Thomas leads Tech to its biggest win in three years

Photo by John Nakano

Coach Paul Johnson called  his final time out with four seconds left on the clock. Johnson had made up his decision to go for the game-winning field goal instead of trying to score a touchdown.

On the play before, sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas fell down purposefully on the seven yard line to center the kick for sophomore Harrison Butker. With the score tied 24 to 24, Butker made the game-winning field goal triggering the Tech sideline to rush the field celebrating.

Butker was swarmed by teammates. Tech won 27 to 24 and it was Butker’s first game-winning field goal in his football career.

Butker, who previously missed a 30 yard field goal earlier in the game, finished 2-3 on field goal attempts for the game.

This was the first time Tech won on a last second game-winning field goal  since 1999, where Luke Manget kicked a 38 yard field goal against arch-rival UGA.

Going into the game, Tech had not beaten Virginia Tech since 2009, and had not won at Blacksburg since 2006. After the game ended, there was a visible sigh of relief across Johnson’s face.

Tech players have wanted to beat Virginia Tech in the worst way since 2010, where starting quarterback, Josh Nesbitt broke his arm, effectively ending his career as a Jacket. Tech had the lead in that game. but was unable to hold onto it. Tech has suffered heartbreak in the past three seasons as well.

On September 20, Tech started off with the ball in the first half and comfortably drove the ball into Virginia Tech territory. However, the drive stalled and Butker kicked a 43-yard field goal to give Tech a 3-0 lead.

The Hokies responded later in the first quarter to tie the game.

In the second quarter, Tech struggled to move the ball. Virginia Tech scored 16 unanswered points to take a 16-3 lead late in the second half.

Due to several key runs by Thomas late in the second half on a 2-yard touchdown, Tech was able to cut the deficit to 3 .

Tech entered halftime trailing 16-10. This was a very critical game for the Jackets. A win would rally the fan base and a loss would be devastating for the Jackets who have lost several close games to Virginia Tech the last four years.

In the second half the defense dug deep and were able to hold Virginia Tech to only eight points.

Two big interceptions helped the Jackets win the game. Sophomore linebacker Paul Davis intercepted Virginia Tech’s quarterback Michael Brewer and returned the pick 41 yards for a touchdown, giving Tech a 17-16 lead early in the fourth quarter.

On the next drive, Brewer scored on a fluke play where he recovered a fumble giving Virginia Tech the lead.

With Tech down 17-24 with 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Thomas led his team on a nine-play, 67-yard drive to tie the game at 24 with 2:03 left in the game.

The biggest play on that drive was on fourth and 15, where Thomas found senior wide receiver DeAndre Smelter for a 19-yard gain.

Two plays later, Thomas threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Smelter who finished with 101 receiving yards on the game.

On the first Virginia Tech play of their next drive, junior cornerback DJ White intercepted Brewer at the 40-yard line. Much celebration occurred, but Thomas was not going to wait for overtime to win this game.

Thomas had 20 of his 165 rushing yards on the final drive and once again led Tech on a game winning drive.

With this exciting win, Tech moves to 4-0 for the first time since 2011. The Jackets now get a  much needed bye week before hosting Miami on October 4 at 7:30 p.m. It will also be the school’s annual Whiteout Game, and will be aired on ESPN2. The Jackets are looking for their first win against Miami’s Hurricanes  since 2008.