ATLANTA (AP) — With yet another win on the road, Virginia Tech finds itself in a familiar position: closing in on another trip to the Atlantic Coast Championship game.
Logan Thomas accounted for five touchdowns and frustrated Georgia Tech so much that a defender finally threw a punch. With David Wilson tacking on a career-best 175 yards rushing, the No. 10 Hokies dominated down the stretch Thursday night for a 37-26 over the 20th-ranked Yellow Jackets.
Virginia Tech (9-1, 5-1 ACC) extended its ACC-record road winning streak to 12 in a row — currently the longest such streak in the nation. The latest triumph away from Blacksburg eliminated Georgia Tech from the Coastal Division race and gave the Hokies a clear path to the Dec. 3 title game for the fifth time in seven years.
"We like going to a hostile environment and being able to play in front of crowds who love their football team," Thomas said. "It pumps us up as well."
The 6-foot-6, 254-pound sophomore was sure pumped up. And Georgia Tech had all kinds of trouble bringing him down, not surprising since he was bigger than most of the guys trying to tackle him.
"He's a load," said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, whose team can wrap up the Coastal Division title by winning its next two games.
Thomas threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more scores. Wilson had his seventh straight 100-yard game, already the longest streak of Beamer's quarter-century as coach. The Hokies actually outgained Georgia Tech on the ground, a rarity against the triple-option.
"We just came in the whole week saying we were going to run the ball regardless," Wilson said. "Being a running back, that's what I want to hear."
The teams went back and forth through the second and third quarters, scoring on eight of nine possessions in one stretch. But Virginia Tech took advantage of a huge personal foul on Jeremiah Attaochu and a fourth-down gamble by Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson that didn't pay off.
The Yellow Jackets (7-3, 4-3) were eager to get a shot at another ACC title after having their '09 crown stripped away by the NCAA this past summer for rules violations. That hope is gone.
"We worked all season to work our way back in the ACC," quarterback Tevin Washington said. "It's just a letdown. But there's nothing we can do now but go out and try to win the next two and try to put ourselves in position to just have a decent record."
Washington ran for three touchdowns, but the Hokies took the lead for good on Thomas' 12-yard run in the final minute of the third quarter. The play was typical for the big QB, who simply lowered his head and bulled his way to the end zone. The Yellow Jackets just couldn't bring him down.
"We've faced some good ones," said Georgia Tech linebacker Julian Burnett, who gave away 8 inches and 32 pounds to the opposing quarterback. "Probably not as big and strong as that guy."
Thomas' powerful run was set up by Attaochu's silly blunder, which extended a possession that seemed to be over deep in Virginia Tech territory. On third-and-19 from his own 17, Thomas was flushed out of the pocket and corralled by several Georgia Tech defenders. But he wouldn't go down and, apparently out of frustration, Attaochu threw a punch into the side of the quarterback's helmet.
"I just had an overdose of adrenaline," said Attaochu, insisting he was actually trying to cause a fumble though he didn't come close to the ball. "When I made contact with him, I was mad he wouldn't go down."
Instead of a knockout, he drew a personal foul that gave Virginia Tech a first down — and very well could lead to a suspension for Attaochu after the ACC reviews the play. More important on this night, Wilson got loose for a 44-yard run and Thomas scored on a third-and-1 play that was designed to merely pick up the first down. He took it all the way to the end zone, giving the Hokies a 27-26 lead after a two-point pass was incomplete.
Then, it was Johnson who left himself open to second-guessing when he decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 31 early in the fourth. Washington tried to get it on a keeper, but he was stopped about a foot short.
"I felt like we needed to score," Johnson said. "I thought we could make a yard and we didn't."
For there, Virginia Tech moved in for the kill. The Hokies converted their own fourth-and-1, but that was an easier to call with make with Thomas to carry it. He bulled his way for a 5-yard gain, then hooked up with Chris Drager for his first career touchdown, a 14-yard pass on third down that made it 34-26.
Cody Journell sealed the victory, knocking through a 23-yard field goal with 3:02 remaining.
"When you get to November, you want to be playing for something," Beamer said. "You want to be playing for championships. And these guys have put us in that position."
After a wild final minute to the second quarter, in which the teams combined for three scores that left Virginia Tech with a 21-13 lead, the Yellow Jackets took the second-half kickoff and drove it right down the field.
Washington broke off a 35-yard run and also benefited from a personal foul penalty on Jack Tyler, who whacked Embry Peeples as he was running out of bounds, sending him flying toward the Yellow Jackets bench while yellow flags flew in from all directions. Washington finished it off with a 1-yard touchdown run, but he was stuffed on a 2-point conversion to leave Georgia Tech trailing 21-19.
No one, it seemed, could stop anyone at that point, but Virginia Tech stopped itself. With the Hokies driving for another score, Wilson had the ball stripped away by Burnett and Isaiah Johnson recovered at the 16 for the Yellow Jackets.
Back came Georgia Tech, reclaiming the lead with lightning-quick 84-yard drive that took only seven plays. Peeples went down the sideline for a 39-yard run and Washington nearly took it in with a 29-yard gain, before finishing it off with his third TD of the night on a 1-yard dive.
The winner of this game has gone on to take every Coastal Division title, and Virginia Tech is well-positioned to keep that streak alive. Rival Virginia, with two ACC losses, is the only team that still has a chance to catch the Hokies.
"We're in the driver's seat," said Danny Coale, who had a 63-yard touchdown catch in that back-and-forth ending to the first half. "We control our own destiny."