NCAA

Ryan Willis leads Virginia Tech past Old Dominion, 31-17

ryanwillis_usat2.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Ryan Willis leads Virginia Tech past Old Dominion, 31-17

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Ryan Willis was having a nice makeup day, and then he wasn't, a fumble after a 13-yard run marring his performance.

Unlike a week ago, when five turnovers -- including four by Willis -- cost them in a 35-28 loss to Boston College, the Hokies did enough to hang on for a 31-17 victory against Old Dominion, but Willis also got the message that continuing to cough the ball up will cost him, too.

"If we can keep the ball in our own hands, we've got a good chance of winning the game every week," he said.

Willis also threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as Virginia Tech (1-1) avenged a stunning loss to the Monarchs last season. He got his neck twisted up in the tackle after the long run and was pulled from the game, but coach Justin Fuente said concern was a factor.

"I was a little concerned and I also didn't like it that we turned the ball over," Fuente said of sending Hendon Hooker in, adding later that Willis "made a couple plays that were pretty dang impressive, really quick snap decisions. He got the ball in great spots, but there's still a few decisions that we've got to get batter at. It's just simple. It sounds very easy and it's not. That's part of our focus moving forward."

The Hokies seemed likely to roll, leading 17-3 at the half and 24-3 in the third quarter, but got sloppy.

"We went through about a two-series stretch late in the third quarter, early fourth that we reverted back to really poor execution and poor tackling," defensive coordinator Bud Foster said, adding that he was pleased with his young defense for the rest of the day.

Those two series allowed ODU to get within 24-17, and then the Hokies stiffened.

"I know when it was down to seven points, there was some real urgency for us to find a way to go kind of finish the thing off," Fuente said.

Stone Smartt scored on runs of 3 and 15 yards for the Monarchs (1-1), but was helped off the field after a 2-yard run with 5:31 to play. He eventually returned and felt like the Monarchs had acquitted themselves well with their rally to make it tense in the second half.

"We got into our tempo a little but," Smartt said. "I thought we did a good job with that."

Willis hit Hezekiah Grimsley with a 9-yard scoring pass in the right corner of the end zone in the second quarter. Grimsley gained control of the ball with his right hand and then pulled it into his body. Willis also hit Phil Patterson from 13 yards out on third-and-6 to restore the Hokies' two-touchdown cushion with 11:56 to play, and he finished a 93-yard drive for a 24-3 lead with a 1-yard run early in the third quarter.

Keshawn King also scored on a 4-yard run for the Hokies, who were stunned 49-35 when they played at Old Dominion a year ago.

THE TAKEAWAY

Old Dominion: Despite its victory last season, Old Dominion is not ready to contend against the Hokies and Power Five schools. The Monarchs came into the game with 47 players that had never seen action for ODU, including 14 junior college transfers. They also had 20 players that redshirted last year, but have to like what they have seen from Smartt. The junior college transfer has been accurate with the ball as a passer and had several clutch runs against the Hokies.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies' attention to getting a running game going seemed to finally pay off in the third quarter when McClease, who'd gained just 22 yards on nine first-half carries seemingly found a rhythm. McClease gained 37 yards on six tries in a 93-yard drive to the 24-3 lead, but lost a fourth-quarter fumble. The Hokies finished with 131 rushing yards compared to 202 for the FCS-level Monarchs.

BIG RETURN

Terius Wheatley wasted no time helping the Hokies restore their two-touchdown cushion with a 71-yard kickoff return after the Monarchs closed to 24-17 late in the third quarter. It set the Hokies up at the ODU 17 and, three plays later, Willis hit Patterson.

"All the momentum was in our favor at 24-17," Monarchs coach Bobby Wilder said. "That kickoff got it to 31-17."

UP NEXT

Old Dominion: The Monarchs have a bye next weekend and play at Virginia on Sept. 21.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies play host to Furman next Saturday.

MORE NCAA NEWS:

Virginia star cornerback Bryce Hall out for the season after ankle surgery

hall-uva-usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Virginia star cornerback Bryce Hall out for the season after ankle surgery

Virginia’s hopes for a Coastal Division title took a blow on Friday in a loss to Miami. Those hopes took another significant blow on Monday.

Head coach Bronco Mendenhall told reporters on Monday that star cornerback Bryce Hall is expected to miss the remainder of the season after undergoing ankle surgery.

The injury happened while he was blocking on a punt in Friday’s game. The injury appeared significant at the time as Hall had to be carted off the field with his ankle in an air cast.

“We expect a good recovery, he sustained a left ankle injury and had surgery Monday,” Mendenhall said. “We do not expect him back this season.”

Hall is the star of Virginia’s defense which ranks 11th in the nation in total defense and second in the conference behind only Clemson. Hall has 20 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack and four passes broken up.

This news is particularly devastating for Hall considering he is a first-round NFL talent and elected to forgo the NFL draft for a year to play his senior season. This injury now ends Hall’s college career.

Virginia ranks 11th in the nation in total defense and 23rd in pass defense allowing just 183.7 yards through the air per game. Without Hall, that number is going to take a hit.

The Cavaliers still have five ACC games left on the schedule, including four within the division.

