game against Georgia Tech. An unknown number of Pitt players tested positive last week, and test results this week will determine the status of the Virginia Tech game.

“It’s a silent little killer,” Pitt linebacker Chase Pine said. “It got us, but we’re going to come back stronger.”

Pitt (4-4, 3-4 ACC) broke a four-game losing streak two weeks ago with a 41-17 win over Florida State, but any momentum might have been lost with the forced open weekend.

At the least, Pitt will have limited practice this week.

“We can practice once (and be prepared), to be honest with you,” Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi said. “But you like to get two in.

“We expect to play the Virginia Tech game. We hope we’re not let down again. It will be up to our team and players on how safe they are out there.”

The Hokies (4-4, 4-3) have lost three of their past four games but nearly pulled off an upset last week in a 25-24 setback against then-No. 9 Miami, a game they led for 54 minutes before the Hurricanes pulled it out.

They are preparing and practicing as per usual.

“We deal with uncertainty every day,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said.

“I think our guys have done a great job handling (the pandemic). We can’t approach this week with any different mindset.”

If Pitt gets clearance to play, the matchup to watch will be the Panthers’ defense against Virginia Tech’s offense.

The Panthers rank first in the ACC on defense, allowing 296.5 yards a game. They lead the country with an average of 11.6 tackles for loss, with linebacker SirVocea Dennis tied for second nationally with 13.5. They also lead the ACC and rank second in the nation with 4.75 sacks a game, led by defensive end Patrick Jones II’s eight.

In particular, Pitt is stingy against the run. Opponents are gaining just 78.8 yards a game and a national-best 2.2 yards a carry on the ground.

Something, then, will have to give, as the Hokies lead the conference with 262.8 rushing yards a game. Khalil Herbert averages 8.2 yards a carry and quarterback Hendon Hooker 5.6.

However, Virginia Tech had a season-worst 160 yards rushing against Miami, as Hooker was sacked six times (with 46 yards in losses) also a season-most for the team.

“We’ll have a similar challenge (against Pitt),” Fuente said. “These guys are just as big and just as athletic on the defensive line, but they put more people in the box than Miami. We’re going to go against a big, athletic defensive line that pressures the passer.

“I know that there’s nobody in America that devotes as many hats in the box to the run game as Pat (Narduzzi) does. It makes it very, very difficult to run the ball at all.”

And that’s if the game is played at all.

–Field Level Media

Oct 10, 2020; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Hendon Hooker (2) passes the ball to tight end James Mitchell (82) as North Carolina Tar Heels linebacker Chazz Surratt (21) pressures in the third quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt, Virginia Tech hoping to play despite COVID-19 concerns

You could say there are three opponents in play for Saturday’s ACC game between the Pitt Panthers and Virginia Tech Hokies at Heinz Field. The interloper is COVID-19, which could force a postponement.

As of Tuesday, Pitt’s football activities were shut down because of the virus, which forced the postponement last week of the Panthers’ game against Georgia Tech. An unknown number of Pitt players tested positive last week, and test results this week will determine the status of the Virginia Tech game.

“It’s a silent little killer,” Pitt linebacker Chase Pine said. “It got us, but we’re going to come back stronger.”

Pitt (4-4, 3-4 ACC) broke a four-game losing streak two weeks ago with a 41-17 win over Florida State, but any momentum might have been lost with the forced open weekend.

At the least, Pitt will have limited practice this week.

“We can practice once (and be prepared), to be honest with you,” Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi said. “But you like to get two in.

“We expect to play the Virginia Tech game. We hope we’re not let down again. It will be up to our team and players on how safe they are out there.”

The Hokies (4-4, 4-3) have lost three of their past four games but nearly pulled off an upset last week in a 25-24 setback against then-No. 9 Miami, a game they led for 54 minutes before the Hurricanes pulled it out.

They are preparing and practicing as per usual.

“We deal with uncertainty every day,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said.

“I think our guys have done a great job handling (the pandemic). We can’t approach this week with any different mindset.”

If Pitt gets clearance to play, the matchup to watch will be the Panthers’ defense against Virginia Tech’s offense.

The Panthers rank first in the ACC on defense, allowing 296.5 yards a game. They lead the country with an average of 11.6 tackles for loss, with linebacker SirVocea Dennis tied for second nationally with 13.5. They also lead the ACC and rank second in the nation with 4.75 sacks a game, led by defensive end Patrick Jones II’s eight.

In particular, Pitt is stingy against the run. Opponents are gaining just 78.8 yards a game and a national-best 2.2 yards a carry on the ground.

Something, then, will have to give, as the Hokies lead the conference with 262.8 rushing yards a game. Khalil Herbert averages 8.2 yards a carry and quarterback Hendon Hooker 5.6.

However, Virginia Tech had a season-worst 160 yards rushing against Miami, as Hooker was sacked six times (with 46 yards in losses) also a season-most for the team.

“We’ll have a similar challenge (against Pitt),” Fuente said. “These guys are just as big and just as athletic on the defensive line, but they put more people in the box than Miami. We’re going to go against a big, athletic defensive line that pressures the passer.

“I know that there’s nobody in America that devotes as many hats in the box to the run game as Pat (Narduzzi) does. It makes it very, very difficult to run the ball at all.”

And that’s if the game is played at all.

–Field Level Media