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How Justin Fuente’s two gambles at quarterback may have saved Virginia Tech’s season

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How Justin Fuente’s two gambles at quarterback may have saved Virginia Tech’s season

Before the calendar turned from September to October, Virginia Tech was already left for dead. Coming off a bye week, the Hokies were handed a 45-10 blowout loss at home by Duke. That left Virginia Tech at 2-2, 0-2 in the ACC and their only wins coming against Old Dominion and FCS Furman. Needing seven wins to reach bowl eligibility this season due to having two FCS teams on the schedule, it was hard to look at the eight games remaining on the schedule and find where those five remaining wins could come from.

And then something happened. A Virginia Tech offense that could get nothing going against Duke the week beforehand somehow managed to put up 42 against Miami in a 42-35 upset on the road. That game proved to be a turning point for the offense and the Hokies have now won three straight including a six-overtime victory over North Carolina.

What changed? The answer is the coaching staff finally realized the missing ingredient the offense needed in order to work: a dual-threat quarterback. That realization just may have saved Virginia Tech’s season twice already.

Sophomore quarterback Hendon Hooker started the game against Miami, taking over for the incumbent Ryan Willis. Hooker added a running threat that the team did not have with Willis and, while he did not have the best performance through the air with 10 completions on 20 attempts, the threat of the run opened up the offense. Hooker threw for three touchdowns and ran for 76 yards and another touchdown.

Prior to Saturday’s win, it would have been easy to say the difference was the move to Hooker by itself. A new quarterback sparked the offense. As well as Hooker had played, however, it was the realization of the coaches that it was that running threat that made all the difference, not necessary Hooker himself. That realization proved critical against North Carolina as head coach Justin Fuente made a huge gamble and it paid off.

Just two games after the win over Miami, Virginia Tech hosted North Carolina and Hooker left the game with an injury in the second quarter. Willis came on in relief, initially, completing all three of his pass attempts for 55 yards and a touchdown.

But after a drive in which Willis was sacked twice including a 12-yard loss on an intentional grounding call that took Virginia Tech out of field goal range and forced a punt, Fuente made perhaps the most important call of his tenure in Blacksburg.

On the next drive, third-string, freshman quarterback Quincy Patterson was in at quarterback.

“Quincy hasn’t taken as many reps in the past couple of weeks as the top two guys - but we made the decision there pretty quicky to move along and bring Quincy in,” Fuente told the media after the game. “Obviously, it changed what we looked like a little bit. To me, he did a great job of running hard, taking care of the ball, and he made a few good plays in the passing game.”

Patterson had only one college completion in his career. Yet, he came into the game and was able to pass for 54 yards, rush for another 122 and score two total touchdowns. He also ran in the game-clinching two-point conversion in the sixth-overtime.

“Part of it is his threat of running the football, it can give you some advantageous looks to throw the ball,” Fuente said of the advantage Patterson brought to the offense.”

It takes guts to decide to replace your former starter, who had already thrown for a touchdown, with a freshman quarterback who has virtually no experience.

Ultimately the results speak for themselves.

With Willis as the starter, Virginia Tech went 2-2. They turned the ball over 11 times in those four games and the offense was getting progressively worse. The Hokies managed 442 total yards in the season opener against Boston College. That was down to 403 the week after, 350 in Week 3 and finally 259 against Duke.

With Hooker and Patterson as the primary starters, Virginia Tech has turned the ball over only twice. The total yards have climbed each week from 337 to 485 to 490. Perhaps most critically, a Virginia Tech team that was averaging only 148.8 rushing yards per game was has averaged 210.3 rushing yards in the past three wins. The Hokies are also average 39.7 points per game, up from 23.3.

Think those points were inflated by the overtime win? Not really. If you take away the 12 points Virginia Tech scored in those six overtimes, their scoring average would still be 35.7.

Even with three straight wins, Virginia Tech still has a tough hill to climb to get back to protect its treasured bowl streak and contend for the Coastal Division. The Hokies have five wins and must find two more in their schedule at Notre Dame, Wake Forest, at Georgia Tech, Pitt and at Virginia.

But you can’t count them out just yet. The offense has pulled the team back from the precipice after Fuente’s two gambles at quarterback paid off.

