Last season, Michael Brewer was beaten and battered by the Buckeyes, but emerged victorious.
This year, he was tested physically once more, and he ended up knocked out of the game with a fractured left collarbone. That likely made all the difference this time around.
"I put that kid through hell and he played his tail off today," said offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler after the game, as he did his best to fight through tears.
Not only did the Hokies lose their rematch with top-ranked OSU 42-24, but they also lost their starter for "four to six, maybe as many as eight weeks," according to head trainer Mike Goforth.
It's a horribly disheartening result for the Hokies, who looked equal to the challenge of besting the Buckeyes once more before Brewer's injury doomed their chances in the third quarter.
"It would've been nice to see what would've happened with Brewer in that second half, I thought we had a ridiculous game plan for the second half to take advantage of what they did," Loeffler said. "We found a way in the second quarter and I think we had some really cool stuff to exploit them, but it is what it is."
There's no doubt OSU looked plenty talented on the night. Cardale Jones entered the game as the starter after months of debate, and he had quite the night, throwing for 186 yards and two scores and running for 99 yards more.
"I thought it looked like to me they chose the right one," said Frank Beamer. "I thought he was exceptional. He made some good throws and he hurt us running too."
But the Hokies looked in control for a roughly hour-long stretch, grabbing a lead at halftime and doing everything they needed to keep the Buckeyes' vaunted offense under control. Yet the game can be neatly divided into two sections: before Brewer's injury and after.
Things started off bleak for the Hokies. After a disheartening three and out, capped by the Buckeyes' first sack on Brewer, OSU seized control quickly.
Jones led the Buckeyes on a methodical drive to Tech's 24 yard line, when he flashed his big arm, lofting a touchdown pass to Curtis Samuel for a 7-0 OSU lead.
The Hokies managed their first first down on the next drive, but after another OSU sack, Tech stalled once more before yielding to the Buckeyes.
On the very first play, running back Ezekiel Elliott made the most of his first carry of the night, busting through the middle of the defense and never looking back. His 80-yard score gave the Buckeyes a 14-0 lead, and the Lane crowd became visibly deflated.
After another inconsistent drive from the Hokies ending in a missed 50-yard field goal by Joey Slye, the Buckeyes seemed poised to turn the game into a blowout.
Jones got the offense down to Tech's 16 yard line, running into the end zone virtually untouched on a third down before a holding penalty negated the score. OSU kicker Jack Willoughby was presented with a 43-yard field goal attempt, but missed wide right and gave the Hokies the ball back on their 26 yard line.
On the ensuing drive, Brewer chucked a wobbly deep ball for a long completion to Isaiah Ford, but that was waved off due to a holding call on Wyatt Teller, and hopes sank further.
Brenden Motley entered the game, and after picking up a quick seven yard rush and handing the ball off to Travon McMillian for a 15-yard rush, the Hokies looked to be rejuvenated.
Brewer returned and managed to find Sam Rogers after he snuck out of the backfield on a wheel route, and he took it the rest of the way for a 51-yard score. Suddenly, the Hokies were on the board and could do no wrong.
Desmond Frye managed to pick off Jones' pass on the next third down, setting the Hokies up on their 44 yard line. Brewer managed a 25-yard completion to TE Ryan Malleck to keep the drive going, and after a 46-yard boot by Slye, the Hokies were within four points at 14-10.
Tech's defense forced OSU's first punt of the night on the next drive, but Brewer and company couldn't do much with it. The Hokies took the ball to their 29 yard line, but ultimately punted it away as well.
But then fortune favored the Hokies once again. Elliott fumbled the punt return, and after a recovery by Anthony Shegog, Tech was in business.
Brewer hit Ford for a 36-yard pass down to the goal line, and after two stuffed runs, Ryan Malleck snuck away from the defense and grabbed a TD to give the Hokies the 17-14 lead and momentarily stun the college football world.
At halftime, the Hokies were in the lead. But it wouldn't last.
The Buckeyes took over to start the third quarter, and after two plays, Jones managed to find Braxton Miller for a 54-yard TD pass.
"I really would've preferred that the third quarterback was out there competing for the quarterback job instead of being out there as an athlete, I thought he was really special," Beamer said.
At 21-17 OSU, the crowd's enthusiasm flagged, but didn't dissipate entirely.
Then, calamity struck for the Hokies. Brewer tried to complete a ball to Malleck but was crushed at the end of the play by OSU's mammoth DT Adolphus Washington. He came up clutching his left shoulder and was quickly ushered into the locker room.
That put Motley in charge of the show, and he didn't show much command of the offense.
"We have a lot of confidence in Brenden Motley, but he came in in a tough situation tonight," Beamer said. "When you're down, it's tough. He's a good player, he's a heady player."
Specifically, Loeffler says it was the team's caution regarding Motley's running abilities that truly hamstrung the offense.
"When Brewer got hurt, the things that Motley does super well, you're worried about a turned ankle, and the next thing you know you're trotting out a redshirt freshman or a true freshman," Loeffler said.
The teams traded a few punts, and with two minutes left in the third, J.C. Coleman fumbled, leading to a recovery by OSU's Jalyn Holmes. The Hokies were effectively doomed.
Miller then entered the game at QB and positively embarrassed Tech's secondary on a 53-yard touchdown run that included a ridiculous spin move that might've seemed like a glitch if it happened in a video game.
Staring at an 11 point deficit, OC Scot Loeffler asked Motley to start throwing the ball more, and things rapidly deteriorated. He tried for a deep ball to Ford, only to have it picked off. It was the nail in Tech's coffin.
OSU reeled off another pair of touchdowns, courtesy of both Jones and 2014 starter J.T. Barrett, whose insertion into the game seemed downright embarrassing given Tech's dearth of competent passers.
Motley was ultimately able to complete a 17-yarder to Ford, but it was far past the point of any significance.
"We already had a plan for me to play in the game, so I felt comfortable with the gameplan," Motley said. "Of course, you get comfortable the more you're in the game."
Now the team is forced to coalesce around Motley, as he's suddenly thrust into the role of starting quarterback after an offseason that was largely about sharpening Brewer's skills.
"No one cares out there that Michael Brewer put in great time and he got hurt, so we're going to rally around Motley," Loeffler said. "We're going to develop a guy behind him in our room, I'm not going to comment on what direction we're going to go with that, but we've got enough guys in that room with character and tenacity to overcome this."
Beamer conceded that Chris Durkin will get some reps this week in the wake of this injury, as well as vaunted true freshman Dwayne Lawson.
"We've got a talented freshman, I'm eager to see how much he improves, so we'll take it from there," Beamer said.
But despite the other options behind Motley, the whole staff swears up and down that the Christiansburg product will get his big chance to show what he can do.
"It's over, it's time for Brenden Motley to be our guy," Loeffler said.