After shaking off the rust, Virginia Tech went back to its identity of old – stellar defensive play, which spurred the Hokies to an improbably comeback in the 2016 Belk Bowl over Arkansas. Virginia Tech scored 35 unanswered points in the second half to win 35-24.
It was over when…
Arkansas fumbled a would-be touchdown out of the back of the end zone in the third quarter. The score would’ve put Arkansas up 31-7 in the third quarter. While the Razorbacks retained possession due to a penalty on the Hokies, the play kept Virginia Tech’s hopes alive. Following the fumble out of the end zone, the Hokies forced another turnover, an interception by linebacker Anthony Shegog.
The biggest surprise was…
After a month of rest and practice, Virginia Tech came out flat. Slow starts became familiar for the Hokies, but being down 24-0 was new territory. The team had been down by at least 17 twice early – in games against Georgia Tech and Notre Dame.
Similar to Notre Dame, Virginia Tech was able to fight back because of solid defense and an offense that took advantage of opponent’s mistakes. Over the last ten seasons, teams trailing by at least 24 at the break had only won three games. The Hokies’ victory over Arkansas marked the fourth time a team has come back from 24 down at intermission.
Weather an issue
At kickoff, sustained winds of 17 miles-per-hour (mph) were recorded with gusts above 30 mph. That wind seemingly impact the Hokies - who have played in tough conditions prior to the Belk Bowl. The team seemed tentative to open up the passing game. The win also forced first-year head coach Justin Fuente to roll the dice by going for it on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal.
The wind died down after halftime, though, and Virginia Tech came back to score 35 unanswered points to win the Belk Bowl 35-24.
Offensive game ball goes to…
Junior receiver Cameron Phillips made plays when Virginia Tech needed him the most. The receiver had clutch catches to keep Virginia Tech in the game and to extend drives. His 6 catches for 115 yards – including a long of 33 – helped the Hokies stage their biggest comeback in school history.
During the trophy presentation, Phillips was named the Belk Bowl MVP.
Defensive game ball goes to…
The entire defense in the second half. After yielding close to 250 yards in the first half, the defense found themselves time-and-again in the perfect position to make plays after the break. The Virginia Tech defense gave up only 56 yards in the second half – while forcing four turnovers, all of which led to Hokies’ touchdowns.