Blacksburg, Va. — These short takes are presented as a companion to the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech game column, which can be found here. Georgia Tech won 27-24, in case you haven’t heard.
1. The bigger the moment, the better Justin Thomas is. Eight days after engineering the drive that rescued the Jackets against Georgia Southern, Thomas presided over a tying surge and then a winning one in the final 5:21 in a stadium where Georgia Tech hadn’t won since 2006. Until those final two possessions, the Jackets’ quarterback had completed 3 of 11 passes. He completed 4 of 7 thereafter. All the completions were to DeAndre Smelter, including the 19-yard gain on fourth-and-15; the 31-yard tying touchdown and the 19-yard completion that positioned Harrison Butker to kick the winning field goal. Of fourth-and-15, Thomas said: “We had to complete it. If we don’t complete it, the game’s probably over.”
2. Georgia Tech’s defense nearly outscored Virginia Tech’s offense in the second half. The Hokies scored 16 first-half points and converted on third down seven times in nine tries. They would be foiled on third down four of five times in the second half. Quarterback Michael Brewer threw three interceptions, two in the second half, and the Jackets banked 17 points off them. Linebacker Paul Davis scored after grabbing a terrible Brewer throw, and cornerback D.J. White intercepted another poor pass to set up Butker’s game-winner. The Hokies’ only touchdown over the final 34 1/2 minutes came on Brewer’s recovery of Marshawn Williams’ fumble.
3. Virginia Tech has the look of a fast-fading program. The stuff that used to carry the Hokies — the “Beamer Ball” method of special-teams excellence — now works against them. The only blocked kick in this game was Chris Milton’s snuff of a first-half Virginia Tech field goal, and the Hokies’ offense remains a halting entity under coordinator Scott Loeffler, who was the OC at Auburn in 2012, when the Tigers went 0-8 in the SEC. Virginia Tech managed 424 yards Saturday, but only 127 of those came on the ground against Georgia Tech, which entered ranked last in the league in rushing defense. And the Hokies were called for 12 penalties, five of them illegal substitutions.