BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Ryan Willis threw touchdown passes to four different receivers in the first half and Virginia Tech extended its nation’s-best bowl streak to 26 years with a 41-20 victory against Marshall on Saturday.
The Hokies (6-6) paid the Thundering Herd $300,000 to play the game, then put together one of their best efforts of the season. Willis finished 18 of 26 for 312 yards with touchdown passes of 46 yards to Hezekiah Grimsley, 45 yards to Tre Turner, seven yards to Steve Peoples and 32 yards to Eric Kumah as Virginia Tech built a 31-6 lead by halftime.
The Thundering Herd (8-4), which also received future scheduling considerations for agreeing to play the Hokies, turned the ball over on each of its first two drives and each time the Hokies converted. A fumble recovery by TyJuan Garbutt on Marshall’s first play from scrimmage set up the first of two field goals by Brian Johnson, and Bryce Watts’ interception in the end zone set up an 80-yard touchdown march.
Watts’ interception was the Hokies’ first since Reggie Floyd had one against Notre Dame on Oct. 6.
Brenden Knox ran for 204 yards and two touchdowns for Marshall, and Isaiah Green hit Xavier Gaines with a 34-yard TD pass.
Grimsley dropped what would have been a fifth scoring throw in the third quarter, setting up Johnson’s second field goal. It was the only scoring in the quarter, where the Hokies had been outscored 77-3 in their previous five third quarters at home, four of them losses.
Virginia Tech’s bowl streak is the longest in the nation. Florida State had a string of 36 years in bowl games snapped with its 5-7 finish this year.
Marshall: The Thundering Herd got off to a horrible start as Isaiah Green was hit by Ricky Walker on the first play from scrimmage, fumbled and TyJuan Garbutt recovered for the Hokies at the 17. Marshall held the Hokies to a field goal, but the start fired up the crowd and gave the home team momentum it never relinquished.
Virginia Tech: Good fortune played a role in the Hokies getting to a 12th game. Their tying touchdown last week in their 34-31 overtime victory against Virginia came when they recovered a fumble in the end zone after it went through the hands of a Cavaliers player. They required no such lucky bounces against the Herd.
Marshall: The Herd is hopeful of landing in a bowl in Florida, an area the program recruits heavily.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies’ 26th straight bowl appearance will likely come in the Military Bowl.
Follow Hank on Twitter at www.twitter.com/hankkurzjr
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25