Jackets fall in overtime to kick off season

[media-credit id=1 align=”alignright” width=”741″][/media-credit]In front of millions of viewers on a primetime national stage, Georgia Tech lost its season opener for the first time since 2006 on the road against the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Jackets pulled ahead late in the fourth quarter, but the Hokies tied the game in the final seconds of regulation and won in overtime 20-17.

Under Head Coach Paul Johnson, the Jackets have lost four of their five matchups against the Hokies and earned the ACC Coastal Division title in their only victory in 2009.

The Georgia Tech defense struggled early, allowing 80 yards and a touchdown in the Hokies first two drives before anchoring a solid performance through the fourth quarter. The Jackets’ lack of depth on defense then showed late allowing 182 of Virginia Tech’s 326 yards in the final period, including a 44 second, 51-yard drive to close regulation and force overtime.

On the other side of the ball, the Jackets’ offense could not find a way to break out a big play, finishing the game with 192 rushing yards and 288 total yards of offense against arguably the toughest defense they will play in the ACC.

“I feel like a game like tonight was kind of like an Ali-Frazier fight. It was one swing to another, a counter to a point, so they got the best of us tonight but we gave them all we had. We just wish we could have had better results at the end, and could have finished on a better note,” said redshirt senior quarterback Tevin Washington.

Washington finished the game as the Jackets’ leading rusher with 19 carries for 63 yards. Despite efficiently completing 10 of his 15 pass attempts for the game, Washington’s final pass in overtime proved to be a costly interception, eventually leading to a Virginia Tech win.

The Hokies started the game off with field position in their favor, driving to the Georgia Tech 44-yard line before pinning the Jackets at their own 10. After a quick three-and-out by the Jackets, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas and his offense continued their balanced attack capping off a 12-play, 56-yard touchdown drive with a five yard play-action pass to take a 7-0 lead.

The Jackets’ defense then began to settle down, forcing a punt by Virginia Tech on their next possession. Hokies’ punter A.J. Hughes, a freshman playing in his first game, could not get a handle on the snap, falling on the dropped ball for a 22-yard loss.

Despite only mustering one first down and 22 yards through two drives, the Jackets capitalized on the Hokies’ mistake. Starting at Virginia Tech’s 24, Sophomore B-Back Zach Laskey picked up 12 yards on two carries before redshirt junior A-back Robert Godhigh finished the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run. Godhigh dodged a defender and broke three tackles to tie the game.

Through the remainder of the first half, neither team could construct a drive longer than seven plays and the teams finished the half tied at 7-7.

The third quarter continued to be a defensive battle, with the Jackets turning the ball over on downs at midfield to start the second half. The Hokies could not capitalize on the field position, and both teams exchanged three punts before Georgia Tech finally started to get into an offensive rhythm.

Beginning with 7:15 remaining in the third quarter, the Jackets orchestrated a 15-play, 56-yard drive that led to a 34-yard field goal by redshirt junior kicker David Scully. The drive took 7:18 off the clock, and featured only one incomplete pass attempt on a trick play by redshirt sophomore A-back B.J. Bostic.

The Hokies would not quit though, responding immediately with a 10-play, 56-yard drive of their own. Despite driving all the way to the Georgia Tech 21-yard line, Virginia Tech kicker Cody Journell could not complete the 38-yard field goal that would tie the game at 10.

After forcing a quick punt by the Jackets, the Hokies regained control on offense again with 9:16 left in the game. Thomas completed consecutive passes of 35 and 42 yards on a quick 1:30 touchdown drive to take a 14-10 lead with just under eight minutes remaining in regulation.

Washington and the Jackets’ offense took the field in the pistol formation to start the drive, driving 35 yards to the Virginia Tech 37 before facing a fourth-and-six situation. Running the pistol formation with three wide receivers, Washington faced pressure early, shaking off a defender in the backfield before completing a 19-yard pass to Bostic on the sideline to keep the drive alive. Four plays later, Washington hit redshirt sophomore A-back Deon Hill on a crossing route to cap off a 13-play, 72 yard drive with just 0:44 remaining in regulation.

The Jackets’ defense then could not close out the game, allowing the Hokies to drive 51 yards in 38 seconds to set up the game tying 41-yard field goal.

In what was the first-ever overtime contest at Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium, the Hokies won the coin toss, electing to play on defense to start the extra period. The Jackets would make their first major mistake on offense for the day after Washington tried throwing the ball away under pressure and was intercepted by Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller.

The Hokies only needed a field goal to win the game, eventually driving the ball to the one-yard line and hitting a 17-yard field goal to take the 20-17 victory.

Georgia Tech’s loss puts them in a 0-1 hole in conference play, and gives Virginia Tech the inside track to the Coastal Division title.

“There’s absolutely nothing we can do but play football… we have plenty of games left. Maybe something will happen, maybe Virginia Tech will get caught slipping. You never know what happens. We’ve just got to continue playing our best and see what happens,” said senior defensive end Izaan Cross.

The Jackets will have their home opener at 7 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 8, against the Presbyterian Blue Hose.