September 20, 2014
Slye hits three field goals, will have to wait for a game winner
By Marc Mullen

BLACKSBURG – The last three meetings between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech at Lane Stadium have seen fans on the edge of their seats until the final whistle. Saturday’s meeting between the two schools was no different, although the outcome was.

The Yellow Jackets prevailed on a 24-yard field goal by Harrison Butker as time expired to end their three-game losing streak in Blacksburg.

A quick flashback to the three prior games -

  • September 18, 2008 – Dustin Keys kicked a 21-yard field goal with 4:37 left in the fourth quarter to break a 17-17 tie, and Tech held on for the 20-17 victory.
  • November 4, 2010 – A fan of either Tech team will not forget the 21 fourth-quarter points scored by the Hokies, including a David Wilson (who was on the sidelines of Saturday’s game) 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 2:23 to play to lift Tech to a 28-21 win.
  • September 1, 2012 – Cody Journell booted a 41-yard field goal as time expired to tie the game at 17 and then sent Virginia Tech home with a victory after a 17-yard kick in overtime.

Looking at the three games, it probably came as no surprise that Saturday’s game would come down to the field-goal kicker, and after Georgia Tech tied things at 24 on a DeAndre Smelter touchdown catch with 2:03 left to play, the game certainly had that feel.

“We did the same thing we do every week coming in, and special teams are always an emphasis anyway because of Coach [Frank] Beamer, but we didn’t change anything for this game,” freshman kicker Joey Slye said. “We came out with the mindset that we were going to beat them upfront on defense and on offense, but if we needed to kick a field goal, I would be ready.”

Slye only stepped foot on campus in July and won the starting kicking job just days before the first game of the season. He credits his working with Paul Woodside, a former college placekicker at West Virginia, for helping him prepare for the preseason battle he would have in trying to win a starting job.

“He just gave me the mindset of just working on my kicking and not try to control what everyone else does,” Slye said. “He also told me to just kick how I know how to kick, because once I start kicking not to miss, that’s when I’ll start to miss. And that’s what happened to him when he was in a kicking competition in Buffalo and he ended up losing a job.”

It was an up-and-down day for Slye, who tied the game at 3 in the first quarter on a season-long 42-yard kick, and then gave the Hokies a 6-3 lead 33-yarder just nine seconds into the second quarter.

The Stafford, Virginia, native would kick the Hokies into a halftime lead of 16-10 with a 36-yard field goal after an eight-play, 56-yard, 55-second drive that ended the second quarter.

“I felt good today,” Slye said. “I was pushing the ball with my last two misses – the one at Ohio State and the one against ECU. The 52-yarder at Ohio State, I hit well. I just didn’t get my hip through and same thing with ECU.

“So I talked to Paul this week, and it was just trying to keep my head down and pop my hip through, and I was just hitting them today. It felt good.”

In the third quarter, Slye would line up for a 34-yard attempt, but Georgia Tech’s Chris Milton came off the edge and blocked the kick, which resulted in a touchback.

That right there is a rare site. Since Tech joined the ACC, only one field-goal attempt had been blocked – Jared Develli’s 34-yard attempt versus Northeastern in the fourth quarter of a 38-0 Hokie blowout on September 2, 2006. Tech kickers had attempted 201 kicks that spanned the two blocks – and hit 160 for a 79.6 made percentage.

“With kickers, you just look at the ball and you don’t really look what’s around you because, if you do, you’re just going to mess up,” Slye said about the block. “So I had my head down and the moment I pulled my head up to look the ball was fluttering away and I was like, ‘What the heck?’

“They were talking to me about it, and it looked like the guy came off the left side, so I think someone got doubled. But Georgia Tech, they’ll come with seven on one side and four on the other. We were watching film all week, and they come really hard at the kick.

“But also, I think I was a little slow with my kick. I felt like if I would have been a little faster on that, I would have made it.”

The blocked kick was a disappointing side to the loss, but nothing Slye will experience in his time at Tech will be worse than losing his older brother, A.J., to leukemia back in February.

Slye keeps two things in his locker to remember his brother – the eulogy he read at the funeral and a school assignment A.J. wrote about the parallels between he and Joey. On the field, after every kick, he holds up a “6” (A.J.’s high school number) as another way to show that he’s always with him.

“Yeah, he wore No. 6 back in high school. That was his,” Slye said. “He was a linebacker, and he was a feisty one, too, but we played together for one season when I was a sophomore.

“Originally, I got the No. 28, and I was sitting there thinking, two minus eight is six, so that’s in there. But then I got No. 46, and that just made me think, ‘Wow, that’s 4 – 6’, so kind of ‘for my brother.’”

More than an hour and a half passed from the time of Slye’s last kick until the waning moments of the game, but he was ready for his chance to add his name to the list of heartbreaking losses that Georgia Tech fans have felt, either in regulation or overtime.

“Yeah, I was ready to go, and I was actually really excited that we were going to march down, get close and set me up for a game winner,” he said. “It was Georgia Tech’s kicker who got to do it. But I was ready.”

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