The Yellow Jackets entered hostile Lane Stadium as 14 point underdogs to a Virginia Tech team that was riding a 6 game winning streak and averaging 40 points during that stretch. While everyone was predicting doom and gloom for Paul Johnson and his Yellow Jackets heading into this game and a major beat down of last season’s ACC Champion, it was far from the one sided contest all were predicting. How ironic that Joshua Nesbitt shattered the ACC all time rushing record for a quarterback on a 71 yard touchdown dash in the 1st quarter, before injuring his forearm making a tackle on an interception thrown into the end zone shortly before halftime.
Unfortunately, being the warrior that Joshua is, it must be a very serious injury to have sent him to the locker room and caused him to miss the rest of the game. Without knowing the extent of his injury, it appears that we need to look at the rest of this season as an early preview of life without Joshua who will be graduating next spring. Before I write my analysis of this game, let me say that ever since Paul Johnson arrived on the Flats, this annual game with the Hokies has become a very intense rivalry between both schools. For all of the talk about the Bud Foster lunch bucket defense and extra time to prepare for and stop the triple option, we have shredded the Hokies on the ground in all 3 games under Coach Paul Johnson.
While nobody likes to lose, what I saw tonight in Blacksburg brought a sense of accomplishment in that the Yellow Jackets have finally begun to grow and mature as a football team under Paul Johnson. They lost their offensive leader and team captain who was also the returning ACC first team quarterback in the 2nd quarter and didn’t fall by the wayside and wallow in pity. In fact for the first time this season I saw a collective effort of toughness that had Virginia Tech on their heels in the 2nd half as they were unable to shake this team. Our defense played hardnosed football and give the players and Al Groh credit for forcing the game and making the Hokies earn this win by controlling Tyrod Taylor and their offense.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Tevin Washington stepped in under very challenging circumstances, and after getting his emotions and game legs under control displayed the athleticism and decision making ability that he is capable of as he operated the offense very efficiently and moved the football with both his feet and arm in the critical 4th quarter. Quite frankly the entire Virginia Tech sideline thought that this game was over after Joshua went to the locker room right before halftime.
Understand that Paul Johnson has been building a team for the past 2 1/2 years and is just starting to get some of the players that he has recruited onto the field. Joshua Nesbitt is the last of the players from the prior administration who showed his character and remained at Georgia Tech by opting to play in an offense that was not suited to his athletic skills, but was perfectly matched with his intangible toughness! He has set the tone for the Tevin Washington’s, David Sims’, and Sinjyn Days’ to follow in his path for years to come as the quarterbacks of this offense by his leadership and unparalleled competitiveness.
I saw that tonight in Tevin who was determined to win this football game after 67,000 fans and the entire Virginia Tech sideline had already chalked up a win before the 2nd half ever started. He was thrust into the spotlight and responded by showing not only his maturity, but more importantly that he can operate this offense efficiently by leading the Yellow Jackets on a critical touchdown drive to tie the game at 21, then darn near scored another one on a corner route to the end zone that was underthrown and intercepted. But he competed! As did the entire team!
The game started off very well with Embry Peeples returning the opening kickoff 40 yards, and Anthony Allen was running very hard up the middle the entire game. After we scored the 1st touchdown on Joshua’s 1 yard plunge, you could sense that this game was not going to be the blow out everyone was anticipating. The defense gave up a few 1st downs, but held the Hokies and forced them to punt. A few plays later, Joshua Nesbitt ran 71 yards for another touchdown and into the record books as the all time ACC rushing leader for a quarterback. The Lane stadium crowd was silent and trailed 14 to 0 at that juncture as Anthony Allen and Tyler Melton had tremendous blocks as Joshua ran his way to an ACC record.
The Hokies fought back with a very nice 10 play 70+ yard drive to cut the lead to 14 to 7 after a short touchdown run around the left end by their tailback. On the next series we were faced with a very makeable 4th down and 1 yard around our 45 yard line, but Austin Barrack moved and the 5 yard penalty forced us to punt the football. The Hokies moved the football however Rod Sweeting intercepted Tyrod Taylor in the end zone ending that scoring threat. We were unable to move the football as we had another motion penalty, but we forced a fumble on the punt and recovered around the Virginia Tech 45 yard line. Anthony Allen had a very nice 23 yard run up the middle and we were down in scoring position near the 15 yard line when Joshua threw an interception and injured his arm making a tackle.
While everyone will question the decision by Paul Johnson to go for a 4th down and 2 at our 45 yard line in the 3rd quarter with Tevin Washington at quarterback, they way our line was blocking this game it was a reasonable gamble. After all when you are on the road and have the heavily favored Hokies on their heels, you go for it and take the opportunity to control the clock and break their will. Like it or not this is how Paul Johnson coaches the game and I prefer this method of winning as opposed to the NFL strategy of sitting on and protecting a lead.
So for those who will second guess this decision to go for it, I have news for you; had Tevin thrown for that touchdown with 14 seconds left in the game I’m certain Paul Johnson would have gone for 2 points instead of playing for overtime. That is the type of coach that we have on the sidelines and I can live with those decisions because more times than not they have been successful. I was proud of the way this team played tonight and more importantly how they responded after Joshua went down with his injury.
What was also very noticeable at the end of the game was the collective sigh of relief exhaled by the Lane Stadium crowd and Bud Foster who really had no answer once again for the triple option offense. Give the Hokies credit for returning the kickoff for a touchdown in the 4th quarter as it was the winning play in the game. Now we have to get ready for the remainder of the schedule with Tevin Washington as quarterback as I sense that Joshua might be done for the season. Go Jackets!