College football: Hokies stage epic comeback, top Arkansas

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s never easy to replace an icon.

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s never easy to replace an icon.

One way to do that is to create your own legacy, something first-year coach Justin Fuente is doing at Virginia Tech after taking over for Frank Beamer.

Jerod Evans threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two scores and No. 18 Virginia Tech pulled off an epic comeback — the largest in the school’s 124-year history — by erasing a 24-point halftime deficit to beat Arkansas 35-24 on Thursday night in the Belk Bowl.

“It’s a fantastic honor,” Fuente said. “And I think it speaks to our guys — the character and toughness and what it means to play for Virginia Tech. They love Virginia Tech.”

Along with that memorable feat, Fuente also won 10 games this season — something no other Hokies coach, even Beamer, can say he accomplished in his first season.

It wasn’t easy though.

After being limited to 180 yards in the first half, the Hokies (10-4) took advantage of three interceptions by Razorbacks quarterback Austin Allen and scored touchdowns on five of their first seven possessions of the second half to rattle off 35 unanswered points.

Fuente said the Hokies made minor adjustments to their pass rush at halftime, but it was “nothing revolutionary.”

“Playing well was important to our kids today and we didn’t do it in the first half,” Fuente said. “They regrouped. They came out and fought, and scratched and clawed and found a way to get the job done.”

Evans scored on a 4-yard run and threw touchdown strikes to Sam Rogers and Chris Cunningham to cut it to 24-21 In the third quarter. Travon McMillan put the Hokies ahead for good with 12:03 left in the game when he scored on a 6-yard run. Evans sealed the win with an 8-yard touchdown scamper.

“Everyone kept coming to me and telling me they’re following my lead,” Evans said. “I definitely carried that with a chip on my shoulder, and made sure they understood that I’m with them until the wheels fall off. They fed off of me and I fed off of them.”

He completed 12 of 16 passes for 129 yards and two TDs in the second half.

Virginia Tech came in averaging 35 points, but the Razorbacks (7-6) set the tone early by turning Evans’ fumble and interception into 10 points to take a 24-0 halftime lead.

ALAMO BOWL

NO. 13 OKLAHOMA STATE 38, NO. 11 COLORADO 8

SAN ANTONIO — Mason Rudolph passed for 314 yards and three touchdowns and Oklahoma State’s defense smothered Colorado to give the Cowboys their fifth 10-win season in seven years.

James Washington caught nine passes for 171 yards and a touchdown before leaving in the third quarter with an apparent hand injury. Rudolph and Washington have already announced they will return for their senior seasons, putting the Cowboys (10-3) among the favorites to win the Big 12.

Rudolph even set up Oklahoma State’s first touchdown when he caught a throw-back pass for 24 yards. His 5-yard TD pass to Washington made it 17-0 in the second quarter. Rudolph had scoring throws to Blake Jarwin and Jhajuan Seales in the third to make it 31-0.

Colorado’s best season in more than a decade —dubbed “The Rise” — ended with a thud: consecutive losses in the Pac-12 title game and the program’s first bowl appearance since 2007. Sefo Liufau passed for 195 yards and ran for a touchdown for the Buffaloes (10-4).

BIRMINGHAM BOWL

No. 25 USF 46, SOUTH CAROLINA 39, OT

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Quinton Flowers ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more to lead South Florida past South Carolina.

South Florida (11-2) squandered a 39-21 lead in the second half, but recovered for its school-record 11th victory. Flowers threw a 25-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime, finding Elkanah Dillon in the end zone.

South Carolina’s overtime drive ended after Jake Bentley was sacked by Mike Love on fourth down. Bentley fumbled and Khalid McGee recovered to end the game.

Flowers, who was selected the game’s Most Valuable Player, completed 23 of 32 passes for 261 yards and ran for 105 yards on 21 carries.

The Bulls controlled the game for most of the afternoon, but the Gamecocks rallied to tie it at 39 with 1:11 remaining on A.J. Turner’s 1-yard touchdown run and a 2-point conversion.

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Bentley completed 32 of 43 passes for 390 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Deebo Samuel caught 14 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown.

South Carolina (6-7) was hurt by five turnovers, including a pick-six thrown by Bentley that Tajee Fullwood returned 47 yards.