BLACKSBURG – In early August, Virginia Tech’s coaching staff contemplated redshirting tailback David Wilson because of the Hokies’ depth at that position.
But in the end, he was too impressive in scrimmages to keep off the field. So the staff elected to go ahead and play him this season.
“That decision is looking better and better,” Tech coach Frank Beamer laughed.
Wilson returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown with 2:23 left in the game and that turned out to be the game-winning score, as the Hokies rallied from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit and down Georgia Tech 28-21 in an ACC game played Thursday night at Lane Stadium.
The win marked the Hokies’ seventh straight since dropping their first two to open the season. Virginia Tech is now 7-2 overall, 5-0 in the ACC and in total command of the Coastal Division race with three games left.
“I’m just really proud of our football team,” Beamer said. “We’ve got some great kids who hung in there and battled. Where we started and where we are now … we control our own destiny. I’m proud of them.”
Wilson, the sophomore from Danville, Va., saved the day for the Hokies. They grabbed a 21-14 lead on a 2-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyrod Taylor to tight end Andre Smith with 6:34 remaining, but Georgia Tech answered, tying the game with 2:34 left when Orwin Smith scored on a 9-yard run to cap an 80-yard drive.
On the ensuing kickoff, Wilson fielded the ball at the 10, cut toward the Georgia Tech sideline and went virtually untouched into the end zone. It marked his second kickoff return for a touchdown this season – the other one coming at N.C. State when he helped the Hokies rally in the second half in that one.
“When I first saw it [the ball] coming to me, I was excited because they had been avoiding me the whole game,” Wilson said. “They kicked one that I could return and I took advantage of it. Time was running out and we needed points.
“Before I saw grass, their kicker [Scott Blair] was there and he’s a fast guy … he caught me last year on a return. I got him with a stiff arm and was able to break his tackle, and then when I saw grass, I cut the jets on.”
“He’s a threat, I’m telling you,” Beamer said. “On his touchdown run [a 15-yarder early in the fourth quarter], he was a blur going around that corner. He’s a guy that really has some speed and he has toughness. He’s a pretty good player.”
Georgia Tech (5-4, 3-3 ACC) made a gutty last-ditch attempt to tie the game in the waning moments. The Yellow Jackets, behind back-up quarterback Tevin Washington, drove from the Georgia Tech 20 to the Virginia Tech 16 – with most of that yardage coming on a 38-yard pass from Washington to Kevin Cone.
But with eight seconds remaining in the game, Virginia Tech cornerback Rashad Carmichael intercepted Washington’s pass attempt for Tyler Melton in the end zone, thus preserving the win for the Hokies. It marked Carmichael’s fourth interception of the season.
“We had made an adjustment a couple of series before that because all game I was playing pretty much as a run stopper, coming up and playing the pitch man,” Carmichael said. “We made some adjustments and I got to see the ball.
“I was just playing ball, man.”
Carmichael and the rest of Tech’s defense gave up 426 yards to the Yellow Jackets, including a season-high 346 on the ground to the nation’s No. 1-ranked rushing attack. But the Hokies held firm after the Yellow Jackets scored touchdowns on their first two possession of the game – touchdown runs of 1 and 71 yards by quarterback Josh Nesbitt.
Nesbitt, though, missed the entire second half. Right before halftime, he threw an interception to Virginia Tech’s Davon Morgan, and as he tried to make the tackle, his right arm hit Morgan’s knee. The result was a broken forearm that would cost Nesbitt the rest of the regular season.
“That had a big effect on the game because he manages their offense pretty well,” Carmichael said. “It’s tough to get a guy to come in there and manage that offense as well as he did. No. 13 [Washington] did a good job and made some good plays. But it’s pretty tough to replace Nesbitt.”
Taylor paced Tech’s offense, completing 15-of-25 for 137 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for 57 yards and finished with 194 yards of total offense. That enabled him to pass Bryan Randall (2001-04; 8,034 yards) into first place on Tech’s all-time career total offense list. Taylor now has 8,134 yards of total offense in his career.
Darren Evans rushed for 68 yards to lead the Hokies. Jarrett Boykin caught five passes for 54 yards, while Smith finished with four for 39, including the touchdown.
Anthony Allen rushed for 125 yards for the Yellow Jackets on 23 carries.
The Hokies continue ACC play on Nov. 13 when they travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., for a game against North Carolina. Kickoff for the game is slated for 3:30 p.m.
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