BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Virginia had momentum and every hope of ending Virginia Tech's domination of their rivalry.
And then the fake field-goal attempt failed, and the Cavaliers' defense couldn't stop the Hokies as they drove 85 yards for a game-tying touchdown. And Antone Exum intercepted Michael Rocco with just more than three minutes to play, setting Logan Thomas and the offense up for another game-winning play.
Cody Journell made it official at 17-14 with a 29-yard field goal with 4 seconds to play.
The Cavaliers' losing streak now stands at nine in the series, and all nine losses have come since the Hokies joined them in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Virginia Tech has won 13 of the last 14.
"We came to win the game," third-year Virginia coach Mike London said. "The streak is what it is, and people will continue talking about it. But that gap has been narrowed. The gap is closing."
And in the end, the Hokies have held the Commonwealth Cup that goes to the winner for 2,919 days and counting, and a fifth consecutive class of seniors leaves the program never having beaten the Hokies.
"We came close, but we came up short," said Rocco, the starting quarterback, who was 14 for 29 for 177 yards. "It's tough for our seniors especially. It's never a good feeling losing to Tech."
The end came when Journell's kick sailed through and left coach Mike London trying to explain that he didn't use his two timeouts to stop the clock on the winning drive because he thought his defense would make a play. He also was left explaining why they tried a fake field goal with a 14-7 lead.
"That particular call was based on a look that we got," he said of the play on which holder Jacob Hodges took the snap and darted through the right side of the line. Needing 8 yards; he got 6.
"It was close," London said.
Logan Thomas ran for one touchdown and threw for another for the Hokies (6-6, 4-4).
Virginia led 14-7 after its first defensive touchdown of the season on a 16-yard fumble return by Brent Urban early in the third quarter but then came up short on the fake field-goal try.
Thomas and the Hokies took over at their 15, and Thomas shook off a miserable day with a brilliant drive. He completed 4 of 5 passes, converted a third-and-5 with an 8-yard run, a fourth-and-1 with a 2-yard run, a third-and-4 with a 6-yard pass and then powered it in himself from the 4 for the tie.
He also drove Virginia Tech to the Virginia 24 in the fourth quarter, but Journell missed a 41-yard field goal try in swirling winds, handing the ball back to the Cavaliers. Three plays later, Exum made the interception that left intended receiver Tim Smith looking for a holding or pass interference call.
"The whole time," Smith said, alleging he was held.
Instead, the Hokies finished off the victory that ensures they will extend their streak of seasons ending in a bowl game to 20, third-longest in the nation behind Florida State (31) and Florida (22).
For both teams, most of the biggest plays came on defense.
Thomas dropped back on third-and-10 from his 34 and was sacked by Jake Snyder for an 18-yard loss. Thomas also coughed up the ball, and Urban scooped it up and ran it 16 yards for the TD.
The Hokies scored first on Thomas' 7-yard pass to Randall Dunn on third-and-5. It capped a 55-yard drive that featured 13-yard completions by Thomas to Corey Fuller and Marcus Davis, and a 13-yard run by Thomas. He carried on three plays in a row before finding Dunn in the middle of the end zone.
The Cavaliers tied it late in the half after taking possession at midfield. Rocco hit Paul Freedman for 8 yards on first down, and hit Tim Smith with a simple sideline pass on second down. Smith broke an ankle tackle by Detrick Bonner right after the catch and took it 42 yards for the tying touchdown.
The first quarter featured six punts and a turnover by Virginia at its own 39. Exum stripped and recovered the fumble by Perry Jones, but three plays netted minus-4 yards and led to a punt.