LANDOVER, Maryland (AP) — Josh Jackson passed for 235 yards, ran for 101 and accounted for two touchdowns in his first start for Virginia Tech, and the No. 21 Hokies made a last-second stand to beat No. 22 West Virginia 31-24 on Sunday night.
The 52nd meeting between the Appalachian region rivals was the first since 2005. It ended up being a classic at FedEx Field, which turned into Lane Stadium northeast at the end. Hokies fans screamed along to “Enter Sandman” after Virginia Tech held the Mountaineers out of the end zone on two last plays from the 15.
After 11 years, the Hokies get to bring the Black Diamond Trophy back to Blacksburg.
Jackson, the redshirt freshman who won a three-way competition for the job, was up and down with his passing, but showed off some nifty moves running in the opener for both teams. His 46-yard keeper up the middle set up Travon McMillian’s 3-yard touchdown run that put Virginia Tech up 31-24 with 6:30 left.
West Virginia’s new quarterback looked good, too. Florida transfer Will Grier, who left Gainesville after being suspended by the NCAA for failing a test for performance-enhancing drugs in 2015, pass for 371 yards and three touchdowns.
Usually reliable Virginia Tech kicker Joey Slye missed a 32-yard field-goal attempt with 1:55 that gave the Mountaineers a chance.
Grier slinged and scrambled West Virginia down to the Virginia Tech 15, but his second-to-last pass into the end zone under pressure was a little behind David Sills and it went through the receiver’s arms. Grier’s last throw sailed high and away, but a couple of penalties on the West Virginia offensive line made it moot.
West Virginia: Along with breaking in Grier, West Virginia is looking to find him some reliable targets from an inexperienced bunch. Former quarterback prodigy David Sills (nine catches, 94 yards and two touchdowns) and Jennings (13 for 189 and a touchdown) looked good against a Virginia Tech secondary that ranks among the best in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies are going with a committee of running backs and 190-pound sophomore Deshawn McClease made a case to be in the mix along with Steve Peoples and Travon McMillian. McClease slipped three tackles on the way to a 12-yard touchdown run to make it 17-10 for Virginia Tech in the third quarter. He finished 51 yards on eight carries.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers return home to take on East Carolina in Morgantown.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies face FCS opponent Delaware next week before traveling to East Carolina on Sept. 16.