Despite bad offense, Virginia Tech notches 13-10 overtime bowl win against Rutgers

ORLANDO, Fla. — If Friday night marked the final chapter of Bryan Stinespring's 11-year tenure as Virginia Tech's offensive coordinator, Tech's effort against Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl won't make his career highlight reel.

Regardless, Tech got just enough offense and a stingy effort from its defense to carve out a 13-10 overtime win and avoid what would've been its first losing season since 1992. Cody Journell connected on a 22-yard field goal in overtime for his third game-winning kick of the season.

After Journell's kick, Tech (7-6) held Rutgers to no yards on three plays before redshirt freshman Nick Borgese lined up for a 42-yard field-goal attempt. When his kick came up short, players and coaches from Tech's sideline flooded the field to celebrate the victory.

"Nothing came easy for us," Tech coach Frank Beamer said.

Tech finished with 196 yards, while Rutgers (9-4) was held to 196 yards of its own. Rutgers missed out on notching just its third 10-win season in school history.

Tech had three yards rushing, which was the fewest in a win in Beamer's 26 seasons as Tech's coach. The last time Tech had fewer rushing yards was in 1994, when it had minus-14 in a loss to Miami.

The bowl wasn't a memorable evening for Stinespring and Tech's offensive coaches, nearly all of whom have been rumored to be on the hot seat since the end of the regular season. After the game, Stinespring insisted he wasn't thinking about his future at Tech.

"At this moment in time, what I'm concentrating on and what's important to me right now is I'm going to go back and celebrate and rejoice with the people that mean the most to me in this world," Stinespring said. "That's this coaching staff, these players, these guys that I've recruited and had the great pleasure of being around and coached them.

"That's all we're doing. That's all we're concentrating on. We just won us a bowl. We won three games in a row. We hung in there, found a way to win...I haven't thought anything further about that (coaching situation)."

Beamer didn't have much to say after the game regarding possible assistant coaching changes.

"We are going to enjoy this win and talk about our game with Rutgers," Beamer said.

The performance of Tech's offense against Rutgers won't do anything to help the case of Beamer's offensive coaching staff. Trailing 10-0 with 14:49 left, Tech had posted just 80 yards for the game, but it managed to generate some offense at the right time.

Quarterback Logan Thomas, who completed 15 of 39 passes for 192 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for the game, connected on back-to-back passes of 32 and 25 yards to wide receivers Dyrell Roberts and Corey Fuller, respectively, to move Tech to the Rutgers 13-yard line.

Tech, which had minus-five rushing yards at that point in the game, gained five yards total on three consecutive runs by running back Martin Scales, setting up a 25-yard field goal by Journell. His kick cut Rutgers' advantage to 10-3 with 12:14 left.

Cornerback Antone Exum, who was named the game's Most Valuable Player, helped put Tech in scoring position again by ending Rutgers' next drive with an interception of quarterback Gary Nova. Exum returned the interception 32 yards to Rutgers' 21.

After two incompletions to start Tech's next drive, Thomas spotted Fuller in the end zone on third-and-10 for a 21-yard touchdown pass to tie the game 10-10 with 10:56 remaining. Tech amassed nearly as many yards (78) via three completions on its first two scoring drives as it did the entire game leading up to those drives.

Rutgers self-destructed again two drives later when a bad snap resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Tech defensive end Tyrel Wilson, a Hampton High graduate, at the Scarlet Knights' 29 with 7:09 left. Tech couldn't capitalize on the turnover, losing 12 yards on its next drive before it punted the ball away.

Neither team came close to putting points on the board down the stretch. Journell left a 51-yard field goal attempt short with 2:20 remaining.

Tech was held to 73 yards on 38 plays in the first half while falling behind 10-0 by halftime. Thomas was 10 of 21 passing for 84 yards and an interception in the half.

Tech's troubles started on the opening drive of the game. On the second play from Tech's 22-yard line, a snap from center Caleb Farris got past Thomas and rolled into the end zone.

Thomas recovered the ball and appeared to fall to a knee before losing the ball in the end zone, but Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene was credited with a fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown, putting the Scarlet Knights up 7-0 with 14:43 left in the first quarter.

Tech failed to cross midfield on seven of its eight first half drives. It never got inside Rutgers' 46.

While Tech struggled to move the ball, Rutgers didn't have much success on offense either. Tech held Rutgers to 129 yards in the first half, and just 67 yards on 44 plays in the second half.

"With two defenses like this you could predict a low scoring game," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. "Would I have predicted we wouldn't score an offensive touch down? No, I wouldn't have done that. I am disappointed. We just (had) no consistency of drives." 

Tech was penalized eight times in the first half, losing 60 yards on the penalties. For the game, Tech was penalized 14 times and lost 95 yards as a result of the violations.

Tech's three drives in the second quarter ended at its own 33, 36 and 35, respectively. On second-and-9 from Tech's 35, Thomas was intercepted by cornerback Brandon Jones at Rutgers' 19 with 1:40 left in the second quarter on a deep pass to Roberts, a Smithfield High graduate.

Tech running backs J.C. Coleman, Michael Holmes, Tony Gregory and Scales combined to have 21 carries for just 20 yards. Coleman led the team with five catches for 39 yards, while receiver Marcus Davis had four catches for 62 yards.

Davis came up short in his effort to become Tech's first receiver to have 1,000 yards receiving in a season. He finished with 953 yards receiving on 51 catches.

While Tech's offense struggled, including giving up four sacks of Thomas, the defense forced Nova to go 17 of 40 passing for 129 yards and an interception. He was sacked three times and led Rutgers to convert just 3 of 21 third down opportunities.

"We never lose hope with the guys on the other side of the ball," said Exum of Tech's offensive woes. "We knew they would at some point make the plays that needed to be made for us to take the lead, and our job is honestly just to go out there and...give them the opportunity to put points on the board."

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