BLACKSBURG, Va. – First-time starter Herndon Hooker engineered a 63-yard game-winning touchdown drive after Virginia Tech had botched a four-touchdown lead against Miami last week. Herndon shouldn't have as much pressure on him coming down the stretch this Saturday when struggling FCS opponent Rhode Island visits.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, ACC Network. LINE: NL.
Taking over for Ryan Willis (eight TDs, five interceptions), Hooker, a sophomore, completed 10-of-20 passes for 184 yards with three touchdowns while also rushing for 76 yards and a score. "I really just stayed at an even keel … encouraging my teammates, telling them the game is not over and we've got to keep pushing," Hooker said of the final drive. "We've got to make progress and push the ball down the field and score. I'm prepared for anything. My teammates are, and we're just trying to get the win." Dalton Keene caught five passes for 73 yards and three scores and Deshawn McClease added 57 yards on 14 rushes, including a 3-yard TD run with three minutes left. Rhode Island recorded its first win of the season last week over Brown 31-28 to retain the Governor's Cup when Vito Priore found Aaron Parker for a 14-yard game-winning score with 5:43 remaining.
ABOUT RHODE ISLAND (1-4)
Priore completed 31-of-44 passes for 389 yards and three touchdowns to win Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Week honors, accounting for all 63 yards in the game-winning drive. He ranks fourth in FCS in passing yards per game (343.4), 17th in passing touchdowns (12) and 25th in passing efficiency (149.2). Junior wide receiver Isaiah Coulter had 12 receptions, 171 yards and a score - his fourth of the season and personal-best third straight game with a TD reception - and Parker's game-winning touchdown was his 27th career touchdown catch - third most in school history.
ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH (3-2)
Keene, who entered the game with six receptions for 27 yards, is the first Virginia Tech player with three TD receptions since Cam Phillips against East Carolina on Sept. 16, 2017. The Hokies grabbed the 28-0 lead against Miami primarily due to forcing five first-half turnovers, including interceptions on the Hurricanes' first three possessions (Jermaine Waller had two), and sealed it when linebacker Alan Tisdale broke up a N'Kosi Perry pass on the game's final play. Virginia Tech's defense finished with nine tackles for a loss and a season-high seven sacks; Rayshard Ashby was named ACC Linebacker of the Week after recording 11 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack, while cornerback Caleb Farley also added two interceptions.
1. Virginia Tech last forced five turnovers in a half in 2010 in a 26-10 victory over North Carolina. The Hokies' forced four turnovers in the first quarter last week for the first time since 1998, also against Miami.
2. The Hokies have won 27 straight contests when holding foes to 21 points or fewer dating back to 2015.
3. The Rams haven't played a Power 5 school since being drubbed 55-6 by Kansas in 2016.
PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 51, Rhode Island 7