Sunday, October 09, 2011
Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Feeling on Virginia Tech's Worsham Field was 'just pure excitement' [with photo gallery]
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BLACKSBURG - David Wilson ran up into the stands to hug his family. Danny Coale headed toward the Miami sidelines to find guys who weren't retreating to the locker room. He just wanted to shake their hands, to pay his respects.
Left tackle Andrew Lanier? He doesn't remember any specifics.
"Just pure excitement," he said. "I put my helmet on and just ran out onto the field, arms up in the air, just looking for any defensive player I could to just hug."
A walk-off win. Virginia Tech celebrated this 38-35 victory over Miami like a baseball team that had just blooped two runs home in the bottom of the ninth on a broken bat, and that's appropriate. This game had that kind of feel to it. Tense. Thrilling. Flawed.
Nobody thought it was over when Miami went ahead for the first time all game with 2:51 left. Nobody thought it was over when the Hokies rallied back and took the lead again with 56 seconds remaining.
And certainly nobody thought it was over when spectacular Miami back Lamar Miller was cutting to and fro near midfield, Wilson-style, as the clock hit triple zeros.
"I had a headache that last play, it was so loud in there," Coale said with a smile. "I still kind of have one. It was an emotional last minute. It seemed like he was never going to go down that last play, but our defense surrounded him."
And Alonzo Tweedy brought him down to a Lane Stadium crescendo.
"I knew the defense was going to come through," said Wilson, the Tech running back, who was relegated to spectator on the final drive. "But it's still a scary moment, especially when he started reversing field. I thought he was going to lateral to somebody. Our defense was looking kind of tired."
Tired, whipped, desperate - all of it. This was not their game. The Hurricanes decked Tech for 519 yards and five touchdowns.
No, this one belonged to the Tech offense. It belonged to quarterback Logan Thomas, who was brilliant, and this offensive line, which helped make that brilliance possible.
Former quarterback Tyrod Taylor was on the sidelines to watch it unfold. Somebody asked Coale if Thomas' effort - 23-for-25, 310 yards, three touchdowns, plus two rushing scores - felt like a "Tyrod performance."
"It was a Logan performance," Coale countered. "He played tremendously. He was just so comfortable throughout the whole thing. â€ I've been a part of some great games with Tyrod, but for Logan to get this one under his belt, [for it] to be 'his' win, it's pretty special to be a part of that, too."
The most special play on a day full of them was Thomas' 19-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 that held up as the game winner. The Hokies initially planned to run a short passing play, but during a timeout, they reconsidered.
"We loved it," Lanier said of the decision.
The linemen's confidence was on par with that of their quarterback. Criticized after a dismal three-point output in last week's loss to Clemson, they were sharp this time - and eager to open one last hole.
"That fourth and 1 play? That's fun," Lanier said. "That was awesome. I was sitting there blocking my guy, and I don't even know what's going on. I just hear the crowd erupt. It sends chills down my body. It was like, 'Hey, there goes Logan. He's gone.'"
Gone, too, was the prospect of an 0-2 start in the ACC, which would have all but eliminated the Hokies from Coastal Division contention. Gone was the idea that this QB and these grunts might never sync up.
"It's going to depend on us the rest of the year," Lanier said of the line. "The way we can keep the pocket clear and make sure he's comfortable and poised and ready to throw and not looking around for who's coming after him and scrambling. I think a lot of that rests on us. After we do our job, then it's his time."
Like earlier in the fourth quarter, when Thomas rolled left, set up in space and fired a 60-yard touchdown pass to Jarrett Boykin. His time.
There was plenty of room for improvement Saturday, no doubt, particularly on defense. But those talks start Monday.
Saturday was about hugs, noise, fists in the air - and the Hokies walking off a winner.