CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Hokiessports.com) – Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans accounted for four second-half touchdowns and Tech’s defense forced four turnovers in the second half, as the No. 22 Hokies rallied from a 24-0 halftime deficit to knock off Arkansas 35-24 in the Belk Bowl played Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium.
With the win, the Hokies finished the season with a 10-4 record, recording at least 10 wins for the first time since 2011 and for the 14th time in program history. The Hokies also won their third straight bowl game for the first time in school history.
“I’m awfully proud of our kids and the way they battled today,” Tech head coach Justin Fuente said. “We did not play well in the first half, and they did play well, but our kids didn’t panic. They had to take it on play at a time in the second half, and they came out and played really well in all three phases of the game.
“I’m awfully proud to coach this group of kids. Our senior leadership, I’ve talked about since day 1. I can’t say enough good things about those kids. I think it’s fitting that, at least it’s my understanding, it’s the biggest comeback in Virginia Tech history. I think that senior class, being able to pull that off, is awfully fitting because of the character they have and the discipline and the work ethic.”
The Hokies’ 24-point rally was the biggest since 1987 and believed to be the biggest in school history. Tech turned the ball over twice in the first half, and the Razorbacks scored 10 points off of those – part of their 24-point barrage.
But Tech’s Chuck Clark arguably turned the game, forcing a fumble on Arkansas first possession of the second half. Woody Baron recovered for the Hokies, and Evans scored on a 4-yard run for Tech’s first score of the game.
Arkansas turned it over four times in the second half – and the Hokies scored touchdowns after every one of them. A Tremaine Edmunds interception led to a 5-yard touchdown pass from Evans to tight end Chris Cunningham with 4 minutes left in the third quarter that cut the lead to 24-21.
Tech took its first lead of the game on a 6-yard touchdown run by Travon McMillian with 12:03 left in the game. The Hokies then iced it when Terrell Edmunds’ interception led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Evans with 6:41 remaining that accounted for the final margin.
“I think it [the turnovers] changed the game completely,” said Tech’s Anthony Shegog, who recorded an interception and forced a fumble in the game. “Just like in the first half, when we had that first turnover on offense, that gave all the momentum to them. In the second half, we were able to get those turnovers, and that helped significantly.”
Evans completed 21 of 33 for 243 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception to lead the Hokies. He also rushed for 87 yards and two scores.
Tech finished with 402 yards of offense. Arkansas amassed 314 – but only 56 in the second half.