West Lafayette, Ind. — Virginia Tech’s Brenden Motley spent Saturday cleaning up the mistakes.
His next task is avoiding them completely.
On a day the junior quarterback fumbled three times, he also threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and nearly scored on a reception to help the Hokies pull away from Purdue, 51-24.
“Bad plays are going to happen,” Motley said. “The key is how you react to those plays. I thought we had a good game plan coming in, and once we started executing it, we were fine.”
At times, Motley played well. He finished 15-of-23 for 220 yards, rushed 15 times for 24 yards and caught a pass that he took to Purdue’s goal line.
At other times, Motley looked like a guy making his second college start. Twice, he lost the ball on blind-side hits and he fumbled again when he didn’t tuck the ball away after being surrounded by Purdue pass rushers.
But the miscues couldn’t keep Motley from winning his second straight game since replacing the injured Michael Brewer. Coach Frank Beamer passed Alabama’s Paul “Bear” Bryant and moved into a sixth-place tie with Nevada’s Chris Ault for most wins at one school (233) in Football Bowl Subdivision history.
Beamer also realizes Virginia Tech (2-1) must play better next week at East Carolina.
“We missed some passes we should have hit and had some penalties, but this is one we’re going to look back on as a really good win,” Beamer said. “I thought our defense did some really good things.”
It was a strange game, too.
Each defense returned a fumble for a touchdown, Virginia Tech also scored off a blocked punt and both coaches were frustrated by a seemingly endless series of unforced errors. Hokies fullback Sam Rogers threw two passes including the 13-yarder to Motley and finished with a higher overall rating than Purdue starter Austin Appleby, who was just 9-of-28 for 110 yards with two interceptions.
And Motley had much more help, too.
Isaiah Ford caught six passes for a career high 128 yards, two of Bucky Hodges’ three receptions went for touchdowns, and Trey Edmunds rushed nine times for 72 yards on a day the Hokies outgained Purdue, 471-265, in total offense.
“There were too many penalties and we shot ourselves in the foot that way,” Purdue coach Darrell Hazell said. “We couldn’t get in any rhythm (offensively).”
The Hokies started fast, getting a field goal and a 20-yard fumble return for a touchdown from Chuck Clark to make it 10-0 in the first five minutes.
Appleby answered with a 2-yard TD run and when Purdue’s Danny Ezechukwu scooped up Motley’s first fumble and ran it back 90 yards for a TD — tying the second-longest fumble return in school history — Purdue actually led 14-10. It was the longest return at Purdue since 1966 when Leroy Keyes scored on a 95-yard play against Notre Dame.
After the teams traded field goals, Motley threw a 3-yard TD pass to Hodges to break a 17-17 tie and the Hokies went on a 27-0 run that included Anthony Shegog’s 15-yard return off a blocked punt for a touchdown late in the third quarter. That gave Virginia Tech a 41-17 lead.
It was one of the few things that went according to the Hokies’ script.
“Wisconsin blocked a punt on them last year, and we tried a couple things they had done,” Beamer said. “We could have blocked a couple more.”
Purdue’s Markell Jones ran six times for 90 yards, which included a 60-yard TD run in the closing minutes.