A hat trick of rushing touchdowns from quarterback Hendon Hooker gave Virginia Tech an early 21-0 lead in the first half. The Hokies would never look back, as Virginia Tech (4-2, 4-2 ACC) ran away with a 42-35 win over Louisville (2-5, 1-5 ACC).
Facing a Louisville team that entered the game missing six defensive linemen, starting safety Isaiah Hayes, linebacker Monty Montgomery, and punter Ryan Harwell, Virginia Tech kept the ball on the ground and turned in an efficient performance. The Hokies ran it 51 times and only threw it ten times, rushing for 283 yards on 5.5 yards per carry with zero turnovers.
Of Virginia Tech’s first four drives, three ended with quarterback Hendon Hooker scoring touchdowns. Hooker found paydirt on runs of 6, 3, and 1 yard(s) to give the Hokies a 21-0 lead.
Louisville’s first four drives ended with two punts, an interception, and a turnover on downs. The pick and turnover on downs resulted in Virginia Tech points going the other way.
The Cardinals would end up scoring their first points on the fifth drive, as Malik Cunningham hit Marshon Ford on a 14-yard touchdown pass over the middle. But Louisville’s next drive ended with Cunningham’s second interception, as Dez Fitzpatrick bobbled a pass and was corralled by Virginia Tech’s Divine Deablo.
Javian Hawkins would provide Louisville with an unconventional Hail Mary of sorts to end the first half. Hawkins took a run up the middle and down the left side, sprinting past the entire Virginia Tech defense for a 90-yard touchdown. The last second touchdown cut Virginia Tech’s lead to 21-14 at halftime.
Virginia Tech would rebound with a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, as Tre Turner took a jet sweep around the left side for a one-yard score and make it 28-14.
Louisville found its way inside the Virginia Tech ten yard line on the next drive, but failed to convert another fourth down as Cunningham threw his third interception of the game to Chamarri Conner near the goal line.
A 30-yard field goal by Brian Johnson capped off the subsequent 14-play drive by the Hokies, extending Virginia Tech’s lead to 31-14.
Cunningham would cut the lead to 31-21, finding Dez Fitzpatrick deep for an 82-yard touchdown pass. The long touchdown reception by Fitzpatrick would give him his second 100-yard game of the 2020 season.
After another Virginia Tech field goal by Johnson, Maurice Burkley would score his first collegiate touchdown on a 13-yard run to cut the lead to 34-28.
Instead of kicking it downfield with 5:36 left in the fourth quarter, Louisville opted for the onside kick down six with two timeouts. Virginia Tech recovered it inside the 50, and eventually scored the game-sealing touchdown on a 24-yard run by Khalil Herbert. A two-point conversion would push the lead to 42-28.
Louisville would cut it back to a one score game as Cunningham threw his third touchdown pass of the game, this time to Hawkins, on fourth-and-six to bring it down to 42-35. Hawkins then recovered an onside kick attempt by the Cardinals, but a delay of game penalty on the kickoff waived it off. Virginia Tech would recover the next kick and ice the game.
Virginia Tech’s running game took advantage of an undermanned Louisville defense, putting up 283 yards on 5.5 yards per carry. Khalil Herbert added his fifth 100-yard game of the season, 147 on the ground with a late touchdown. Hendon Hooker had 68 yards with three first half touchdowns on the ground, and also completed all ten of his passes for 183 yards with a passer rating of 253.7. Tre Turner led the Hokies with 71 receiving yards and had a touchdown on the ground, as well. Justus Reed subbed in for the injured Emmanuel Belmar and had two sacks.
Malik Cunningham completed 23-of-35 passes for a career-high 350 yards and three touchdowns, but threw three interceptions in a game for the second time this season. Javian Hawkins had his fourth 100-yard game of the season with 129 yards on the ground and two total touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving). Dez Fitzpatrick also had a career high with 158 receiving yards, also scoring a touchdown. Louisville outgained Virginia Tech 548-466, but three interceptions and two turnovers on downs led to Louisville not keeping with Virginia Tech in a high scoring affair.
Louisville will look to rebound on the road next week, as they head to Charlottesville to face Virginia. The Cardinals and Cavaliers square off at 8 p.m. ET on the ACC Network.