Oct. 17, 2009
ATLANTA (AP) – Virginia Tech might have lost its shot at a national championship on another doomed trip to Atlanta.
Josh Nesbitt rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns – the last of them tiptoeing down the sideline to finish off the fourth-ranked Hokies with 3 minutes left – as No. 19 Georgia Tech ran to a 28-23 win that threw the Atlantic Coast Conference race up for grabs while perhaps finishing off the league’s top contender in the national race.
Georgia Tech (6-1, 4-1 ACC) completed just one pass but ran for 309 yards out of its spread option offense – all but 37 of those yards coming in the second half.
Excuse Virginia Tech (5-2, 3-1) if it passes on any more trips to Atlanta for a while. The Hokies opened the season with a 34-24 loss to Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game, about a mile away at the Georgia Dome.
Five straight wins pushed Virginia Tech right back into the thick of the national championship race, hot on the heels of Florida, Alabama and Texas. Then, another huge defeat on the return trip south.
Nesbitt made up for a fumble that gave Virginia Tech life by finishing off the clinching drive with his best run of the night.
On third-and-7 from the Hokies 39, the quarterback ran to his left, saw two defenders peel away to shadow potential pitch targets, turned up through a huge hole and managed to stay in bounds along the sideline, even when Dorian Porch gave him one last shove around the 5.
Nesbitt has run for six touchdowns over the last two weeks, also scoring three times in a 49-44 victory over Florida State. It was the fifth time this season the quarterback was rushed for more than 90 yards, and Georgia Tech has certainly proven in Paul Johnson’s two seasons as coach that its run-oriented offense – incorporating elements of old formations such as the wishbone and veer – can win at the major-college level.
After Georgia Tech recovered an onside kick, Nesbitt kneeled down a couple of times to run out the clock. Then, the gold-clad student body stormed the field to celebrate, with the players gladly lingering in the middle of the melee.
After two straight shootout wins over Mississippi State and Florida State, the Yellow Jackets slogged through much of the first half, doing little against Virginia Tech’s stifling defense.
Georgia Tech managed only 37 yards rushing over the first two quarters, though Nesbitt’s lone completion – a 51-yarder to Demaryius Thomas – set up a touchdown that set up a touchdown that gave the home team a 7-3 lead heading to the locker room. Nesbitt burrowed over from the 1 with 32 seconds left.
My, how things changed after the break. Suddenly, the Yellow Jackets started breaking off huge chunks of yardage on the ground, both inside and out. Anthony Allen had a 16-yard run and Nesbitt scampered for 31 yards before finishing off the drive with another 1-yard TD plunge.
Dyrell Roberts returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yards to give the Hokies a chance for a quick response. But coach Frank Beamer passed on a field goal try on fourth-and-2 from the 18, and Ryan Williams was stuffed for only a 1-yard gain.
Beamer’s questionable decision turned out to be moot. Getting a little greedy, Nesbitt went deep again and was picked off by Porch. On the very next play, Williams found a huge hole up the middle and went 66 yards for a touchdown that pulled the Hokies to 14-10.
Shaking off that stunning play, Georgia Tech kept right on running. Jonathan Dywer, last year’s ACC offensive player of the year, carried five times for 48 yards on a 12-play, 86-yard drive that burned nearly 6 1/2 minutes off the clock. Marcus Wright finished it off by taking a pitch from Nesbitt and scooting 13 yards around left end to make it 21-10.
The Yellow Jackets were on the verge of clinching it when they drove deep into Virginia Tech territory before Nesbitt made an errant pitch that sailed behind Roddy Jones. Davon Morgan fell on the loose ball, giving the Hokies new life with just under 5 minutes remaining.
They quickly took advantage of the turnover, scooting 77 yards in only six plays. Taylor scrambled the final 22 yards for a touchdown that closed the gap to 21-16, but Virginia Tech failed on the 2-point conversion.
After Nesbitt’s third TD, the Hokies had one more chance after Taylor flicked an 8-yard TD pass to Williams. But Jerrard Tarrant corralled the onside kick. Williams ran for 100 yards, while Taylor had 159 passing and 63 on the ground.