Blacksburg, Va. – Yes, crowning a division champion on Labor Day is more than a bit presumptuous, there being three months of football remaining. But we say it again: The winner of Tech-Tech has taken the ACC Coastal title every year there has been a Coastal Division, and as of this moment you’d have to say …
The Tech based on North Avenue is not the team to catch.
Georgia Tech came very close to a famous upset but fizzled in the final 44 seconds of regulation, watching Virginia Tech drive 51 yards to the tying field goal as regulation expired. Then, in the first overtime, quarterback Tevin Washington tried to make something happen and wound up helping his team lose. Washington forced a pass under duress, and the interception doomed the Jackets.
“I was trying to throw the ball away,” Washington said. Instead his weak throw was taken by the Hokies’ Kyle Fuller, meaning the home side only had to kick a field goal to win. Which it did.
After two lesser seasons, Georgia Tech needed a winning start, the kind of start that could well feed into an appearance in the ACC championship game come December. The Jackets almost had it, but then it was gone. And now they head home knowing that, for them to win the Coastal, Virginia Tech must lose not once but twice.
“We had a great opportunity to win the game, no question,” said Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech’s coach.
Even before the frantic ending, it had been a strange evening. I flash flood watch was issued early, but the game went off without a drop of precipitation. This was great news for everyone who recalled Aug. 27, 2000, when the two Techs sought to open the college season in Lane Stadium but were undone by lightning, a slash of which destroyed the rental car of the famous ESPN prognosticator Lee Corso.
Then there were the uniforms. The Jackets unveiled their new mostly-white look. The only gold to be found was on the helmet decal and the sleeves, and the most memorable feature of the headgear was its honeycomb effect. (What, no antennae?) Not to be outdressed, the Hokies broke out their quadruple-scoop ice cream cone ensemble — black socks, white pants, orange jerseys, purple helmets.
Speaking of duds: For 30 minutes, both offenses qualified. These two Coastal powers, neither of which is based anywhere near a coast, staged an opening half that might have had the neutrals watching on the Worldwide Leader hoping for lightning to liven things up … or, failing that, flipping the channel. Virginia Tech managed 137 first-half yards, Georgia Tech 107.
The third quarter was different for one Tech. The Jackets’ seasoned offensive line began to push the Hokies backward, and the visitors outgained Virginia Tech 85 yards to minus-7 in the quarter. The final period began with David Scully making a 34-yard field goal to put Georgia Tech ahead, and it stayed there after Virginia Tech blew a shortish field goal of its own. (Hey, aren’t Frank Beamer’s guys supposed to aces on special teams?)
The Jackets couldn’t move after Virginia Tech’s miss, and the halting affair entered the final 10 minutes. The massive Hokie quarterback Logan Thomas hadn’t done much, but he found Marcus Davis for 35 yards on a slant. Then Demitri Knowles, a third-string wideout, ran past cornerback Rod Sweeting to snatch Thomas’ pass in the end zone.
Now the visitors were in arrears on the road, and the orange-draped crowd was at full roar. Worse still, the best Jacket ballcarrier — A-back Orwin Smith — was gone with a shoulder injury. But that’s life in the big time: If you’re going to win a game of consequence, you can’t do it with a faint heart.
Quarterback Tevin Washington, who nearly engineered a famous victory here in 2010 while spelling the injured Joshua Nesbitt, broke a long run to give the Jackets field position. Then he muscled for a first down at the Virginia Tech 41. Then Paul Johnson, who earlier had gone for it (and failed) on fourth down at his 49, appeared to order a punt from the Hokies’ 37 with 3:03 remaining.
Then, remembering that he’s Paul Johnson, he called time and rethought. Whatever play Johnson called broke down, but Washington dodged away from pressure and found B.J. Bostic in front of three defenders for the vital first down. Then, inside the final minute, Washington stood in against a rush and found A-back Deon Hill on a crossing route, Hill diving in for the take-the-lead touchdown with 44 seconds remaining.
Then Georgia Tech’s defense, stout most of the night, wobbled. Virginia Tech drove to the tying field goal as regulation expired. Thomas found Corey Fuller twice, the second time on fourth-and-4 with 13 seconds remaining.
The last game of the long weekend would go longer. And it would end poorly for the team in white. Credit the effort, yes, but not the outcome.
For further reading, if not edification: Here are three observations (made by yours truly) regarding the excruciating game, and if you missed our well-visited live chat during the game itself … well, here you go.
By Mark Bradley