The Jackets were playing for their conference lives as a loss would eliminate them from a chance to play in their second consecutive conference championship game. The win would not have guaranteed the Jackets a place in the game, but since the ACC split into two divisions, the winner of this game has represented the ACC Coastal Division in the ACC Championship game.
The Jackets started strong with a rare long kick return to open up the game. Junior A-back Embry Peeples took the kick and raced up the right-sideline for 42 yards, giving Georgia Tech great field position at its own 42-yard line. The offense started the game off with a pass that fell incomplete, but on second down, sophomore A-back Orwin Smith took a pitch and ran 27 yards for Georgia Tech’s first big play of the game. Redshirt senior B-back Anthony Allen gashed the Hokies’ defense for 27 yards on five carries before senior quarterback Joshua Nesbitt ran for his first rushing touchdown of the game.
The Jackets kicked off to the Hokies on the ensuing play, and the Virginia Tech offense began to go to work. Running back Darren Evans ran for small gains and quarterback Tyrod Taylor did not miss a receiver as Virginia Tech marched down the field. Finally, on a third-down play, Taylor’s pass was broken up and the Hokies had to punt.
On the third play of Georgia Tech’s next drive, Nesbitt found a hole and got a few blocks. Seventy one yards later, Nebitt found himself in the end zone again, and the Jackets were up 14-0.
On the next Virginia Tech possession, the Hokies opted to let their other running back, Ryan Williams, take most of the carries. The decision worked out for the Hokies as Williams scored their first touchdown of the game to start the second quarter and set the score at 14-7.
Georgia Tech’s next possession began with three straight runs by Allen to set up a fourth-and-one. Head Coach Paul Johnson elected to go for the first down, but eventually punted after a false start penalty by redshirt senior right tackle Austin Barrick moved the Jackets back five yards.
Taylor led the Hokies down the field on Virginia Tech’s next possession. The Hokies were threatening to score when Taylor dropped back to pass and his offensive line gave him well over 10 seconds to throw the ball. However, Taylor threw the ball into coverage and sophomore cornerback Rod Sweeting picked off the pass to give the Jackets the ball.
A 33-yard run from Allen gave the Jackets the ball in the Virginia Tech red zone, but Nebitt threw an interception of his own. To make matters worse, Nesbitt hurt his arm trying to tackle the defender. Nesbitt’s injury will force him to miss the rest of the season.
Sophomore quarterback Tevin Washington took over for the Jackets, but his inexperience was evident in the third quarter as he missed some key reads and tried to hand the ball to a running back that was not there.
The two teams traded punts in the third quarter, but David Wilson scored a touchdown for the Hokies early in the fourth to tie the game at 14.
Another false start penalty halted Georgia Tech’s next drive, and Evans led the Hokies to the end zone to give Virginia Tech its first lead of the game, 21-14.
Down seven, Washington helped execute a long drive that included a 13-yard run that set up another touchdown by Smith.
It was all but assumed that Taylor would be forced to execute his best two-minute drive in order for the Hokies to win the game. Unfortunately for the Jackets, Taylor did not even have to take the field for the Hokies to secure the win. On the ensuing kickoff, Davis ran the ball back 90 yards to give Virginia Tech the lead with just under three minutes left.
“The kickoff return was just a killer. You give back all the momentum from going up the field and scoring,” Johnson said.
Down seven and with all the momentum going against them, Georgia Tech took over needing a touchdown to force the game into overtime. The sixth false start penalty of the game looked to end the Jackets’ chances of winning the game until Washington completed a 38-yard pass to senior wide receiver Kevin Cone. With 14 seconds left in the game, Washington threw the ball to senior wide receiver Tyler Melton in the end zone. Melton did not catch the ball and a Virginia Tech defender did, ending the game and Georgia Tech’s hopes of winning the ACC.
“[Tevin] did [well] to be forced in [a situation] like that, and he made some plays. In that last drive he made some plays and kept us going,” Johnson said.