Well, what can I really say? If you weren't watching; 1. nothing I say is going to sufficiently sum it up for you, and 2. shame on you. But definitely not as big of a shame on you as I reserve for the Virginia Tech fans/students who left the game early. We don't do that. If you're going to do that, do it somewhere where they think that's acceptable behavior (i.e. not Lane Stadium).
Now, through with my tangent, back to the game. It was a wild one for sure. Special teams mishaps, Logan Thomas throwing to fifteen-foot tall receivers all day and retro Stiney offense were all a part of this one. For the full recap, including game balls, goats and plenty of mixed-emotion rants, continue reading after the jump.
If you did miss the game for some reason (and it had better be a good one) here are some video highlights from Hokiesports. Also, if you want a Georgia Tech perspective, check out LilBroey's reaction on From The Rumble Seat. Also, SB Nation has a great Story Stream on the game here. Now to the game:
The Hokies started this game off on a tear on both offense and defense. It was clear who the better team was early on as Tech had their way with the Yellow Jackets on defense and offensively, though we punted on our first drive, we were clicking, picking up two first downs in our first three plays.
After holding the Jackets to 3 yards on their first possession, the Hokies took over the ball near midfield and put together an impressive 12-play 56-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Logan Thomas to blocking tight end Eric Martin. On that play, it appeared Georgia Tech left two Hokie receivers open in the back of the end zone and Thomas simply floated the ball over the linebackers to hit Martin.
But, much like the 2009 game against Nebraska, that's where the fun stopped. The Tech defense kept up its stellar play, holding the Jackets to 18 yards on the next possession before inducing a punt. The Hokies got the ball back and responded by picking up a first down on a 14-yard Logan Thomas run, followed by a catch (which also led to the injury of D.J. Coles. More on that later) marked off by an illegal formation, a 2-yard J.C. Coleman run, two incomplete passes and a botched snap by punter A.J. Hughes that went for a loss of 22 yards and handed the Yellow Jackets the ball right at our doorstep. Three plays later, the Yellow Jackets tied it on run to the outside where the Hokies missed three tackles, allowing Robert Godhigh to walk into the end zone. From that point on, it was total and absolute offensive futility for the next two quarters.
The Hokies marched the ball down into Georgia Tech territory four times over that span, but came away with no points in any of those trips, culminated by a 38-yard Cody Journell missed field goal on the first possession of the fourth quarter.
Georgia Tech, though still roughing it offensively, gained confidence from the Hokies inability to do anything with the ball (much like North Carolina in 2009, after the Hokies started out the game dominating the 'Heels). By the end of the third, the Yellow Jackets had all the momentum, and wore down the clock on a 15-play 56-yard drive that lasted 7:18 and ended in a field goal that put them on top 10-7.
After the Hokies next possession ended with the Journell miss, the defense held the Yellow Jackets on a critical third down, and Tech went back to work with 9:16 remaining. Following a 3-yard J.C. Coleman rush and a penalty on Andrew Miller for a snap infraction, Tech found the spark to ignite their offense in a slant pass to Marcus Davis that went for 35 yards. Frighteningly, Davis fumbled the ball at the end of the run and fell to the ground injured. Fortunately, Corey Fuller was paying attention and jumped on the ball to save the day. Davis appeared to be in a lot of pain, but was able to leave the field under his own power.
On the very next play, Thomas went deep and found Demetri Knowles, who made his first collegiate catch for 42 yards and a touchdown WHILE BEING INTERFERED WITH! For the regular readers of this site who know my history in covering Knowles, I apologize again, and I hope that you do laugh in my face one day for me suggesting you were a reach back in early 2011. After tacking on the extra point, the Hokies led 14-10 with 7:46 remaining.
Of course though, that wasn't the end of this crazy ride. True to form, the Yellow Jackets methodically marched down field using their PASSING GAME (whaaaaaaaa!?), going 72 yards on 13 plays for the 10-yard score by Deon Hill with :44 ticks remaining, putting them up 17-14.
At this point most of us thought it was over, some left (ahem...),, but lest we forget we have Logan Thomas, a quarterback unfazed by pressure and looking to atone for his poor performance. On first down he hit Corey Fuller over the middle for 22 yards, followed by a dump-off to Ryan Malleck for 3 yards. Then, inexplicably on 3rd-and-4, the staff called for the same dump-off to Malleck again, which was stuffed for no gain, forcing the Hokies to take a timeout with :13 seconds remaining. No need to worry though, as on 4th-and-4, Thomas hit Fuller again on a slant for 23 yards (with a lot of help from Corey Fuller by breaking several tackles for extra yardage) that took us down to the 24-yard line and put us in field goal range. After a freeze the kicker timeout, Cody Journell atoned for his earlier miss and sent the game to overtime (although the ball did appear to be curving towards the post, and barely snuck inside).
In overtime, the Hokies won the toss and elected to defend. The Yellow Jackets appeared ready to make it more of the same for the Tech defense, passing for a first down on the first play, the Hokies shut down two consecutive run plays. On the next play, GT quarterback Tevin Washington rolled left, but waited too long and several Hokies were upon him. Instead of chalking it up as a broken play and taking the three points, he inexplicably threw the ball into the air as he was being sacked by a hoard of Hokies, conveniently falling right into Kyle Fuller's hands for an interception.
On offense, the Hokies ran up the gut with Michael Holmes and Logan Thomas (perhaps as a response to their overtime loss to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl), but after three failed Logan Thomas runs from the 1-yard line, Tech called on Cody Journell to win it for them, and he did. With the field goal, the Hokies prevailed 20-17.
