A quick look at Virginia Tech’s 37-14 victory over Tennessee on Thursday in the Chick-fil-A Bowl:
How the game was won: Virginia Tech dominated the second half, outscoring Tennessee 20-0 after halftime. The Vols couldn’t tackle Virginia Tech freshman running back Ryan Williams, who rolled up 79 yards in the third quarter alone before getting hurt. That’s after Tennessee held him to 38 yards on 17 carries in the first half. The Vols generally unraveled in the second half, and no play defined that any more than a wide-open Denarius Moore dropping a sure touchdown pass on a deep ball with just under 13 minutes to play in the game.
Turning point: Virginia Tech broke a 14-14 tie just before halftime with a Matt Waldron 21-yard field goal as time expired. It looked like the Vols would go into halftime with all the momentum after fighting back from a 14-0 deficit. But with 18 seconds to play in the first half, Tyrod Taylor uncorked a 63-yard pass to Jarrett Boykin down to the Tennessee 4. The game clock ran out on the field, but the play was reviewed, and the officials ruled that Virginia Tech called timeout with two seconds remaining. That left enough time for Waldron to kick the field goal and steal the momentum away from the Vols.
Stat of the game: The Hokies rushed for 230 yards, which was the third time in the past five games that the Vols have given up at least 200 yards on the ground.
Unsung hero: Even though he had the early interception, Tennessee senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton came back and played courageously the rest of the way in his final game.
What it means: The Vols (7-6) were looking to put an exclamation mark on their first season under Lane Kiffin. Instead, they put more of a question mark on a season that was highlighted by quality losses and moral victories. Tennessee played respectably in hard-fought losses to Alabama and Florida, improved significantly on offense after a dismal 2008 season and had a defensive stretch during the middle of the season when it played as well as anybody in the league. But in the end, this season will be remembered more for what Kiffin did and said off the field than anything the Vols accomplished on the field.
Second guessing: What was Tennessee’s coaching staff thinking at the end of the first half? In that situation, there’s no excuse for having the defensive backs in any position where a receiver can get behind them.