- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 20, 2009

BLACKSBURG, Va. | Call it the maroon miracle.

After being dominated defensively all afternoon by Nebraska’s daunting line, Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor and the Hokies stunned the Cornhuskers with a desperation heave and a last-minute touchdown toss to steal a 16-15 victory in front of a euphoric crowd at Lane Stadium.

When Virginia Tech took possession of the ball for one of college football’s most memorable last-gasp strikes since LSU’s Hail Mary prayer was answered against Kentucky in 2002, the 13th-ranked Hokies (2-1) had given the 66,233 in attendance little or no reason for hope.

No. 19 Nebraska (2-1) had totally snuffed Taylor and the Virginia Tech offense all day behind preseason All-American defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and a relentless push from its front four. The 6-foot-4, 304-pound Suh (eight tackles) had already set a Nebraska program record by batting down four of Taylor’s passes, as the Cornhuskers defense had held the Hokies to a paltry 53 yards of second-half offense.

But Nebraska had only been able to parlay 58 minutes of control into five field goals from junior kicker Alex Henery, the last of which gave the Cornhuskers a 15-10 lead with just 4:33 remaining.

Virginia Tech had proceeded to turn it over on downs on the following possession, leaving Taylor and Co. just 1:44 to go 89 yards when Henery drilled a punt out of bounds with some fans already heading to the exits.

But after a near-flawless performance on defense, coach Bo Pelini’s group made the ultimate late-game miscue, allowing a receiver to run free behind coverage.

On a second-and-6 play from his own 15, Taylor retreated into a collapsing pocket, located sophomore flanker Danny Coale streaking unchecked down the sideline and fired a perfect strike in the face of the typically heavy rush. Coale collected the ball in stride and nearly outraced Nebraska free safety Matt O’Hanlon to the end zone before the latter made a diving tackle at his own 5-yard line.

O’Hanlon, who likely busted the coverage, attempted to make amends on the next play, sacking Taylor for a 5-yard loss with just 33 seconds remaining.

After an incompletion on second down, Taylor rolled first left and then right on the game’s deciding play, buying valuable seconds against a tired defense with his legs as he waited for a receiver to break free. That receiver was sophomore Dyrell Roberts, who only one series before had simply dropped a pass that would have moved the chains on fourth down.

This time there would be no costly bobble, as Roberts separated momentarily from a Nebraska defender in the back of the end zone, and Taylor delivered a perfect throw to his lunging receiver to send Lane Stadium into full meltdown mode. With Virginia Tech leading 16-15 with only 21 ticks left, none of the delirious fans cared when Taylor’s two-point-conversion toss sailed incomplete.

The first half was a field goal fest dominated by both red-zone defenses. The Hokies struck first after Roberts returned the opening kickoff 76 yards to set up a short field and a drive that ended in a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Ryan Williams, who carried 15 times for 94 yards before intermission.

The teams then traded field goals for the rest of the half, Henery connecting from 40, 27, 19 and 38 yards to give the Cornhuskers a 12-10 advantage at the half that held until the dramatic closing exchange.

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