BLACKSBURG, Virginia — One of Virginia coach Mike London's favorite words is opportunities, and if the Cavaliers have done a better job of cashing in on some good ones on Friday night, they would be heading to a bowl game.
The Cavaliers (5-7, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) twice had first downs inside the Virginia Tech 20 yard-line, including a first-and-goal from the 6, and they came away with all of six points.
"It all boils down to execution," London said. "Some of our guys were overmatched out there a little bit."
The Cavaliers' biggest failure came in the third quarter with them holding a 13-10 lead and facing a fourth-and-1 from the Hokies' 16. Greyson Lambert had been stopped for no gain on third down, and the same happened to Kevin Parks on fourth, with defensive end Dadi Nicolas slicing through the line to make the stop.
London said the game dictated that Virginia go for it.
"That's an issue when you get in the red (zone)," London said. "You obviously want to score points and get touchdowns. When you are playing a good defense, you have to take advantage of that."
Virginia did take a 20-17 lead on Lambert's 20-yard pass to Zach Swanson with 2:55 remaining, but the Hokies needed just five plays and just 67 seconds to cover 75 yards, winning on Michael Brewer's 9-yard pass to Bucky Hodges with 1:48 remaining.
A late Virginia drive was ended on a sack at the Hokies' 36 yard-line.
The victory was the Hokies' 11th in a row in the series, but Virginia Tech (6-6, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) won for just the second time in six games. The Hokies also qualified for a bowl game for the 22nd year in a row, the second-longest streak in the country. They also ended a six-game losing streak at Lane Stadium against conference opponents.
Virginia was seeking its first bowl bid since 2011, but lost its 10th consecutive road game.
The game was a defensive struggle throughout, and only in the closing minutes did the offenses get moving. The Hokies' go-ahead drive, which took just five plays and involved a foolish penalty against the Cavaliers, came after Greyson Lambert had led Virginia on an 89-yard march and a 20-17 lead.
Starting from his own 25, Brewer was flushed and threw the ball away, but got hit and knocked down by lineman Mike Moore after releasing the ball, drawing a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty. Brewer hit Hodges for 50 yards on the next play, and for the touchdown after a false start penalty.
Lambert, who rarely looked comfortable all game, finally did in leading the Cavaliers on an 89-yard drive for the go-ahead touchdown. Using almost all short passes, he completed seven in a row, the last a 20-yarder to his roommate, Swanson, to give Virginia a 20-17 lead with just 2:55 remaining.
The Hokies had taken a 17-13 lead late in the third quarter when Brewer, hit repeatedly and at times wobbly, found Cam Phillips for 36 yards and a touchdown to finish off an 83-yard drive.
Virginia led 13-10 at halftime despite doing very little on offense. The Cavaliers gained a total of 124 yards, and 40 came on a run by Kevin Parks, and 54 came on a pass from Lambert to Taquan Mizzell.
Parks' run gave Virginia a first down at the Hokies' 17, and they settled for a 40-yard field goal by Ian Frye. Mizzell's catch and run set them up at the 6, and led to Frye's 21-yard field goal.
Their only touchdown came when Brewer was hit while trying to pass from his end zone, and the ball popped up and into David Dean's arms, and he returned the interception three yards for the TD.
The Hokies did their scoring in similar fashion, using a 69-yard drive that featured a handful of plays with Brenden Motley running the wildcat to lead to Joey Slye's 22-yard field goal. C.J. Reavis later blocked Alec Vozenilek's punt from the end zone and Bucky Hodges recovered it for a touchdown.
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