ATLANTA - Logan Thomas had far too much offense for Georgia Tech Thursday. The Virginia Tech quarterback passed for 221 yards and a touchdown and added 58 yards and a score on the ground as the Hokies won their Atlantic Coast Conference opener 17-10 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Thomas had an extremely accurate night throwing the ball, misfiring on just six of 25 passes in helping the 4-1 Hokies defeat Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-1 ACC) for the fourth consecutive time and fifth time in as many meetings in Thursday night primetime match ups.
Virginia Tech had built a 17-10 cushion on Cody Journell’s 39-yard field goal with 10:25 to play in the game, but trying to make it a two-possession game five minutes later, Journell was wide left from 25 yards.
That left it open for Georgia Tech to try and drive for the tying points. After the teams traded punts, the Yellow Jackets started from their own 5 with 3:17 left, but picked up just 37 yards and Kendall Fuller intercepted Vad Lee on a desperation toss downfield, the second pick thrown by the redshirt-sophomore, to put the game away.
Georgia Tech pulled to within 14-10 late in the third quarter after a penalty-aided touchdown drive.
On two occasions - once on an offsides penalty on fourth-and-one and the second coming on a pass interference on third-and-goal - Virginia Tech’s defense surrendered a first down on a penalty. The pass interference call set up the Yellow Jackets at the 2 and David Sims capped a 14-play, 82-yard drive with a two-yard scoring burst to make it 14-10 with 3:16 left.
Those were two of the 19 penalties between the teams, nine committed by Georgia Tech, which tied the single-game record in coach Paul Johnson’s six seasons.
“Comedy of errors, total lack of concentration,” said Johnson, whose team hasn’t defeated its Coastal Division rival since 2009. “You have to give Virginia Tech credit, they played better than we did, coached better than we did. You got to play better, you got to coach better.”
In a matter of 30 seconds, the visiting Hokies took a stunning 7-0 lead.
Kyle Fuller, starting in place of Josh Trimble at outside linebacker, forced a fumble by Lee and Brandon Facyson, who took Fuller’s place at cornerback, recovered to give the Hokies excellent field position at the 27 with just under 13 minutes left in the opening quarter. Thomas completed a six-yard pass, then found a wide open D.J. Coles, who went un-touched for a 21-yard touchdown with 12:23 to play.
Thomas was red-hot to start the game. The redshirt-senior completed his first nine pass attempts, including six straight for 87 yards on a 91-yard drive that put the Hokies up 14-0. Thomas, who finished the opening half with 185 all-purpose yards, did it with his legs at the end of the possession on a pair of quarterback sneaks from the Georgia Tech 9, the last a five-yard lunge that made it a two-touchdown game.
“His leadership, his throwing, his decision-making, being in control. He’s a quality, quality quarterback,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said of Thomas.
The hosts got three points back midway through the second quarter. Though a promising drive stalled after Lee hooked up with DeAndre Smelter for 41 yards to the Virginia Tech 22, freshman Harrison Butker tied his career high with a 49-yard field goal that cut the deficit to 14-3.
With 38 seconds until halftime, Lee completed a 15-yard pass to Darren Waller to the Virginia Tech 40. But Lee threw four consecutive incompletions and completed just 5-of-14 pass attempts in the first half, and only two more in nine attempts in the second half. Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets’ option struggled, collecting just 62 yards on the ground in the opening half and 129 for the game (three yards per carry), their single-game season low by nearly 200 yards.
“We had a chance there right before half we just couldn’t make (plays),” said Johnson. “You got to make those plays against good teams. That’s not us (the high amount of pass attempts), we got to be able to run the ball to hit play action, and we didn’t do it. I’m confident we’re going to get better at (the option). We’re going to get better at it or we’re going to get different people playing.”
“They had a good defensive scheme. Virginia Tech has always had good defense,” said Lee. “We’ve got to get better at practicing (the option). I’ve got to do my part better. If anything on offense happens, I put it on me.”
After the short week leading to Thursday’s game, the teams will each get eight days off before returning to the field October 5. Virginia Tech hosts North Carolina, while Georgia Tech travels to Miami.