CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Virginia Tech had months to draw up a game plan for its opener against Boston College.
It probably didn’t include turning the ball over five times and giving up 356 yards in the first half.
The Hokies dropped a mistake-filled opener 35-28 to Boston College in a sparsely attended season-opener at Alumni Stadium.
Virginia Tech had a chance to get the ball back in the final minutes, but couldn’t get a stop on a third-and-9. Quarterback Ryan Willis made it a one-possession game on the previous drive when threw an 11-yard touchdown to Kaleb Smith with 2:13 to go in the game.
Boston College recovered an onside kick attempt and running back A.J. Dillon got the first down the Eagles needed to run out the clock.
“Our guys battled back, scratched and clawed all the way through, but come up short,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “Lord knows we made plenty of mistakes out there today.”
A 1-yard touchdown run from David Bailey with 7:53 left in the game helped put the game out of reach. The Eagles wore down Tech’s defensive front running the ball nine straight times on the drive.
It was Boston College’s only extended drive of the half after putting together an impressive offensive highlight reel early in the game.
For Willis, the start resembled his days as a turnover-prone youngster at Kansas. He accounted for four of the team’s five turnovers. He threw a pair of interceptions in the end zone and another to one-time Hokies recruiting target Tanner Karafa on an attempted screen to Deshawn McClease.
Willis finished 29 of 47 for 344 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
“We got to be better than that,” Fuente said of Willis’ performance. “We’ve got to be more disciplined. We’ve got to have our eyes in the right spot, that’s part of playing quarterback. Obviously, he forced some balls in there sometimes when they weren’t good. I still believe Ryan can make plays and take care of the football.”
The one-dimensional Hokies running game didn’t help matters. They rotated Deshawn McClease, Jalen Holston and true freshman Keshawn King throughout the game, but Tech combined for 98 yards on the ground (a paltry 2.3 yards per carry).
But in the end Fuente went back to the Hokies’ five turnovers.
“You can’t play people like that, you can maybe survive one or two of those, but not however many we ended up having,” Fuente said. “That’s part of playing good people. They are going to make you pay for it.”
The ACC rivals looked evenly matched until a disastrous stretch at the end of the first half when Virginia Tech turned the ball over three times in the final seven minutes to let Boston College take a 28-14 lead into halftime.
Two of the Hokies’ turnovers came deep in their own territory.
Willis fumbled at his own 12-yard line after he got nailed by defensive back Tate Haynes, who came off the corner on a blitz. Willis slammed his fist on the ground in frustration after the play. Anthony Brown hit White for a touchdown three plays later with 6:20 to go in the half. White made a diving catch right at the pylon for the score that was upheld on review.
Hezekiah Grimsley fumbled a couple of minutes later trying to field a punt. Grimsley signaled for a fair catch, but the ball went right through his hands. Brown scored his fourth touchdown of the half — this one was a 28-yard keeper — to make it 28-14.
Tech also had a promising drive at the end of the half cut short when Willis threw an interception in the end zone.
The Hokies’ offense showed flashes of potential in the first half.
Willis threw a pretty 55-yard touchdown to Grimsley for Tech’s first touchdown of the season. Tech also looked sharp on a methodical nine-play 88-yard scoring drive. Tre Turner had multiple touches and three receivers made their first career catch (Kaleb Smith, James Mitchell and Tayvion Robinson). Robinson made a nice cut to get open for a 20-yard touchdown.
Boston College’s offense had some red zone issues in first half, but consistently moved the ball.
Brown got the Eagles on the board early throwing a 33-yard touchdown pass to true freshman Zay Flowers, who burst past Tech defensive back Jovonn Quillen in coverage.
The fourth-year junior completed another bomb — this time for 56-yards to Kobay White — but Boston College didn’t come up with any points on the drive after missing a 38-yard field goal. The possession stalled inside the 30-yard line thanks to a pair of procedural penalties. Brown also completed a 58-yarder to Flowers in the first half.
Boston College went into halftime with 356 yards with 258 of those coming through the air. Brown finished the game 15 of 26 for 275 yards with three total touchdowns.
“That was the disappointing thing,” Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “I felt like we gave them a couple things early. Obviously they executed. You gotta give BC credit. But I just thought we were, we played, for whatever reason, very tight in the first half.”
Tech did do a nice job of keeping Boston College’s dynamic Dillon in check. Dillon had nine carries for 22 yards in the first quarter. He had a 17-yard touchdown in the second quarter, but only averaged 3.5 yards a carry.
- Tech backup defensive tackle Rob Porcher didn’t travel to Boston with the team. A teams spokesperson didn’t have a reason for Porcher’s absence. Porcher missed spring camp with an undisclosed injury. The third-year sophomore was the only backup defensive tackle on the roster with an experience.
Junior college transfer Dashawn Crawford started alongside Jarrod Hewitt. Tech’s other junior college defensive tackle Jaden Cunningham also wasn’t part of team’s travel roster for Saturday’s game against Boston College, which left three true freshmen as the team’s lone backups (Norell Pollard, Mario Kendricks and Josh Fuga).
Three Hokies defenders went down with undisclosed injuries in the game and did not return. Starting defensive end TyJuan Garbutt was hurt early in the game. Jovonn Quillen, who is a co-starter alongside Jermaine Waller at defensive back, spent the entire second half watching the game on crutches from the sideline. Backup safety Tyree Rodgers, who wore Frank Beamer’s No. 25 in the game, was shaken covering a kick in the first half and didn’t return. Starting center Zachariah Hoyt was carted off the field in the final minutes.