Josh Jackson threw for 235 yards and a touchdown and rushed for a score in his debut
Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson threw a touchdown pass and ran for a touchdown pass in his collegiate debut and Cam Phillips had a career-high 138 yards receiving to lift the No. 21 Hokies to a 31-24 victory over No. 22 West Virginia in the season opener Sunday evening at FedEx Field.
Renewing a rivalry that had been dormant since 2005, the Hokies and Mountaineers went back and forth in the second half before Tech scored late to give the Hokies their eighth win over the Mountaineers in the past 11 meetings.
“I don’t know where to start,” Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “I thought it was a well-played football game for both teams. There was back and forth, and yards were hard to come by early in the game. Then it seemed like there was a spell there in the second half when both teams were moving the ball well, going back and forth.
“I thought there were a bunch of people that contributed. Obviously, our coaching staff, and I think about the individual players. The guys on special teams doing there jobs, the guys on offense and defense contributing and we found a way to win the ball game.”
With the game tied at 24, the Hokies took over at their own 18, and Jackson went to work. A 12-yard run, a 22-yard pass to Sean Savoy and a 46-yard run to the West Virginia 2 ultimately set up Travon McMillian’s 3-yard touchdown run with 6:30 to go that gave Tech a 31-24 lead.
West Virginia drove to the Tech 15 in the waning moments. With 2 seconds to go, WVU quarterback Will Grier threw a pass that fell incomplete in the back corner of the end zone. A West Virginia holding penalty would have negated the play anyway, and the Hokies celebrated.
Jackson, a redshirt freshman from Ann Arbor, Michigan, completed 15 of 26 for 235 yards and a score. He also rushed for 101 yards on a night when Tech finished with 469 yards of total offense – and perhaps more importantly, no turnovers.
Phillips caught seven passes for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Grier threw for 371 yards and three scores for the Mountaineers.
• Trevon Hill’s first-half interception marked the first by a Tech defensive lineman since Corey Marshall intercepted a pass against Pittsburgh in 2014.
• Phillips’ 138 yards receiving surpassed his previous career high of 115, which came in the Hokies’ 35-24 victory over Arkansas in the Belk Bowl. The performance marked the third time in his career in which he registered more than 100 yards receiving.
• McMillian recorded his 15th career rushing touchdown when he scored what turned out to be the game winner against the Mountaineers. His 15 career rushing touchdowns rank fourth in the ACC among active players.
• Joey Slye registered a field goal and four extra points for a total of seven points. He now has 328 career points and needs just nine points to move past Lee Suggs into second place on Tech’s all-time list. He also needs just five field goals to move past Shayne Graham into the top spot for career field goals made. Graham hit 68 during his career from 1996-99.
• Braxton Pfaff got the call at right guard for the Hokies, and the redshirt junior made his first career start. Others making their first career starts included Jackson, Sean Savoy, Chris Cunningham, Tim Settle and Reggie Floyd.
• Tech’s staff played true freshmen Savoy, Jalen Holston, Devon Hunter, Rayshard Ashby, Bryce Watts, Dalton Keene and Dalton Keene in the game. Four redshirt freshmen also made their collegiate debuts – Jackson, Khalil Ladler, Emmanuel Belmar and Jarrod Hewitt. A fifth redshirt freshman, Jimmie Taylor, played, but Taylor made his collegiate debut last season before an injury forced him to missed the remainder of the year. He later received a medical hardship waive.
— Jimmy Robertson, VT Athletics