Staff File Photo by Tim Barber Lane Kiffin will lead his Tennessee Vols against Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-a Bowl on Dec. 31.
ATLANTA — The University of Tennessee football trailed 17-14 to 12th-ranked Virginia Tech after the first half of Thursday night’s Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Quarterback Jonathan Crompton’s ill-advised pass was intercepted near midfield on UT’s first possession, and the Hokies quickly capitalized. Freshman tailback Ryan Williams squirted through the left side for a 1-yard run with 6:56 left in the first quarter, and the extra point gave Virginia Tech a 7-0 lead.
The Hokies converted two third downs on the game’s first scoring drive, though both were third-and-1s.
UT’s second possession went three-and-out, and the Hokies gained two first downs before punting it back to the Vols.
Virginia Tech, known for years as one of the nation’s top special teams units, was flagged on two special teams plays in the first quarter — a false start on the punt team, and an illegal block on a punt return.
The Hokies started another possession in UT territory, and they turned it into another touchdown. A 42-yard pass form Tyrod Taylor to flanker Danny Coale set up another Williams score — this one from 3 yards — and Tech’s lead doubled to 14-0 with 11:56 left in the first half.
UT had stopped Virginia Tech on third down two plays before Williams’ second score, but defensive end Ben Martin grabbed Taylor’s facemask while wrestling him down in the backfield.
Crompton connected with Denarius Moore for 40 yards to the Hokies 41-yard line on UT’s ensuing drive, and the quarterback completed two third-down darts to Gerald Jones to set up the Vols’ first score. Senior tailback Montario Hardesty spun out of a tackle near the 5-yard line on his 4-yard touchdown with 6:43 left in the first half.
The Vols forced a punt three plays later, but they responded with a three-and-out of their own after Crompton was sacked for a second time in the half.
Virginia Tech drove to the UT 31 late in the first half, but freshman safety Janzen Jackson’s first career interception gave the Vols the ball at the Hokies 48-yard line. Two plays after a 47-yard screen pass from Crompton to Hardesty, Crompton found Moore open in the back of the end zone for a 2-yard score with 0:18 left in the half.
The game didn’t stay tied for long, though. Taylor heaved a 63-yard pass to Jarrett Boykin, and after an instant replay review, two seconds were put on the clock. Waldron’s 21-yard field goal as time expired (again) gave the Hokies a 17-14 halftime advantage.
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