Now to my game balls, goats and analysis.
I can't just pick one, I have to pick a couple. So here they are.
Corey Fuller- Without Fuller tonight we are dead in the water. Fuller caught 5 balls for 82 yards, so many of them on key plays. He also had the fumble recovery that preserved our drive to take the lead on Knowles' touchdown catch. Without him, we lose this game. All of this in his first big game action to speak of. I am very impressed with his poise, athleticism and football IQ. Kudos Corey Fuller, you get a game ball.
Jack Tyler- Tyler was moved into the starting lineup to replace Bruce Taylor, who slid over to backer for Tariq Edwards. Tyler had been sort of a spot starter among the linebacking core over the last couple of years, ready to go whenever he was called on. Fans endeared him for his workman-like demeanor on the field, and that was never more apparent than tonight. Tyler tallied 17 tackles against Georgia Tech. SEVENTEEN! That is not a typo. That is ridiculous. He was everywhere tonight. Without him, we do not win. Hell of a game Jack, and you get a game ball for it.
Demitri Knowles- I know I'm giving this guy a lot of adulation for only one play, but if you think about it, imagine how much guts it takes to come onto the field, completely cold (except for kickoff returns) and to run a fly route right past a guy and make your first collegiate catch for a touchdown WHILE the defender is grabbing your arm! That is clutch. Demetri Knowles, game ball.
Luther Maddy- Maddy proved tonight why he had moved ahead of incumbent starter Antoine Hopkins on the depth chart. Maddy jumps off the line, gets into the backfield, locates the ball carrier and shuts the play down in fractions of seconds. He's a no-nonsense type of guy out there and it showed tonight. He completely shut down the interior part of the Yellow Jackets' option attack in the first half almost single-handedly. When he wasn't in there, the Yellow Jackets went right at the space he vacated. In short, it was an eye-opening performance, and without it, who knows what the Yellow Jackets would have been able to do on offense. Game ball, Luther Maddy.
The coaching staff- This is the kind of performance by our coaching staff that I thought we had moved past. You can't punt the ball from inside an opponent's 35-yard line. You can't run wide receiver screens all day. You can't call terrible plays in relation to the situation you're facing. We did all three tonight, and often. The wide receiver screens in mass have to go. If you're going to run them, fine, they can be useful. But don't shove them down an opponent's throat and then appear clueless as to why they're not working. The bad play-calling in long distance and late down situations has to improve. For instance, we can't expect a dump-off to our backup tight end in the flat is going a. to get us the necessary yardage needed to make the marker, and b. accomplish a AND conserve time/timeouts, especially if you run the play back-to-back. The predictable result: the play did neither. Furthermore, this conservative philosophy about maintaining field position over kicking a field goal that may be just a smidgen out of our kicker's range HAS to stop. The potential loss of 14 yards in field position (what the Hokies ended up gaining by punting) is nothing compared to a wasted scoring chance. Granted the coaches didn't know that going into the play, but you have to consider it a strong possibility given a freshman kicker, the short distance and the Hokies recent lack of success pinning opponents deep that way.
A.J. Hughes...I guess- I don't want to be too critical of the guy. He made one mistake, but it was a costly one. The snap was a little high, but definitely catchable. With his nerves going and the bad snap, it's hard to jump on him too much. It's a correctable mistake, one that will correct itself in time, but one that was almost very costly tonight.
A few other notes on the game:
- The Hokies held Georgia Tech to 192 yards rushing, well below their average. In this week's game guide, I said the Hokies win if "The offensive line protects Logan Thomas, the running backs are respectable enough to keep Georgia Tech from keying off on Thomas and the Hokies limit the Yellow Jackets to under 300 yards on the ground." I think we took care of that last part, don't you?
- As for my keys in to watch in the box score in my What to Watch post, I highlighted Georgia Tech rushing yards (see above), Virginia Tech sacks against (2), 3rd down percentage (VT was 5-of-16 and GT was 7-of-18) and time of possession. That last stat was the biggest outlier, especially for how important it is for Beamer-coached teams. Georgia Tech controlled nearly 36 minutes of possession to the Hokies 24 and change. After winning the battle by a good margin early, Tech only controlled just over seven minutes of possession in the second half to the Yellow Jackets almost 23 minutes. Tech only had 2:08 of possession in the third quarter. That's just ridiculous.
- Tech's rebuilt offensive line looked stout early on, controlling the line of scrimmage on the early drives. But as the game progressed, particularly after the botched punt, the line got very little push and ended up costing the Hokies the ability to put drives together. I don't know if this was a fatigue thing, or nerves, or Georgia Tech just figuring us out (not like it's too hard). Whatever the issue, it's clear there was one. Hopefully we get that ironed out sooner rather than later, or else it's going to be a long season.
- Logan Thomas was nowhere near his usual self tonight. He rebounded late, yes, but some of his throws...wow. Are you serious? Everything for the most part was overthrown tonight. It was either high, hard or too far, and the receivers had no chance on some of the balls. Maybe he was just forcing it, I don't know. It certainly didn't bode well for him with all those NFL scouts and GM's in attendance (although the comeback probably did), but maybe it will help the Hokies retain him in 2013...maybe. Hey, I can dream, right?
- As for the injuries, there is no news that I can find on Luther Maddy and Marcus Davis (though SB Nation ran with this shortly after he came off the field), so I will try to update you in the next few days. As for D.J. Coles, SB Nation ran this at halftime, but I am hearing from several sources that Beamer expects him back for Austin Peay.