Turnovers hurt Hokies in season-opening loss to BC

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CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (VT Athletics) -- Despite 344 yards and four touchdowns passing from quarterback Ryan Willis, the Virginia Tech football fell 35-38 to Boston College in an ACC game played Saturday afternoon and a game that marked the season opener for both teams.

The Hokies had won in their previous two visits to Chestnut Hill, but turnovers doomed them in this one, as the Hokies committed five of them and the Eagles scored 14 points off of those turnovers.

Trailing 35-21 late in the fourth quarter, the Hokies went on an 18-play march that used 2:30 off the clock and scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Willis to Kaleb Smith with 2:13 remaining. But on the ensuing possession, BC tailback AJ Dillon ran for 11 yards on third-and-9, and the Eagles ran out the clock for the win.

The Hokies actually led early in the game, taking a 14-7 advantage after a 20-yard touchdown pass from Willis to freshman receiver Tayvion Robinson. The extra point gave the Hokies the lead with 11:29 left in the first half.

But the remainder of the second quarter was all BC, as the Eagles took the lead and never trailed again, converting two Tech turnovers into 14 points. BC first tied the game at 14 on a 17-yard touchdown run by Dillon with 7:58 left in the half, and moments later, took advantage of a Willis fumble that gave the Eagles great field position at the Tech 17. That drive ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Brown to Kobay White with 6:20 remaining in the half that gave BC a 21-14 lead.

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The critical turnover, though, came toward the end of the first half when Tech's Hezekiah Grimsley muffed a punt, which BC recovered at the Tech 20. Two plays later, Brown scampered into the end zone, giving the Eagles a 28-14 advantage. Tech drove into BC territory on its final drive of the half, but a Willis pass into the end zone was intercepted by BC's Joseph Sparacio.

The Hokies managed to cut the lead to 28-21 on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Willis to James Mitchell with 3:09 left in the third quarter, but the Eagles answered on a 1-yard touchdown run by David Bailey with 7:53 left in the game.

Tech finished with 442 yards of offense, while the Eagles ended with 432 yards.

GAME NOTES
• Willis' four touchdown passes give him 40 for his career.

• Willis' 344 yards passing were the most he's thrown in a game while at Tech and just four yards short of his career high (348 vs. TCU in 2016).

• Robinson enjoyed a big game in his collegiate debut, catching a team-high six passes for 72 yards and a touchdown.

• Hezekiah Grimsley hauled in a 55-yard touchdown pass from Willis in the first quarter. A season ago, the Hokies had just three pass plays of 50 yards or more.

• Robinson, Smith, Mitchell and Keshawn King all caught their first passes as collegians, with Robinson, Mitchell and Smith scoring their first touchdowns.

• Tech's defense held Dillon to just 81 yards rushing and 3.5 yards per carry. The eagles finished with 157 yards rushing.

• Tech saw its two-game winning streak in Chestnut Hill snapped.

UP NEXT
Tech returns to action Saturday when it plays Old Dominion at Lane Stadium in the Hokies' home opener. The kickoff is slated for noon and the game can be seen on ESPNU. The game will mark the third straight for the two programs, who first met in 2017 (a 38-0 Tech victory in Blacksburg).