It has become a recurring sight this year. Cody Journell has jogged onto the field five times this season with under three minutes left in a game or in overtime and had to line up for a field-goal attempt with a chance to either tie the contest, give the Hokies the lead, or lift the Virginia Tech football team to victory.
And on each occasion, Journell has split the uprights.
Journell’s latest attempt – a 29-yard field goal as the clock expired – gave the Hokies a 17-14 win over visiting Virginia to extend a pair of streaks, with the most important one being the bowl streak. The Hokies will have gone to 20 straight bowls with their appearance later next month.
No one will be more appreciative than Journell. The redshirt junior from nearby Ripplemead, Va., did not participate in last season’s Sugar Bowl after being suspended a couple of weeks before that game for an off-field incident.
“It’s great,” Journell said of his kick. “I feel blessed being able to come back and play with all my brothers on this team again. The coaches have my back. The way this season has gone, I couldn’t ask for it to go any better. And me being in position to put us in a bowl game again feels great.”
This year alone, Journell booted a 41-yard field goal as time expired to tie the Georgia Tech game and then hit a 17-yard game winner in overtime. Last week, he converted another 41-yard attempt with 1:05 left in regulation at Boston College to tie the game at 23, a game the Hokies eventually won in overtime.
Journell took advantage of a second chance against the Cavaliers. Just three and a half minutes earlier, he had been called upon to attempt a career-long tying 42-yarder to break a 14-14 tie, but he missed, pulling the field goal to the left of the left upright.
Interestingly, Virginia head coach Mike London called a timeout just before the snap to either ice Journell or maybe prepare his team for a fake – after all, Tech had pulled off a fake punt that resulted in a first down in the first quarter.
London also knew firsthand about kicking in the swirling wind in the south end of the field. The Cavaliers, almost at the very same spot as Journell’s attempt, opted to fake a 38-yard field goal attempt, which was stopped by the Hokies.
“Not that it was out of range, but it was close,” London said. “You notice the wind there a little bit. There was a swirling wind there. It was probably right about his (Drew Jarrett) range, again, considering how this wind was blowing this afternoon.
“I felt good about the call. We were only two yards short of the first down. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it.”
That turned out to be a critical play, as the Hokies responded with a 15-play drive to tie the game at 14 and set up an entertaining fourth quarter.
It’s debatable as to whether London’s timeout affected Journell, whose attempt had plenty of distance, but sailed wide left.
“The wind had been blowing. It had been at our back, but it was kind of blowing a little bit (from the left) as well,” Journell said. “So I kind of tried to put it at the left upright, but the wind never moved the ball.”
The Hokies’ defense intercepted a Michael Rocco pass on the Cavaliers’ ensuing possession, and the offense moved the ball down to the UVa 12-yard line. With four ticks on the clock, Journell came out again for another chance at the win.
“I think determination is probably the biggest thing right there,” Journell said. “Just with it being tied up earlier and having a chance to put us up three and not really capitalizing on it and coming off the field and having everybody have your back and telling you that you’ll have another one … I just wanted to go out there and do it for the seniors.”
Again, London called a timeout before Journell’s final attempt. He actually used his last two timeouts back-to-back – something that will be questioned for some time in Virginia circles: Why did London not use his timeouts earlier to leave time on the clock after the Tech attempt? Either way, it didn’t affect Journell.
“Well, being a kicker you kind of get used to that,” Journell said in terms of being ‘iced’ with timeouts. “You just have to expect it a little bit. It was a bit different today because it took me away from the heater for a little while. I felt like my legs were freezing up out there.
“But you can’t expect it (the opposing team to call a timeout) because that will throw you off, too, if they don’t call a time out. You just have to go through your motions, like you do every kick.”
And with the second chance, Journell was successful on the attempt and was mobbed once again by his teammates at Lane Stadium, much like he was after the Georgia Tech game that started the season – a season that ends, yet again, with a bowl appearance.
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