Hokies beat Cavaliers for ninth straight time
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Kicker Cody Journell psyched himself out the first chance he had to give Virginia Tech a late lead against Virginia, saying he was trying too hard to factor the swirling wind into his approach when he sailed a 41-yard field goal try wide to the left.
When the Hokies gave the junior another chance, he gave them the victory they desperately wanted.
Journell kicked a 29-yarder with four seconds to play, and the Hokies beat their in-state rival 17-14 on Saturday, a victory that qualifies them for a bowl game for the 20th consecutive season and was their ninth straight against the Cavaliers.
"On the second one, I just tried to push it through the wind," Journell said.
Cornerback Antone Exum set up the winning drive when he intercepted Michael Rocco at the Virginia 36 with 3:21 remaining. Exum brought it back to the 24, and Virginia (4-8, 2-6) inexplicably held on to two timeouts as the Hokies ran the clock down and positioned the ball. The Cavaliers used both timeouts to try to freeze Journell but to no avail.
"I felt that we were playing well defensively, and you just have to make a decision of how to save timeouts with seconds left on the clock or hope your defense gets a crack and causes a turnover or knocks them back a little bit," Virginia coach Mike London said of not using his timeouts. "He made it. Didn't make the first one, but he made the latter one."
Logan Thomas ran for one touchdown and threw for another for the Hokies (6-6, 4-4 ACC), who also have won 13 of the last 14 in taking command of a once-close rivalry. Thomas carried the ball 29 times for 89 yards, and at times he seemed to be using all of his 6-foot-6, 260-pound body to be as punishing as he could be to would-be tacklers.
"I always try to run the ball that way. We weren't moving the ball the way we wanted, and we're frustrated," he said. "I think they started getting worn down. They were in a fight, and we just kept bringing it to them all game long."
Virginia led 14-7 after its first defensive touchdown of the season on a 16-yard fumble return by Brent Urban early in the third quarter but then came up short on a fake field goal try later in the period that could have given them a 17-7 advantage. On the fourth-and-8 play, holder Jacob Hodges caught the snap and ran through the line but was stopped 2 yards short.
It proved to be their last real scoring opportunity.
Thomas and the Hokies took over at their 15, and Thomas shook off a miserable day to that point with a brilliant drive. He completed four of five passes, converted a third-and-5 with an 8-yard run, a fourth-and-1 with a 2-yard run and a third-and-4 with a 6-yard pass to Dyrell Roberts. He then powered it in himself from the 4 for the tie.
"I didn't have a problem with putting it on my shoulders," Thomas said.
He finished just 18-for-38 for 129 yards, but he also drove Virginia Tech to the Virginia 24 in the fourth quarter, where Journell missed from 41 yards, handing the ball back to the Cavaliers. Three plays later, Exum was in one-on-one coverage with Tim Smith and undercut Rocco's pass, leaving Smith looking for a holding or pass interference call that never came.
"It was close coverage. I'm not sure if it was pass interference," Rocco said. "I didn't throw it out far enough."
Exum's version? "The quarterback threw it right to me," he said.
Rocco finished 14-for-29 for 177 yards and was sacked twice. Virginia managed just 30 rushing yards.