It had been seven years since the Florida State Seminoles have travelled to Atlanta to take on one of their regional rivals. Seven years since the “Miracle on North Avenue,” where safety Cooper Taylor forced a fumble on the goal line that was recovered in the end zone to seal a 31-28 Tech victory over the No. 15 Seminoles.
Fast forward seven years and the undefeated No. 9 Seminoles have the ball on Tech’s 39 yard line with 6 seconds to go. The score is tied at 16 and Florida State sent out one of the best kickers in college football history, Roberto Aguayo, to attempt a 56 yard field goal. Aguayo had never missed a fourth quarter field goal in his magnificent career. It appeared that Tech might suffer its second straight loss on a 56 yard field goal.
The Seminoles entered the game having won 40 of their last 42 games, 30 regular season games in a row, and 28 straight ACC victories. Oct. 6, 2012, was the last time they had lost an ACC game.
Against all these odds, the Tech special teams unit was not in the mood to lose their sixth game in a row. At the snap, Tech’s line got a good push and junior defensive tackle Pat Gamble blocked the kick as it crossed the line of scrimmage. The ball rolled to the Tech 22 yard line and some Tech players thought the play was over. However, sophomore cornerback Lance Austin, who usually doesn’t play on the field goal block unit, picked up the ball with the intention to score. Austin ran the ball with an escort of fellow Jackets immediately to Tech’s sideline to have the best chance to score. Once he got to Tech’s 30 yard line, there was nothing but teammates and 70 yards of grass ahead.
Austin got a key block from senior cornerback Chris Milton, who took out FSU’s holder 30 yards away from the end zone. Only Aguayo stood in Austin’s way from a miraculous Tech win and becoming an instant legend. Aguayo tried to run Austin down, but he made a cut away from the sideline at the 18 yard line, causing Aguayo to fly in the air like a helicopter.
With nobody in the way, Austin scored the touchdown, giving Tech a 22-16 win and cementing himself into the history books.
Chaos immediately broke out. Austin was mobbed by teammates in the end zone and students began to swarm the field. Austin and Gamble helped Tech pull off one of the greatest and most stunning plays in Tech and college football history.
The “Miracle on Techwood Drive” had just occurred, breaking Tech’s five game losing streak and giving the Jackets a Homecoming win nobody will ever forget. Players and coaches were overcome with raw elation and disbelief.
“I was just hoping he was going to kick it low because it was such long a kick. It was crazy because we blocked it, and I see it run across the line. I go from yelling ‘Get away from it’ to ‘run, run, run.’ What a great play by Lance [Austin] to pick it up, Johnson said. “We were due. It was our turn. We’ve seen so many of these close ones like this go the other way, it’s good to finally be on the right end of one for a change.”
The return was a special moment for Lance Austin as his twin brother Lawrence crossed the goal line with him. They both shared a special bond with their grandmother Louise, who had passed away. The play was dedicated to her as she used to attend all of his football games.
“When I picked it up and started running up the field, I saw a lot of green. So, I was like okay, maybe I can return it,” Austin said. “Also Jamal [Golden], Chris, [Milton], everybody, when I came around it was a wall. My teammates did a great job of blocking. So when I came around and I kind of got by Aguayo, and I got in the end zone, it was kind of surreal.”
The game would not have been won without the heroics of the defense. Tech’s defensive unit had arguably the greatest performance in the Johnson era, holding Heisman candidate Dalvin Cook to only 82 yards. The stat sheet may say that Tech gave up 16 points, but 10 of those points were at no fault to the defense. FSU scored zero points in the second half and after two close defeats to FSU in the 2012 and 2014 ACC Championship games, this momentous victory was four years in the making.
“We just played better against the run. We made a couple tweaks this week in the way we were playing and it worked out,” Johnson said. “Guys played hard. [Cook’s] a very talented guy. He broke some tackles and we missed some, but we had other guys there.”
Tech had some big plays on offense from quarterback Justin Thomas who had a 60 yard touchdown run and a key 36 yard pass on 4th down to freshman Brad Stewart. Junior kicker Harrison Butker made three huge kicks including a 53 yarder.
For a team that had been decimated by injuries all season, winning against Florida State is huge for the program after suffering so many heartbreaks this year. The Jackets now sit at 3–5, but they did not play like a five-loss team against Florida State. They played like everyone expected them to this year and gave us arguably the greatest, most improbable and most miraculous play in Tech football history. What a time to be alive!