Donovan Riley’s 63-yard interception return for a touchdown with 46 seconds left sealed one of the biggest wins in school history, as Virginia Tech stunned No. 8 Ohio State 35-21 in front of 107,517 fans at Ohio Stadium – the largest crowd ever to watch a game at Ohio State.
The Buckeyes (1-1) saw their 64-game home winning streak against non-conference competition come to an end. Ohio State had not lost a home game to an unranked non-conference opponent since 1982.
At No. 8, Ohio State marked the highest-ranked opponent that the Hokies have beaten on the road. Tech had beaten a No. 9-ranked team on the road or at neutral sites on three occasions, with the most recent win coming in 2004 over then-No. 9 Miami.
“I still remember going to Nebraska and winning and going to Texas A&M and winning,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said when asked how much personal satisfaction he derived from this win. “That’s been a few years back.
“But it’s good. I think those things go in cycles a little bit. When you play good teams like we play, you’ve got about a 50-50 shot of winning and when you go on the road, it probably goes down a little bit. I think this is a big, big win for the program and for the status of our program.”
Tech led 21-7 at halftime, but the Buckeyes, as expected, refused to go away. They managed to tie the game at 21 after Tech quarterback Michael Brewer made a critical mistake. Holding on to the ball perhaps a second or two too long, he ended up getting stripped by OSU defensive lineman Joey Bosa. The Buckeyes recovered and took advantage, scoring two plays later on an Elliott Ezekiel 15-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 21 with 11:40 left.
But the Hokies showed some moxie. On the ensuing possession, they took over at their own 35 after the Buckeyes kicked the ball out of bounds on the kickoff. Tech then went 65 yards in six plays, scoring when Brewer hit tight end Bucky Hodges for a 10-yard touchdown. Joey Slye’s extra point gave the Hokies a 28-21 lead with 8:44 remaining.
“I told the guys to just keep plugging away,” Brewer said when asked what he told the offense after his fumble. “Let’s keep riding the waves. That’s a tough defense, and things like that are going to happen against a tough defense. We knew that coming in, and it’s all about how are you going to respond. You can’t get down. You can’t get too high. You can’t get too low. I think we did a good job of that and staying even keeled throughout the game.”
From that point onward, Tech’s defense slammed the door. On Ohio State’s final three possessions, the Hokies sacked Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett six times and intercepted him twice.
“When that moment comes, we know that it’s on our shoulders and that’s the way we like it,” Tech mike linebacker Chase Williams said. “We like being ahead at the end of the game and the defense having to make a stand. That’s the way we are. We were excited. We knew it was a challenge and it was a big challenge, but we came out and made the most of it.”
Barrett tried to get the Buckeyes into a position to score on their final drive. A 23-yard pass completion to receiver Corey Smith got the Buckeyes into Tech territory at the Tech 45, and a Barrett run got the Buckeyes to the Tech 42. But a sack by Deon Clarke pushed Ohio State back to its own 49 with 59 seconds left.
The final play ended their chances. Barrett threw a terrible pass in the direction of Riley, who made the easy interceptions and then dodged several tacklers on his way to the end zone with 46 seconds remaining.
It marked just the second interception of Riley’s career. He was in the game because Brandon Facyson was injured.
“What was going through my mind was 107,000 fans getting quiet and Hokie Nation getting in an uproar,” Riley said. “I live for moments like that, and my teammates live for moments like that. To come in as an underdog and end a streak that started before I was even born … I’m very appreciative. I thank my teammates, my coaches and Hokie Nation for being there to support me.”
Tech finished with 320 yards of total offense, while Ohio State finished with 327. Brewer completed 23-of-36 for 199 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Barrett completed just 9-of-29 for 219 yards and a touchdown, with three interceptions. He was sacked seven times.
The Hokies now gear up for another non-conference game when they take on East Carolina next Saturday at Lane Stadium. Kickoff is slated for noon.