Now for some more notes and quotes …
** That was a big comeback win for Virginia Tech, and it obviously has huge implications in the Coastal Division. As has been mentioned many times, the winner of this game has won the division all seven years since the league went to a two-division format.
It was certainly not a thing of beauty, but head coach Frank Beamer thinks it had a galvanizing effect.
“I think our football team got closer together, and this is a close bunch,” Beamer said.
Virginia Tech made a couple of comebacks, taking a four-point lead after trailing 10-7 midway through the fourth quarter and rallying in the final 44 seconds to force overtime after the Yellow Jackets scored a touchdown to go ahead 17-14.
“There was no point after that touchdown that I thought we wouldn’t come back and win that game,” cornerback Kyle Fuller said. “That just shows how together our team was.”
** Virginia Tech has not played many overtime games in its history. But, going back to last season’s Sugar Bowl loss to Michigan, this makes two straight. Here are all of the Hokies’ overtime games:
- 1998 — 27-20 win at Miami, Sept. 19
- 2002 — 50-42 loss at Syracuse, Oct. 9
- 2003 — 24-23 win at Temple, Nov. 15
- 2012 — 23-20 loss vs. Michigan, Jan. 3, Sugar Bowl
- 2012 — 20-17 win vs. Georgia Tech, Sept. 3
** Kicker Cody Journell made a clutch 41-yard kick as time expired in regulation, making up for a missed 38-yarder earlier. Then he added the first game-winner of his career in overtime from 17 yards out.
His biggest kick prior to that was a long, game-tying field goal against Blacksburg High when he was at Giles, but that only forced overtime (where his team would win). It was the Hokies’ first game-winning field goal on the final play of the game since 1999, when Shayne Graham hit a 44-yarder to win at West Virginia.
Journell wasn’t reinstated to the team until this summer, facing a suspension for his arrest on a breaking and entering charge from last December. He pleaded to misdemeanor trespassing in the spring and did community service before being let back on the squad.
Afterward, Journell didn’t comment on his ordeal last winter, saying he already addressed it in a statement he issued at the start of camp apologizing to his teammates and coaches. He had a shot at redemption — on the field at least — after missing a 38-yarder earlier.
“Any time you get a chance to tie a game up with six seconds left and you kick a field goal in overtime, it’s always special,” he said. “My teammates and all my coaches let me know, hey, I’m probably going to have another kick. ‘We need you out there. If it comes down to it, we need your head in the game.’ I let everything go and did what I needed to do.”
** Not a particularly sharp day for quarterback Logan Thomas, who finished 21-for-38 for 230 yards and two touchdowns. He was erratic with his throws, though, missing high or wide a lot of the time.
He was hard on himself afterward.
“The offensive line played great, the running backs played great, the tight ends played great,” he said. “I was the one holding us back.”
He made some on-target throws late, though, throwing for 140 of his 230 yards in the fourth quarter. The 42-yard touchdown pass to Demitri Knowles was on the money, and he made clutch passes to Corey Fuller on the game-tying drive in regulation that went for 22 and 23 yards.
“When Logan needed to be on target, he was on target,” head coach Frank Beamer said.
For Knowles and Fuller, it was the most they’ve contributed to a game in their careers. A Bahamas native who had a limited football background at Liberty Christian Academy in Lynchburg, Knowles is the fastest player on the team. It was his first career catch.
“Words can’t even describe it,” he said.
Fuller stepped in as a receiving option after D.J. Coles injured his knee in the first half. He had five catches for 82 yards, surpassing his career totals in one night. He also jumped on a fumble by Marcus Davis that was an overlooked play.
“Honestly, I knew I had it in me,” Fuller said. “I just had to step up.”
** No news immediately afterward on the condition of Coles and Davis. Coles left in the first half after getting hit on his right knee. It was the same one he had PCL surgery on in the offseason, but the fact that he was held out was unrelated to that injury.
Davis left in the fourth quarter after his 35-yard catch brought some life to Virginia Tech’s offense. Corey Fuller replaced him on the Hokies’ game-tying drive at the end of regulation.
Davis had a big game before getting hurt, catching six passes for 82 yards, although he had a couple of drops.
** Offensive line watch: Michael Via started at right guard and played the whole game. Brent Benedict did not get in once, which is unusual, since coaches said the two would rotate.
The group has some work to do. Virginia Tech only ran for 96 yards, the first time it won a game when finishing with fewer than 100 rushing yards since the 2009 Nebraska game.
** Five true freshmen played: running back J.C. Coleman, safety Desmond Frye, punter A.J. Hughes, cornerback Donovan Riley and linebacker Deon Clarke.
** The defense effort kind of got lost in the furious finish, but there were plenty of standouts on that side of the ball. Jack Tyler, despite getting beat in coverage on the late touchdown pass, had 17 tackles. His previous career-high was 12, set last year against Georgia Tech.
Whip linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow and defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins had 11 tackles apiece. Both were career highs. Virginia Tech had nine tackles for a loss and two sacks as a team.
Overall, it was one of the stronger defensive efforts the Hokies have had against Paul Johnson‘s spread option offense. The Yellow Jackets had 288 total yards and 192 rushing. In the four previous meetings, Georgia Tech’s teams have never had fewer than 340 total yards and 243 rushing. That happened last year in the Hokies’ 37-26 victory.
** I’ve seen few more ill-advised passes than the one Georgia Tech’s Tevin Washington threw in overtime while being pressured by linebacker Bruce Taylor. He had no receiver that was open and tossed it right to Kyle Fuller for an interception, eliminating any chance that the Yellow Jackets had of at least kicking a field goal. (Washington would say later that he was trying to throw it away.)
It was the only turnover of the game.
“We kind of gift-wrapped it for them in overtime,” Johnson said.
What was more puzzling about it was that Washington had a great game passing to that point. He was 10-for-15 for 96 yards and a touchdown, going 5-for-6 for 33 yards on the drive that gave the Yellow Jackets a late lead.
** Virginia Tech started a freshman at punter and it showed early. Hughes, who beat out fellow freshman Hunter Windmuller for the job in camp, dropped a snap in the first quarter, a major miscue. Georgia Tech took over deep in Hokies territory and capitalized with a 12-yard touchdown run by Robert Godhigh.
Before Journell redeemed himself late, he missed a 38-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that could have come back to bite the Hokies.
For a team that has seen its special teams go in decline in recent years, it’s a troubling start, although Beamer thinks it’ll be fine.
“I really believe that our kicking game and punting game are going to be OK,” Beamer said. “We had a malfunction there that really cost us. I think that it is going to be OK.
“It is kind of like what I told you guys at the start: we are not as good of a football team right now, but we have the potential to be a really good football team. I think that our challenge is to keep growing and to get better day-by-day.”
** An update to a stat from the useless information department: the Hokies improved to 6-0 when wearing Monday night’s uniform combination (maroon helmets, orange jerseys, white pants, black shoes/socks).
** Up next: Virginia Tech will try to avoid a James Madison-like letdown when it plays Austin Peay on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Fans can watch the game online on ESPN3.