- - Monday, September 3, 2012

BLACKSBURG, Va. — For starters, what a finish.

Back from suspension, and coming off a 38-yard miss earlier in the fourth quarter, junior Cody Journell hit a 41-yard field goal on the final play of regulation and an 17-yarder in overtime to give Virginia Tech a thrilling 20-17 win over Georgia Tech in a key Atlantic Coast Conference football game, the season opener for both squads.

“He kicked a big one against Blacksburg High School way back in the day and he kicked a big one there tonight,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “He’s a good kicker.”

Journell’s game-winner was set up by a huge mistake by Georgia Tech senior quarterback Tevin Washington on the Yellow Jackets’ overtime possession. Pressured by Hokies senior linebacker Bruce Taylor, Washington flung a pass near the sideline that junior cornerback Kyle Fuller intercepted.

“We kind of gift-wrapped it for them in overtime,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said.

That meant the Hokies needed only a field goal to win the matchup that has decided the ACC’s Coastal Division for the past seven years.

“That was a tough game to lose,” Johnson said. “It would have been tough for either team to have lost.”

Virginia Tech had to stage a dramatic rally just to get to overtime.

With the Hokies trailing 17-14, junior quarterback Logan Thomas connected with senior Corey Fuller for a 22-yard completion, with Fuller dragging tacklers to the 24-yard line to set up Journell’s game-tying kick.

Thomas played a tremendous fourth quarter, finishing 21 for 38 for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Fuller had five catches for 82 yards and redshirt freshman tailback Michael Holmes rushed for 54 yards on 13 carries.

“I knew I had it in me,” Fuller said. “I just had to step up and make plays.”

Journell’s game-tying kick came after Georgia Tech’s own surge.

Washington connected on two big completions in the final minutes to put the Yellow Jackets up 17-14, stunning a packed house of orange-clad fans at Lane Stadium.

Facing fourth-and-6 at the Virginia Tech 47-yard line with 3:03 left and the Hokies leading 14-10, the Yellow Jackets came out in punt formation before Johnson called a timeout.

After the timeout, Georgia Tech went for the first down and picked it up when Washington avoided the rush of J.R. Collins and found B.J. Bostic, who made a catch near the sideline for a first down.

Then on second-and-goal, Washington stood in and took a huge hit from James Gayle and found sophomore back Deon Hill for a 10-yard touchdown to put the Yellow Jackets up 17-14 with 44 seconds left.

Virginia Tech had gone up 14-10 when Thomas found redshirt freshman wide receiver Demitri Knowles in the corner of the end zone for a 42-yard touchdown with 7:46 left. That score was set up when Corey Fuller dived on fumble by fellow wide receiver Marcus Davis at the Georgia Tech 42-yard line. On the next play, Thomas found Knowles, helping Virginia Tech overcome a pair of special teams miscues that could have cost it a crucial game.

Freshman punter A.J. Hughes dropped a snap late in the first quarter that set up the Yellow Jackets’ first touchdown and Journell, playing for the first time since being suspended for an arrest before last season’s Sugar Bowl, pushed a 38-yard field goal wide left in the fourth quarter.

Cody made a bad mistake and paid a price,” Beamer said. “When you mess up, that’s what’s going to happen. I think he knows this is his family and we’re all pulling for him.”

After missing his earlier attempt, Journell said he had to refocus before the final two kicks.

“I was really just trying to clear my head of everything,” said Journell, who declined to discuss the arrest and eventual misdemeanor conviction that led to his suspension. “When I missed the first one, I had the support of all my teammates, and my coaches let me know I was going to have another kick.”

Two actually. And they made the Hokies winners Monday night.

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