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The 7 craziest things that happened in Week 12 of the college football season

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The 7 craziest things that happened in Week 12 of the college football season

From massive comebacks to cartwheels, to rabid bats and even the rare signs of life from Northwestern's offense, this weeks' college football action truly had it all.

Here are the seven craziest things that happened in Week 12 of the college football season.

Ohio lineman does cartwheel during a play

MACtion was in full swing on Tuesday with a game between Western Michigan and Ohio. Unless you went to either of those schools, you probably don't care. I bring it up, however, because of one glorious play in which an offensive lineman did a cartwheel.

This wasn't a fun touchdown celebration, this wasn't a taunt after a big play. This was, the ball is snapped, the play is being run and this dude straight up does a cartwheel while people around him are playing actual football.

Make no mistake, this was planned. That was an actual play in Ohio's playbook. He did it immediately off the snap. Quarterback Nathan Rourke threw a 25-yard completion on the play so I guess you would have to say it worked. Hopefully, that means more of this in the future.

Michigan State wore their helmets on the bus to the Michigan game

Trying to motivate a group of college kids throughout an entire season is tough. Some coaches are masters at it. There are some techniques, however, that fall flat. I think you can put this one in the latter category.

Michigan State played rival Michigan on Saturday and the Spartans got off the bus on the way to the game with their helmets already strapped on. I guess the message was supposed to be that they were ready to play. The message that actually sent was, we are all out of ideas so here's something we will be mocked for when it doesn't work.

Michigan State lost to Michigan 44-10.

There were rabid bats at Mississippi State

First off, here's wishing the Alabama quarterback a speedy recovery. As it was the biggest story of the week, I would be remiss not to mention it when talking about the Alabama-Mississippi State game.

Tagovailoa's injury overshadowed what I thought would be the biggest story coming out of Starkville: rabid bats.

From great catch to miraculous fumble

This was just whacky. Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor made an incredible one-handed catch as he grabbed a ball thrown behind him. A great play quickly turned into a disaster as he turned up the field and tucked the ball, but immediately had it punched out for a fumble.

We have all seen players tiptoe down the sideline, but not often do you see a ball do it. Luckily for Nebraska, Lamar Jackson pounced on the loose ball while the rest of his teammates stood watching seemingly oblivious to the fact that the ball was live.

Columbia had a punt blocked by the butt of its own player

You have heard of the butt fumble, but how about the butt punt block?

Northwestern scores 45 points

What happens when a stoppable force meets a movable object? That was the question on everyone's mind in Evanston when Northwestern met UMass.

Northwestern's offense entered the week averaging 11.1 points per game. That's not just the worst scoring offense among Power 5 teams this year, it is the worst of the decade. Its previous season-high for points was 30 which it scored against UNLV. So how in the world did the Wildcats manage to put up 45 points? Because UMass just so happens to be one of the worst teams in the FBS this year.

Running back Evan Hull went off for Northwestern with 220 rushing yards and four touchdowns to give the illusion of a competent offense. That won't last as next week they play Minnesota.

Oklahoma overcame a 25-point deficit to beat Baylor

Oklahoma has an illustrious history. Since 1895, the Sooners have won seven national titles. One thing they had never done? Overcome a 25-point deficit.

Oklahoma did just that on Saturday on the road against an undefeated Baylor team and without its top wide receiver in CeeDee Lamb. Somehow, the Sooners managed to rally to win the game 34-31 with an incredible second-half performance to keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive.

McClung lifts Georgetown past Georgia St. 91-83

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McClung lifts Georgetown past Georgia St. 91-83

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mac McClung had 25 points, Omer Yurtseven had a double-double, and Georgetown topped Georgia State 91-83 on Sunday night.

McClung made all 11 of his foul shots and Yurtseven finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Josh LeBlanc added 12 points James Akinjo scored 11 points for Georgetown (3-1).

Corey Allen had 21 points for the Panthers (1-3). Josh Linder added 17 points and Justin Roberts and Damon Wilson scored 15 points apiece.

Georgetown faces Texas on Thursday. Georgia State plays Prairie View on Friday.

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