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Virginia Tech closes out Commonwealth Cup win over Virginia in dramatic fashion

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia Tech interim coach J.C. Price told his players earlier this week they needed to make their own moment in the Commonwealth Cup.

He knew he had an attentive audience, but even he couldn’t believe how many different players made crucial plays on Saturday to help the Hokies retain the cup in a dramatic 29-24 win over the University of Virginia.

Price rattled off a series of moments that made the unlikely victory possible after the game from wide receiver Tayvion Robinson throwing his first touchdown pass since he was a senior at Cox High School to Clemson transfer Jordan Williams punching the ball loose from Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong for a safety.

He also made special mention of the way running back Raheem Blackshear and quarterback Braxton Burmeister played. Blackshear put up a career-high 169 yards while averaging 9.4 yards per carry and scored a touchdown. Burmeister had 256 total yards, including a career-high 115 rushing yards, and set the tone early with a pair of explosive plays.

“Multiple guys listened to that message and took it upon themselves to say, ‘No, not today,’” Price said.

Tech still had to overcome a fumble in the final minutes to put the game away.

Quarterback Connor Blumrick, who rotated with Burmeister throughout the game, lost the ball with 3:05 to go to give UVa the ball back at its own 35-yard line. Armstrong completed a pair of long passes to get inside Tech’s 20-yard line, but the Hokies defense managed to “tighten their chin straps” as Price described it to force a turnover on downs.

Virginia’s record-setting quarterback wasn’t the same after taking a direct hit to his left leg from Tech linebacker Alan Tisdale in the second half on a sack.

The Cavaliers had to burn a timeout as Armstrong tried to stretch out the leg. He missed a portion of the team’s next drive due to a stint in the trainer’s tent. He was able to come back into the game, but he wasn’t nearly as effective as he was in the first three quarters.

Armstrong missed on a pair of pass attempts after Virginia Tech took its first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter that resulted in UVa’s first three-and-out. The injury proved costly later in the quarter when he was trying to convert a fourth-and-2 backed up at his own end zone. He stumbled trying to bounce out of the pocket, but got caught from behind by Williams and lost the ball.

“I felt like in the first half I was able to get out and make some plays, shake and bake a little bit, start putting pressure on them down the field when we extended the play,” Armstrong said. “... I just feel that my ankle hindered me a little bit.”

Neither team managed to play much defense in the first half with the offenses combining for 586 total yards of offense.

Armstrong was 19 of 25 with 236 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those scores came on the ground. He completed passes to six different receivers and averaged 12.4 yards per completion.

He was getting rid of the ball so quickly that Tech had little time to generate pressure in the backfield. Whenever Armstrong did feel some heat, he was able to easily escape the pocket for positive yardage as he did on his second touchdown run. Armstrong scrambled and bulldozed his way past three defenders at the goal line for the 5-yard touchdown to put his team up 21-14 with 3:32 left in the half.

Tech kept pace thanks to a 61-yard touchdown throw from Burmeister to Robinson. It was only the third passing play of the season of over 50 yards for the Hokies and the longest catch of Robinson’s career. Robinson had three catches for a season-high 89 yards in the win.

Burmeister also had a career long 71-yard rush in the half. He was tackled out of bounds at the 3-yard line, but Tech turned it over on downs at the goal line.

Virginia probably should have been up by at least a pair of touchdowns at the half if not for a pair of costly miscues.

The first came early in the second quarter when Armstrong threw an interception inside Tech’s 35-yard line. Armstrong didn’t see safety Tae Daley on a pass intended for running back Mike Hollins.

Tech tied the game 14-14 with a touchdown on its ensuing drive.

Virginia’s other mistake came after forcing a three-and-out in the final minutes of the half and Peter Moore trying to punt out of his own end zone. The Cavs went after Moore in hopes of getting the block, but ended up with a roughing-the-kicker penalty instead. The penalty robbed Virginia of a chance to score before the half when it was also set to start the third quarter with the ball. Tech held onto the ball for the rest of the second quarter and kicked a 32-yard field goal as time expired to cut UVa’s lead to 21-17.

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