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Virginia Tech 49, Boston College 0: The Key Play

Pinpointing the forgotten moment where all was lost

Boston College v Virginia Tech Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

“The Key Play” is supposed to be our weekly series where we talk about the plays or moments where the game turned toward its final outcome. As I was getting ready to put this together, Joe suggested that it be “the opening kickoff,” which, ha.

I also considered Myles Willis’ kickoff return that was called back on a pointless block in the back penalty, because on its face the game could have gone very differently from that point. It seems impossible now, but the game was actually going okay — the defense held VT to a punt on its first drive, and the offense moved down the field inside the Hokie 35 before the fumble that Virginia Tech converted into 7 points.

But given how comprehensively Tech beat us down the rest of the game, BC responding with a quick 7 on the ensuing kickoff probably didn’t change things all that much.

No, the trick in this game is to find the point at which the game was truly lost. And that point was the end of the 2nd half — though it might be a moment you didn’t notice.

3:02 remaining in the 2nd quarter
VT ball, 4th & 20 at the BC 43 — Hokies punt to the BC 6

This isn’t the moment, but this is where it all begins. BC is still, technically speaking, in the game at this point. They’re only down two scores, they have two timeouts left, they have three minutes to try and get points, and what’s more, they get the ball to start the 2nd half. But instead it’s here that the Eagles start to let the game get away from them.

Tech punts the ball to BC’s 6 yard line. It’s not a disaster (not yet anyway), but it definitely asks a lot of a BC offense that hadn’t done much to that point.

2:04 remaining in the 2nd quarter
BC ball, 4th & 4 at the BC 12 — Eagles punt to the BC 30

All goes according to plan for the Hokies. BC goes 3 and out in the shadow of their own goalpost, and it’s the last offensive snap the Eagles will see with the game within reach.

Not only do the Hokies get BC to punt the ball from their end zone, but they get an excellent return — 29 yards — all the way to the BC 30.

1:49 remaining in the 2nd quarter
VT ball, 1st & 10 at the BC 30 — VT touchdown pass

We’re conditioned as BC fans to think “less than two minutes left in the half, better run out the clock.” But no, it just takes the Hokies just one play to get the score and really turn the screws on the Eagles.

If you’ll believe it though, that’s still not the precise point at which it becomes clear that the Eagles are done.

1:30 remaining in the 2nd quarter
BC ball, 2nd & 10 at the BC 25 — Tyler Rouse 4 yard run

This is it -- this is the moment.

With 90 seconds left in the 2nd half, up by three scores, after BC runs the ball for a short gain for a 3rd down play, Virginia Tech calls timeout with hopes of trying to get the ball back.

A lot is made here and elsewhere about "playing to win," but that's exactly what VT was doing. There was blood in the water. After a one-play touchdown with under two minutes to play to put an impotent offense down by three scores, they are still trying to get the ball back and still trying to score. The Hokies are trying to end the game before the teams even get into the locker room to give BC no chance of even attempting a 2nd half comeback.

BC did end up converting the third down, but it didn’t matter. Towles threw a pick later in the drive, and the Hokies had to settle for “just” being up by 21 points at the end of the half. But Virginia Tech’s attempt to step on BC’s throats to end the game early was the writing on the wall: The Eagles were in for a world of hurt.