The Hokies rushed for more than 200 yards, but had too many turnovers and issues in the red zone — and that led to a 23-16 defeat
An inability to convert in the red zone, three turnovers, and 10 penalties hurt No. 19 Virginia Tech on Saturday, and the Hokies fell 23-16 to Wake Forest in an ACC game at Truist Field.
With the loss, the Hokies fell to 3-2 overall on the season, 3-2 in ACC play. Wake Forest won its third consecutive game, moving to 3-2 overall, 2-2 in league play.
“It’s obviously my responsibility to get our team out there playing well,” Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “We made uncharacteristic mistakes. I don’t remember the last time we had that many penalties. We turned the football over. We were poor in the red zone. We weren’t very good on third down. Just disappointed. We should have done a better job.”
Tech fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter and never led in this one. The Hokies did tie the game at 10 in the second quarter on a Brian Johnson field goal and a 39-yard touchdown pass from Hendon Hooker to James Mitchellwith 8:40 left in the first half.
But the Demon Deacons responded with a 17-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Kenneth Walker III’s 6-yard touchdown run with 1:31 left in the half and gave them the lead for good. Wake Forest then made arguably the biggest play of the game on the ensuing possession, when – with the Hokies driving – Nick Anderson intercepted a Hooker pass with 4 seconds left to end the half.
The Anderson interception was emblematic of the Hokies’ struggles in the red zone. Tech made four trips inside the Wake Forest 20, but only converted those into two Johnson field goals.
“We turned the ball over,” Fuente said when asked about the cause of the red zone problems. “They play a little bit of a bend-but-don’t break defense, but they came out and challenged us a little more on the outside. We didn’t really make any big plays, I thought, in the passing game. We ran the ball still OK [223 yards rushing] against a pretty loaded box, but we really didn’t make very many plays, I feel like, throwing the ball. You can look at the passing yards.
“I don’t know. We just weren’t very effective down there. We had very few chunk plays, and we turned the ball over. That’s what you get.”
In the fourth quarter, Wake Forest pushed its lead to 23-13 on a field goal by Nick Sciba with 11:05 remaining, but the Hokies cut the lead to 23-16 on a 54-yard field goal by Johnson with 2:38 to go.
Tech got a stop on the ensuing possession, but Wake Forest downed its punt at the Tech 2, and the Hokies’ drive ended with Hooker’s third interception of the game – all by Anderson.
Tech finished with 433 yards and outgained Wake Forest (346), but just couldn’t capitalized because of all the mistakes. Hooker completed 17 of 33 for 223 yards, with the touchdown and three interceptions. Khalil Herbertrushed for 64 yards on 14 carries.
Christian Beal-Smith led Wake Forest with 129 yards rushing. The Demon Deacons finished with 236 yards on the ground.