As Tyrod Taylor dropped back in the waning moments of the second quarter Saturday, he was faced with the kind of decision a quarterback with many more than six collegiate starts is expected to make without even thinking.
If Taylor scored on a 2-yard run at end of the first half, all would be right in Hokie Nation. If he didn't score, and time expired because the Hokies had no timeouts remaining, it would've been the stuff that inspired more "Jason from Arlington" phone calls.
There it was — the moment Taylor took over Virginia Tech's offense, leading the Hokies to a 20-17 win against Georgia Tech, which self-destructed with turnovers and costly defensive penalties.
Taylor, a sophomore, made his first start since last Oct. 13 against Duke. Senior Sean Glennon didn't play Saturday.
"I think right now this is where we are and this is the best way for our football team to operate," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said.
"I feel for (Glennon). I really feel for him, but Tyrod just fits where we are as a football team right now."
Taylor's decision to run in for a touchdown instead of throwing the ball out of the back of the end zone helped propel Virginia Tech (2-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference). The offense is still anemic — only 247 yards Saturday, including 199 rushing — but a leader may be emerging.
Taylor, a Hampton High graduate, finished just 9-of-14 passing for 48 yards, the lowest total for a Virginia Tech team since it threw for 44 yards in 2003 in a win at Miami. But he also added 15 carries for 74 yards, including the key touchdown.
Georgia Tech led 9-7 with 1:10 left in the second quarter when Virginia Tech defensive tackle Demetrius Taylor recovered a fumble by quarterback Josh Nesbitt at the Yellow Jackets' 42-yard line.
After a 22-yard gain by Taylor and four runs by Dustin Pickle got Virginia Tech to the 2 with 14 seconds left, Beamer wanted Taylor, instead of running, to throw the ball away if there were no open receivers.
"That's what they told me, but we were too close to the goal line for me to throw it away," Taylor said. "I thought I could get the touchdown."
He did, and Virginia Tech took a 14-9 lead into halftime.
Georgia Tech's triple-option attack gave Virginia Tech's defense, which was led by linebacker Brett Warren's 15 tackles, trouble all afternoon. Nesbitt picked up 151 of the Jackets' 278 rushing yards.
"It's just so hard to run it in practice the way that they run it," Beamer said.
Nesbitt also had a few huge mistakes. He lost two fumbles in the first half and had a pass intercepted by linebacker Cody Grimm in the third quarter.
Georgia Tech (2-1, 1-1) clawed its way back to a 17-17 tie with 9:28 left. As Nesbitt did most of the game, he sidestepped would-be tacklers for an 18-yard touchdown run. A two-point pass tied the score.
On the ensuing drive, Virginia Tech was aided on third-and-7 from its 23 by a 15-yard personal foul when free safety Cooper Taylor hit Tyrod Taylor with a helmet-to-helmet blow.
"They didn't even take the guy to the ground," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "It is a tough call."
Darren Evans, who led Virginia Tech with 19 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown, ripped off a 24-yard run to get the Hokies to the Jackets' 36. The next play almost spelled disaster for Virginia Tech when Victor Harris fumbled on a double reverse and Tyrod Taylor recovered near Georgia Tech's 48.
Yet, instead of Virginia Tech taking a 12-yard loss, Georgia Tech's Michael Johnson was called for a 15-yard face-mask penalty on Taylor. Dustin Keys hit a 21-yard field goal to put the Hokies ahead 20-17 with 4:37 left.
Virginia Tech avoided disaster on Georgia Tech's next drive when Nesbitt barely overthrew running back Roddy Jones on third-and-7 from the Yellow Jackets' 34 with 2:24 left. Jones had a clear path to the end zone after getting about five yards behind free safety Kam Chancellor inside the Hokies' 30. Sturdivant finished off Georgia Tech's last realistic hope by sacking Nesbitt on fourth-and-7.
"That would've been a very big play, probably something like Boston College last year," linebacker Purnell Sturdivant said, referring to Nesbitt's pass intended for Jones and Virginia Tech's 14-10 heartbreaking loss to BC last season.
VIRGINIA TECH 20, GEORGIA TECH 17
Georgia Tech 3608—17
Virginia Tech 01406—20
GT—FG Blair 32, 4:35.
VT—Evans 8 run (Keys kick), 13:01. GT—Jones 41 pass from Nesbitt (kick blocked), 3:44. VT—T.Taylor 2 run (Keys kick), :10.
VT—FG Keys 25, 13:58. GT—Nesbitt 18 run (Cox pass from Nesbitt), 9:28. VT—FG Keys 21, 4:37. A—66,233.