Wild Finish Pushes Hokies Past Georgia Tech

Virginia Tech got three touchdowns from their offense, one from their special teams and two critical redzone interceptions in a 28-21 victory over Georgia Tech on Thursday night. The Hokies are 7-2 on the year and 5-0 in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets are now 5-4, with a 3-3 mark in conference play. They have been effectively knocked out of contention in the Coastal Division thanks to the wild finish in Blacksburg.

Georgia Tech got up 14-0 after their first two drives, but managed just one touchdown the rest of the game. Quarterback Josh Nesbitt was 0-of-3 through the air, with a critical redzone interception to Davon Morgan when the Yellow Jackets were driving and up 14-7. Not only did the interception cost Georgia Tech points, it cost them Nesbitt. He attempted to make an arm tackle, but was injured on the play. The injury has been reported as a fractured forearm, which would put him out for the remainder of the regular season.

It was a big blow for the Yellow Jackets. Though Nesbitt wasn’t throwing the ball effectively, he did carry the ball six times for 86 yards and two touchdowns, including a 71 yard touchdown run on Georgia Tech’s second drive.

His backup is Tevin Washington, a r-sophomore with no big game experience. The Jackets struggled offensively with Washington under center, and they weren’t able to get anything going until late in the fourth quarter. He did complete both of Georgia Tech’s passes on the night, but he wasn’t as effective as Nesbitt on the ground, and he was sacked twice.

With Nesbitt out of the game, the Hokies were able to slowly crawl back into it in the second half, and David Wilson’s 90 yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the difference maker.

The Hokies were able to establish a running game against Georgia Tech, with 40 carries for 198 yards. Darren Evans had 15 carries for 68 yards, David Wilson finished with seven carries for 39 yards and a touchdown, while Ryan Williams had seven carries for 30 yards and a score. Tyrod Taylor added nine carries for 57 yards on the ground, and he was not sacked all night.

Taylor was 15-of-25 through the air for 137 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He threw an interception in the endzone in the second quarter when Georgia Tech dropped eight men into coverage. Taylor had 11 seconds to throw the football, but could never find an open man. Instead, he was picked off by Georgia Tech’s Rod Sweeting.

Taylor made up for that error by tossing the go-ahead touchdown to tight end Andre Smith in the fourth quarter. Smith finished with four catches for 39 yards and that touchdown. Jarrett Boykin led the Hokies with five receptions for 54 yards.

While the Hokies did surrender 426 yards of total offense, they did have some impressive individual performances. Bruce Taylor, despite his high ankle sprain, finished with 14 tackles and two sacks. Defensive end Steven Friday was very active, with 12 tackles and a sack, and defensive tackle Antoine Hopkins was very good, finishing with 10 tackles. Davon Morgan had an interception, and Rashad Carmichael came up with the game winning pick in the endzone.

Virginia Tech allowed two touchdowns on Georgia Tech’s first two possessions. Trailing early in a game this year is nothing new. The Hokies trailed 17-0 against Boise State, 10-0 against ECU, 17-0 against NC State, 7-0 against Central Michigan and 14-0 against Georgia Tech. They came back to take the lead in all of those games, and won each of them except for Boise State.

VT was able to get one touchdown run from Ryan Williams in the first half to cut the deficit to 14-7 at the intermission. It took them awhile to get rolling in the second half, but David Wilson finally scored from 15 yards out to tie the game at 14 with 13:21 remaining.

The VT defense came up with another big stop after the Wilson touchdown run, and the offense responded by going 62 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. On third and goal from the two, the Hokies went playaction and Tyrod Taylor found Andre Smith for the short touchdown pass in the back of the endzone in front of the linebacker. The Hokies led 21-14 with 6:34 left, and they appeared to be firmly in control.

That’s when things started getting wild. Georgia Tech promptly moved the ball downfield for their first touchdown since the first quarter. It was completely unexpected, because the Hokie defense had dominated for the majority of the second half. The Yellow Jackets converted a big fourth and four with a pitch to Roddy Jones, who looked for the throwback pass to the quarterback. It was well covered by a disciplined VT defense, but Jones was able to scramble and pick up the first down by the length of the football.

Georgia Tech went on to score a touchdown on a nine yard toss to the right to Orwin Smith. Just like that, the game was tied at 21 with 2:34 remaining. Unless the Tech offense could move down the field and score, this one was heading to overtime … at least until Georgia Tech kicked the ball to David Wilson.

Wilson fielded the ensuing kickoff at the 10, raced to his left, found a crease and outran the entire Georgia Tech kickoff team for the touchdown. That 90 yard return by Wilson, his second kickoff return for a touchdown in a huge game this season, put the Hokies up 28-21 with 2:23 left in the game.

Georgia Tech’s final drive was not without drama, with the Jackets driving to the Virginia Tech 16 yard line. However, time was running short and Georgia Tech was forced to throw the football, which normally doesn’t turn out well for them. Tevin Washington’s fade pass to the left corner of the endzone was intercepted by Rashad Carmichael with just eight seconds left, and the Hokies ran out the clock to preserve the win.

With the Yellow Jackets eliminated from the Coastal Division race, just two contenders remain: UNC and Miami. The Hokies face them both in the next two weeks. Tech takes on the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30pm, and the game will be televised by ABC.