MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Here were the first two highlights in the biography for quarterback Hendon Hooker in Virginia Tech’s game notes this past week:

  • Completed his first career pass on two attempts for 8 yards vs. Duke.
  • Rushed a career-high three times vs. Old Dominion.

Remember, the most prominent data points go on top.

So this was the guy who might have salvaged Tech’s season here on Saturday night? This was the guy who made two crucial throws to lead the game-winning touchdown drive? This was the guy who paced a rushing-starved team in ground gains?

Yep, yep, and yep.

Sure, that makes sense. After all, games don’t get much wackier than Tech’s 42-35 victory over Miami.

We saw a Hail Mary at the end of the first half. We saw Tech’s defense force four turnovers in a single quarter. We saw the Hokies build a four-touchdown lead as a two-touchdown underdog, then blow all of it, then win the game again.

But the craziest thing of all had to be Hooker’s performance.

The numbers won’t set any records. Hookier completed 10 of 20 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns. He ran 16 times for 76 yards and a score. In this offensive era we live in, those stats might seem pedestrian.

But consider all the things he didn’t do. He didn’t throw an interception. Only once did he even come close to throwing an interception. He didn’t fumble or force the ball into double coverage.

Most of all, he didn’t panic.

That couldn’t have been easy when he trotted back onto the field with 3:11 remaining. Tech’s seemingly commanding leads — 28-0 in the first quarter, and 35-14 early in the fourth — had vanished. The fans who stuck around sensed vulnerability and got to their feet. A Hokies’ season of constant struggle looked like it might add its most ignominious chapter yet.

It was in this crucible that Hooker did his best work. He completed a 29-yard fade pattern to Damon Hazelton on the first play of the drive, hitting his man down the left sideline in stride. That instantly put the Hokies into scoring range.

On a third and 5 from the Miami 28, Hooker hit tight end Dalton Keene on a well-designed play that got the Hokies to the 3, setting up the winning touchdown run by Deshawn McClease.

“He was just confident, composed,” Keene said. “When you’ve got a new quarterback in there, everyone else has got to elevate their game, too, and try to cover for him. But we didn’t have to do that. He played great.”

Hooker said he was informed on Monday that he would be the starter. Coach Justin Fuente opted to bench fifth-year senior Ryan Willis, but Tech did not make a public announcement until just before game time.

“Those things are never easy,” Fuente said. “Ryan’s worked incredibly hard. We’ll still need Ryan as the season goes along. I’m proud of how Hendon handled the promotion, if you will. How he went out there and competed, took care of the football. And then have the poise to go and make some plays down the stretch I thought was obviously important.”

Hooker looked ready from the start. The coaches helped him settle in by calling some short passing plays to the tight ends and allowing him to run, which was his biggest known strength.

“Hendon is an explosive player,” Tech defensive back Caleb Farley said. “He definitely sparked up the whole sideline.”

He did. The Hokies brought an early energy to this game that had been lacking. The offensive line blocked better. The defense hit harder. And Hooker played his role, even if he wasn’t completely satisfied with his performance.

“I had a terrible day throwing the ball,” he said.

Really?

“Yes,” he said. “I did. Terrible. You know, I just missed some open balls that were overthrown to Damon. I could’ve been more accurate.”

While it’s true that he missed on a few throws, this was his first career start. He stabilized this offense. It went about as well as anyone could have hoped.

And those game notes are about to get quite the upgrade.

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