Cody Journell hit a 29-yard field goal as time expired on Saturday, as Virginia Tech beat Virginia for the ninth consecutive season, 17-14 in Lane Stadium.
“I am really proud of our football team,” said Frank Beamer, head coach. “The way the season has gone, there has been some tough losses. This team has never stopped playing hard and never stopped trusting each other.”
For the Hokies (6-6, 4-4 ACC), the victory means more than another year with the Commonwealth Cup, as their sixth win makes them bowl eligible for the 20th season in a row.
“We don’t want to be those guys,” said quarterback Logan Thomas. “We don’t want to be that team that doesn’t make a bowl and we don’t want to be that team that breaks the streak against UVa.
“We really needed to come together and win just to keep these streaks alive. I’m so proud of the way we played to do so.”
It wasn’t an easy victory by any means for the Hokies, who punted the ball nine times on the day, with eight of those coming in the first half.
Tech struck first on a nine-play, 55-yard drive early in the second quarter, concluding with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Randall Dunn.
But the Cavaliers (4-8, 2-6 ACC) continued to battle back, tying the game on a 42-yard pass from Michael Rocco to Tim Smith with three and a half minutes remaining in the first half.
UVa took the lead early in the third quarter after Thomas fumbled while being sacked by Jake Snyder and Eli Harold. Brent Urban picked it up on the 16-yard line, and took it into the end zone from there.
After another Tech punt on the ensuing possession, Virginia had an opportunity to take a two-score lead as Drew Jarrett lined up for a 38-yard field goal with the wind at his back.
But UVa head coach Mike London called for a fake, and holder Jacob Hodges was stopped two yards short of a first down, giving Tech the ball back on their own 15.
“I thought it was pretty significant that we stopped them,” Beamer said. “Thank goodness we got them stopped and kept it to a seven-point game.”
The Hokies responded with their longest drive (in terms of plays) of the season, marching 85 yards on 15 plays in 6:16, ending with a four-yard touchdown run from Thomas.
The redshirt junior carried the load on the ground for the Hokies all day, as freezing temperatures and heavy winds played a part in the team’s passing game. He finished with 89 yards on 29 carries.
“With the conditions like they were, it was tough to do anything in the passing game,” Thomas said. “I didn’t have a problem putting it on my shoulders…I didn’t have a problem. We did a great job up front all day.”
Both teams had chances to do damage in the fourth quarter, but failed to do much of anything until late. Tech put a nice drive together, and gave Journell a try at a 42-yard field goal with 3:38 left on the clock.
The kick sailed wide left, and UVa got the ball back with two timeouts left.
But three plays later, Antone Exum picked off Rocco, who was trying to hit Smith on an out route.
“A couple series before that, he tried a corner route, so I kind of knew he was going to get into me,” Exum said. “He knew that I knew he was going to do a corner route, so he tried to bully me in his route. I just undercut him, and the quarterback threw it right to me.”
The Hokies then picked up one first down before milking the rest of the clock and allowing Journell to kick the game-winner.
“Determination was probably the biggest thing (in making the kick),” Journell said. “Being tied up and having the chance to put us up three and not really capitalizing, then coming off the field and everybody having your back…I wanted to go out and do it for the seniors.”
Tech now awaits word on which bowl (if any) they will be selected to. The BCS selection show is next Sunday, Dec. 4, and the rest of the bowl games will fill out early the following week.