Georgia Tech running back Orwin Smith (17) is stopped by Virginia Tech safety Antone Exum (1), linebacker Tariq Edwards (24), defensive back Eddie Whitley (15) and defensive end J.R. Collins (42) after a short gain in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
ATLANTA In a high-scoring ACC Coastal Division showdown in Atlanta, a defensive mistake gave the visitors all the momentum it would need. Logan Thomas had three passing touchdowns and a pair of rushing touchdowns and No. 10 Virginia Tech came from behind to beat No. 21 Georgia Tech, 37-26 Thursday.
With the win, Virginia Tech moved to 5-1 in conference play, a game and a half better than 4-3 Georgia Tech, and controls its own destiny for the division title and a trip to the conference championship game, December 3 in Charlotte.
The game turned in Virginia Tech’s favor for good on consecutive second half possessions. Trailing by five and facing a third-and-long, Thomas was sacked by Jeremiah Attaochu, but the sophomore linebacker was flagged for a personal foul, giving Virginia Tech new life. After ACC rushing leader David Wilson (23 carries, 192 yards) had a 44-yard run to the Georgia Tech 21, Thomas broke tackles and scored from 12 yards to give the visitors a 27-26 lead.
"It was huge and it compounded with the fact that they drove it down and scored," said Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson. "We might've gotten the ball back somewhere around midfield up five and had the momentum to possibly have a two score lead. I couldn’t see what happened (but) that’s the first time something like this happened (with Attaochu), I’d say that’s uncharacteristic."
On the ensuing possession, Georgia Tech gambled on fourth-and-one at its own 31, but quarterback Tevin Washington came up empty on a sneak. That gave the Hokies another opportunity and they converted their fourth-and-one, which preceded a 14-yard touchdown hook up between Thomas and Chris Drager, the tight end’s first career scoring catch, to make it a 34-26 game. Thomas accounted for 283 yards of offense-209 passing and 74 on the ground.
"(Thomas) was a big, strong guy, I haven’t seen anything like that," Johnson said.
Wilson’s fumble mid-way through the third allowed Georgia Tech to take its last lead of the night. Embry Peeples had a 39-yard run, and Washington scored from a yard out, his second consecutive one-yard touchdown run, to cap an 84-yard drive and put the Yellow Jackets up 26-21 with 4:29 left in the third. It was all Virginia Tech after that.
"They kept the ball for the most part, after the first two drives I think they scored every time they had the ball and we couldn’t match them," Johnson said. "We just didn’t make enough plays. We just didn’t get it done, offense, defense, special teams, nobody got it done. It's disappointing."
"I'm really proud of our football team to come in here and battle," said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, whose team won its 12th consecutive road game. "It wasn't easy out there, but we hung in there and got the win."
Tech was the beneficiary of a key penalty in the first quarter and the hosts turned it into the game’s initial points. On a fourth-and-five, Virginia Tech tackle Derrick Hopkins jumped off sides and after David Sims’ 11-yard run, Washington capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive with a two-yard sneak to make it 7-0.
The Hokies answered midway through the second as Thomas got a second chance on the goal line. After being stymied on a third-and-goal from the one, the 6’6, 254-pound redshirt sophomore bullied his way in on fourth-and-one to tie the game at 7-7.
Wilson didn’t have a single carry during that drive, but he was featured prominently during the Hokies’ go-ahead scoring drive. Wilson, who has 1,378 yards in 10 games, carried four times for 60 yards, getting Virginia Tech to the 10, then Thomas found Jarrett Boykin in the back of the end zone for a touchdown and a 14-7 cushion.
In a frantic, final minute of the first half, the teams combined for 13 points.
The visitors weren’t finished with their first half scoring. With fifty-six seconds left in the first half, Thomas found a wide open Danny Coale streaking across the middle of the field for a completion and the redshirt senior did the rest, out-running the Yellow Jackets secondary for a 63-yard touchdown. Justin Moore, who earlier in the half kicked a career high 41-yard field goal, was good from 36 yards as time expired.