MORE NCAA NEWS:

The 6 craziest things that happened in Week 7 of the college football season

usatsi_13502849.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

The 6 craziest things that happened in Week 7 of the college football season

Four teams dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten, Louisville's coaching staff is way too intense, everyone from the state of Michigan is an embarrassment and yeah, Oklahoma and Texas still don't like each other.

Here are the six craziest things that happened in Week 6.

Unbeatens beware

Four undefeated teams suffered their first losses of the season this week as the College Football Playoff Grim Reaper began to rear his ugly head.

The most significant loss was that of Georgia at home to division rival South Carolina and it became evident at the end of the game that neither team wanted to win. I mean, why else would Will Muschamp call for a 57-yard field goal attempt in a tie game with 40 seconds left on the clock and with Georgia having all their timeous left? Why else would Georgia take itself out of field goal range with an illegal shift right before the end of regulation? The Gamecocks had a chance to win after recovering a fumble on the first overtime, but a botched field goal kept the game alive. South Carolina would kick a field goal in the second overtime and a missed field goal by Georgia would give the Gamecocks the win.

Florida also dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten, but that game was going to knock someone off as both the Gators and LSU were undefeated heading into Death Valley on Saturday.

Temple handed Memphis its first loss of the season in an afternoon tilt on Saturday and Wake Forest was also upset at the hands of Louisville who marched into the Demon Deacons’ home field and put up 62 points.

On a related note, the Orange Bowl has to be rooting so hard for Clemson to not make the playoff this year, or the ACC is going to send a mediocre team into one of the best bowl games in the country.

Only 12 undefeated teams remain at the FBS level after this week's action.

Louisville’s defensive line coach needs to chill

Mark Ivey is the defensive line coach at Louisville. To say he is intense would be putting it mildly.

The commentators laugh at how “fired up” the coaches are, but there are several moments in there where it is hard to tell if they are just super pumped or if people players are trying break up a legitimate fight.

Maybe trying to relive the glory days of your playing career during warmups is a bad idea.

Every player from both Oklahoma and Texas was given an unsportsmanlike penalty during the pregame

Oklahoma and Texas is one of the most storied rivalries in college football, even if we have no idea what it’s supposed to be called anymore. The Red River Shootout? The Red River Rivalry? The Red River Hootenanny? The Red River Hullabaloo?

Tensions were high for this game which led to a scuffle during pregame.

More than one.

Realizing that they were losing control of the game before it even started, the referees assessed every player on both teams an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Fun fact, in college football a player is ejected after their second unsportsmanlike penalty in a game so every player was one flag away from getting the boot.

In the end, only one player was ejected and that was for targeting. No one else received a second unsportsmanlike penalty and Oklahoma went on to beat Texas 34-27.

This season could not get any more embarrassing for Michigan

Jim Harbaugh: “Hold my beer.”

The Wolverines won on the road at Illinois on Saturday by a comfortable-looking margin of 42-25. That score, however, does not reflect the nearly epic collapse Michigan faced in the second half.

Jim Harbaugh and Co. jumped out to a 28-0 lead on the Illini before Illinois could even get on the board. Illinois, led by a backup quarterback, managed to score the next 25 points, trimming the lead down to just three early in the fourth quarter. From there, seeing their season was about to collapse in such an epic way woke Michigan back up. The Wolverines went on to add two extra touchdowns to their score while Illinois was shutout the remainder of the game.

Michigan’s quest to prove why they do not deserve to be a ranked team continues next week at Happy Valley where the Wolverines will take on Penn State.

Mark Dantonio answers a “dumbass” question with a dumbass answer

Speaking of disappointing football teams in the state of Michigan, let’s now move on to Michigan State. The Spartans stink on offense as was evident in their 38-0 loss to Wisconsin. In three losses this season, Michigan State has a combined 17 points. That’s bad. What’s worse is the fact that they were bad on offense last year as well, but virtually nothing was done to improve the offense as head coach Mark Dantonio returned the entire offensive coaching staff, but with changed titles and duties.

So now after a humiliating blowout loss in which the offense was made to look as inept as ever, it is fair to wonder if perhaps not making any changes on offense was a mistake. At least most people would think it was fair.

When head coach Mark Dantonio was asked whether his decision on the offensive staff in the offseason was a mistake, here was his response:

Dantonio is absolutely right. That is a “dumbass” question because we all know the answer is yes, it was a mistake, it is going to cost Michigant State its season and not doing anything about it makes him look bad. But go ahead, keep turning your frustrations on the media. That ought to help the offense.

Tennessee becomes the last Power 5 team to earn an FBS win

If you had to guess who the last Power 5 team to earn an FBS win this season was, who would you guess? Kansas? Oregon State? Illinois? One of the other perennial cellar-dwellers?

Nope, you’re all wrong. The answer is Tennessee.

The Volunteers actually won a game against a team with a pulse on Saturday, earning the ugly 20-10 win over Mississippi State. It still counts though proving that there really is no such thing as an ugly win, just an ugly season.

Tennesse improved its record to an impressive 2-4, a fact that right now is prompting every football fan in the south to stand up and spontaneously chant “S-E-C! S-E-C!”

Prior to Saturday, Tennessee’s only win of the season was against FCS Chattanooga. Yes, the Volunteers have losses to Florida and Georgia, both impressive teams. They also have losses against Georgia State and BYU so no, Tennessee is not simply a victim of the brutal SEC schedule.