BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — JT Daniels threw for 203 yards and a touchdown to lead West Virginia to a 33-10 win over Virginia Tech on Thursday night.
Freshman CJ Donaldson rushed for 106 yards and West Virginia (2-2) got a strong performance from its defense to win its second straight game after losing the first two.
“That was a great win,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said. “I felt great about our preparation coming in, and this is one of the toughest venues to come in and play. I felt really good. This is something that we’ve been thinking about for a long time once we found out this was going to be a Thursday night game. I thought we played fast. We were really physical.”
The Mountaineers, who beat Virginia Tech for the second consecutive season, scored on five straight possessions spanning the first and second half. Daniels’ 24-yard touchdown pass to Sam James with 11 seconds left in the first half gave the Mountaineers a 13-7 lead, and they never trailed again.
“It was big,” Brown said of the score. “I felt like we were in control of the game, but the scoreboard didn’t say that. I thought, really from that drive on, we were in control.”
The Hokies (2-2) closed within 16-10 on a field goal by Will Ross with 4:19 left in the third quarter. West Virginia answered, scoring on a 6-yard run by Justin Johnson Jr. with 14:13 left in the game. The Hokies had West Virginia stopped twice on the drive, but personal foul penalties on Norell Pollard and Dax Hollifield kept the drive alive.
Penalties hindered the Hokies all night. They committed 15 for 132 yards.
“I think we press and we get out of sorts,” said Virginia Tech coach Brent Pry, whose team committed 15 penalties at Old Dominion in its other loss this season. “We feel like we have to do things above and beyond. We’ve got to stay in the framework and play with fundamentals and technique to be mindful of what we’re doing.
“Sometimes, I look out there. and it’s like a panic. We’re not playing together, we’re not playing as one, and we’ve got to coach them through that. We’ve got to fix that. That’s the second time in a tight situation that we didn’t respond. We’ve got to improve there.”
West Virginia: The Mountaineers picked up a nice win for Brown, who moved to 19-20 in his fourth year at West Virginia. They played solidly in all three phases, but especially on defense. A unit that gave up 73 points in losses to Pittsburgh and Kansas held the Hokies to just 228 yards and also scored on an interception return.
“That’s how we play defense here,” Brown said. “We had an aberration a couple of weeks ago against Kansas — credit to them. But that’s not how we’re going to play defense around here. I thought tonight was closer.”
Virginia Tech: The Hokies weren’t good in any phase of the game and now haven’t beaten a nonconference Power 5 team at Lane Stadium since 2009. The loss marked their worst ever over the Mountaineers at Lane Stadium.
BIG DAY FOR WVU BACKS
Donaldson’s performance marked his third 100-yard effort in four games. The 240-pound back came to West Virginia as a tight end, but the staff moved him to tailback. Behind Donaldson and Johnson Jr., who rushed for 83 yards, West Virginia amassed 218 yards on the ground and moved to 15-2 under Brown when rushing for at least 100 yards.
“I always do,” Daniels said when asked if he expected the Mountaineers to have success rushing. “I think we’re very physical. We have been since I’ve been here, just the way this team works, especially up front led by (Zach) Frazier. With a whole host of great running backs, I expect to run like that every time.”
RIVALRY ON HIATUS
Thursday’s night’s game marked the final game scheduled between Virginia Tech and West Virginia — two universities only four hours apart. The Mountaineers want to play on a more regular basis, but Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock has filled the Hokies’ future nonconference schedule with struggling Power 5 programs such as Vanderbilt, Rutgers, Arizona, and Maryland in addition to long series with in-state foes Old Dominion and Liberty. Virginia Tech’s nonconference schedule is filled until the 2031 season.