ATLANTA – Logan Thomas threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score, and Kendall Fuller’s interception in the waning moments sealed a great performance by Virginia Tech’s defense, as the Hokies knocked off Georgia Tech 17-10 on Thursday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium in the ACC opener for the Hokies.
With the win, the Hokies moved to 4-1 overall on the season, while Georgia Tech fell to 3-1, 2-1 in ACC play. The Hokies have won six of their past seven meetings with the Yellow Jackets.
Having won three games in 12 days – including two on the road – Virginia Tech finds itself in a pretty good position entering the season’s halfway point. The Hokies have nine days to prepare for their next opponent, North Carolina, a game that marks the first of three straight home games. Plus, the Hokies should get standout cornerback Antone Exum back for that game.
“That locker room feels real good about ourselves right now,” mike linebacker Jack Tyler said. “But the problem with that is, like Coach [Bud] Foster says, when you start feeling good about yourself, that’s when you get knocked off. We can feel good tonight and maybe the next couple of days until we come back on Sunday and start preparing for UNC. But that’s another big-time game that we’re going to have to play well to win.”
Tyler and the rest of his defensive teammates answered the call against Georgia Tech’s option offense, holding the Yellow Jackets to just 129 yards rushing. The Hokies also made the big plays late in the fourth quarter, including a fourth-down stop and then Fuller’s interception.
Trailing 17-10, Georgia Tech drove to its own 42, where it faced a fourth down and 13. But Yellow Jackets quarterback Vad Lee threw the ball up for grabs deep down the field and Fuller, a freshman, ran under it and caught it with 1:06 remaining. The Hokies then ran out the clock for the win.
“Usually, you want our defense on the field if they [the opponent] need a touchdown” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “Last year it didn’t work a couple of times. But these guys are a year older – and they’re better.”
Virginia Tech’s defense go the offense started in the right way early in the game. On the first possession of the game, whip linebacker Kyle Fuller forced Lee to fumble, and the Hokies’ Brandon Facyson recovered at the Yellow Jackets 27.
Two plays later, Thomas found receiver D.J. Coles coming across the middle, and Coles went the distance, scoring on a 21-yard reception. Cody Journell’s extra point gave the Hokies a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
“It’s always good to jump these guys early,” Thomas said of Georgia Tech. “With their offense, you know you’re not going to get many opportunities.”
The Hokies added to it early in the second quarter. Thomas capped a 91-yard march – Virginia Tech’s longest drive of the season – with a 5-yard touchdown run. Journell’s extra point gave the Hokies a 14-0 lead.
Despite playing with a painful abdominal injury, Thomas played his best game of the season, completing 19 of 25 for 221 yards and the touchdown. He also rushed for 58 yards and the score, pacing a Virginia Tech attack that finished with 276 yards.
“I thought he was excellent,” Beamer said. “I thought his leadership, his toughness, his being in control … I think he’s a quality, quality quarterback. He’s physically tough and mentally tough.”
"I think this will give us a lot of confidence going into the rest of the year," Thomas said. "We played hard, and we played tough."
Georgia Tech cut the Virginia Tech lead to 14-3 on a 49-yard field goal by Harrison Butker with 7:21 left in the first half. The Yellow Jackets sliced into that lead even more in the third quarter, scoring a touchdown on a David Sims’ 2-yard run that capped a 14-play, 82-yard drive that chewed more than eight minutes off the clock. Butker’s extra point cut the Hokies’ lead to 14-10 with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
Cody Journell gave the Hokies a 17-10 lead with a 39-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. But Journell missed a 25-yarder with 5:37 left that would have all but put the game away.
Georgia Tech finished with 273 yards of offense. Lee completed just 7 of 24 for 144 yards and two interceptions. Zach Laskey paced the Yellow Jackets rushing attack with only 43 yards.
But more importantly, the Hokies kept the Yellow Jackets off the board in the fourth quarter – and they haven’t allowed a fourth-quarter point this season.
“I give our scout team credit,” Beamer said. “And I think we’re fortunate to have some veterans up front who have played against this offense a couple of times. It’s different. It’s a rugged offense and you have to be rugged yourself. You have to be very precise. It all goes back to mental discipline and physical discipline.”
Virginia Tech continues conference play on Oct. 5 when it serves as the hosts to North Carolina. Kickoff for the game is slated for 12:30 p.m.
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