It wasn’t pretty, but the Virginia Tech Hokies edged out a 20-17 OT victory over Georgia Tech Monday night in the season opener for both teams.
“I told my football team how proud I was,” said Frank Beamer, head coach. “To come back and win that football game the way it looked at times… It just says so much about the players and them believing and making plays when they have to.”
Redshirt junior kicker Cody Journell — who was just recently reinstated to the team in July after being suspended for an incident involving former Tech basketball player Dorenzo Hudson — hit two clutch field goals late to lead the Hokies (1-0, 1-0 ACC) to their seventh win in nine tries against the Yellow Jackets.
“Any time you get a chance to tie a game up with seven seconds left and then go into overtime and kick a field goal, it’s always special,” Journell said.
After a 42-yard touchdown strike from Logan Thomas to Demitri Knowles put Tech ahead 14-10 with 7:46 left to play, Georgia Tech meticulously drove down the field, as only Georgia Tech could.
They knocked 6:56 off the clock and re-took the lead on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Tevin Washington to Deon Hill with 44 seconds remaining.
“When they scored that touchdown with 44 seconds left, everything you worked for in the summer, you’re thinking, ‘We just threw it away right there,’” said linebacker Jack Tyler, who led the way for Tech with 17 tackles.
After a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, Thomas and co. marched 51 yards in 37 seconds, as Corey Fuller had two big catches that went for a combined 45 yards.
“I knew I had it in me, I just had to step up,” Fuller said. “DJ (Coles) went down, Marcus (Davis) went down for a little bit, I just had to step up and make plays… I just went and let loose.”
That was when Journell — who missed a 38-yarder with 11:27 left to play — nailed a 41-yard field goal just inside the right upright to give Lane Stadium its first ever overtime contest.
The Hokies won the coin toss and elected to play defense first. After being heavily pressured on 3rd-and-6, Washington made an errant throw while being pulled down.
Kyle Fuller intercepted the pass on the 1-yard line, giving Tech a clear path to its second season-opening victory in as many years.
Michael Holmes — playing in his first collegiate game — got the Hokies down to the 1-yard line on two carries, the second an 18-yarder in which he dragged several Yellow Jacket defenders.
But, Thomas failed three times to sneak it in from there, giving Journell the opportunity to be a hero once again.
“I went up to him before he kicked it and said, ‘You’ve got this brother. We believe in you 100 percent and we’ve always had your back. Put it through,’” Thomas said.
Thomas, heralded by many as Tech’s offense’s only weapon during the offseason, struggled at times, letting several balls sail high and missing his mark multiple times.
“I couldn’t tell you (why),” he said. “ (I) just struggled, and I wasn’t putting the ball where it needed to be. Overthrows, underthrows, just very sporadic. In the end, started picking it up, putting the ball where it needed to be when the time counted, and ultimately got a win.”
Thomas finished 21-of-38 passing for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Tech’s offense didn’t turn the ball over.