Virginia Tech trailed Arkansas by 24 points at halftime of Thursday’s Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium and it didn’t even matter.
Scoring all their points after halftime, the 18th-ranked Hokies put on a stirring second-half rally and beat the Razorbacks 35-24 in front of a crowd of 46,902, most of them Virginia Tech fans. It was the largest comeback in Virginia Tech history.
The Razorbacks (7-6) saw their 24-0 halftime lead evaporate when the Hokies (10-4) scored four consecutive touchdowns to take a 28-24 lead early in the fourth quarter. Two of those touchdowns came after interceptions thrown by Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen, who had been stellar in the first half.
When Virginia Tech’s Travon McMillian scored on a 6-yard run with 12 minutes, 3 seconds remaining, the Hokies’ comeback was complete with time to spare. Virginia Tech got its final points on a 1-yard run by quarterback Jerod Evans. The score was set up by Allen’s third interception of the half, this one by Hokies defensive back Terrell Edmunds.
Arkansas started to build its substantial first-half lead after Evans obliged by fumbling on the game’s first play from scrimmage. The Razorbacks turned that into a 38-yard field goal by Cole Hedlund. Arkansas tacked on two touchdowns in the first quarter on a 1-yard run by Allen and a 28-yard pass from Allen to Cheyenne O’Grady.
Cole threw his second touchdown pass of the game with 10:05 left in the second quarter when he hit Keon Hatcher from 12 yards out.
Three who mattered
Allen: Arkansas’ quarterback was sharp and in control in the first half, completing 13 of 16 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns. He turned around and threw three interceptions in the third quarter, however.
Evans: Virginia Tech’s do-everything quarterback threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 87 yards and scored twice.
Cam Phillips: Hokies receiver caught six passes for 115 yards and was named the game’s most valuable player.
▪ The first half could not have gone any worse for Virginia Tech. The Hokies had two turnovers – including a fumble on the first play from scrimmage – and Evans was sacked on fourth down to end another possession. That all contributed to Arkansas’ 17-0 lead after one quarter.
▪ Arkansas probably got away with one in the second quarter when a defensive back collided with a Hokies receiver and no pass interference was called. That no-call received a smattering of boos from the Virginia Tech faithful.
▪ The final indignity of the first half for Virginia Tech came when junior kicker Joey Slye missed a 47-yard field goal attempt as time ran out. Slye entered the game needing six field goals to break the school record of 68.
▪ Tackle of the game came in the third quarter from Virginia Tech defensive back Chuck Clark, who submarined Arkansas running back Devwah Whaley, causing him to do a complete flip in midair.
▪ Attendance was 46,902, a figure bowl organizers were happy with. It appeared at least 40,000 were dressed in Virginia Tech’s burnt orange and Chicago maroon colors.
▪ Arkansas’ 90-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter was the longest scoring drive allowed by Virginia Tech this season.
▪ Virginia Tech also faced a huge deficit in the ACC championship game against Clemson, but couldn’t complete the comeback. The Tigers led 35-14 in the third quarter before a Hokies rally fell short in a 42-35 Clemson victory.
They said it
“Our kids have phenomenal character, work ethic and toughness. “Playing well was important today. We didn’t do it in the first half.” – Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente.
“This is how our season went: hard, smart and tough.” – Virginia Tech receiver Cam Phillips, the game’s MVP.
“I’ve never seen anything turn the tide so quickly, in all three phases of the game. It’s all on my shoulders, 100 percent my responsibility.” – Arkansas coach Bret Bielema.
“It’s not all right to accept this.” -- Bielema.