Thomas scores winning TD as Hokies outlast Miami 38-35
NCAA Football: Miami at Virginia Tech (Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE, Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE / October 8, 2011)
The Hokies (5-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) rescued their chances of contending in the Coastal Division with the dramatic rally, and may have killed the hopes of Miami (2-3, 0-2).
They did it less than 2 minutes after Lamar Miller scored on a 30-yard burst for the Hurricanes, giving them a 35-31 lead and forcing Thomas and the Hokies to respond.
Thomas did, with a big assist from tailback David Wilson, driving the Hokies 77 yards in eight plays, and capping the drive with a fourth-down run on which he went virtually untouched for the score.
It erased a remarkable comeback by Miller, who ran for 166 yards on 18 carries, Jacory Harris and the Hurricanes, who trailed 21-7 early in the third quarter before getting hot.
And getting help.
On a third-and-4 from his own 23, Harris looked for Travis Benjamin deep and rover Eddie Whitley tried to break on the ball for an interception. He missed, and Benjamin went 77 yards for the score.
That made it 21-14, and defense seemingly took the rest of the game off.
The Hokies drove to the Miami 11 before Cody Journell kicked a 28-yard field goal.
Miami answered by going 89 yards in 12 plays. Harris hit Clive Walford for 25 yards on a flea flicker, and the only third-down conversion in the drive came on a 2-yard run by Mike James from the Hokies' 6. On the next play, Harris hit Tommy Streeter for the touchdown, beating All-American cornerback Jayron Hosley in one-on-one coverage the left corner of the end zone.
With the crowd suddenly very quiet, Thomas loosened them back up, finding Jarrett Boykin downfield on the first play after the kickoff went out of bounds for a 60-yard scoring play.
The play rebuilt the Hokies' lead to 31-21, but also put their defense back on the field.
Miller went 37 yards on the first play, but the Hokies appeared to have Miami facing a fourth-and-20 at their own 38 after J.R. Collins sacked Harris. Collins, however, was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play, a 15-yard penalty and automatic first down, and Miami had life again.
Miller went for 18 yards, and on a second-down play from the 16, Harris lateraled to Phillip Dorsett, who then hit a wide-open Miller on the far side of the field for the touchdown.
That made it 31-28, and Miami followed by holding Virginia Tech without a first down.
After Michael Branthover's punt was downed at the Hokies' 42, Miami drove to the 6, but then went backward thanks to a holding call and a personal foul against Seantrel Henderson.
Facing second-and-goal from the 30, however, Miller broke through the right side of the line and scored easily, giving the Hurricanes their first lead with just 2:51 remaining.
That put the heat back on Thomas, who was sharp all day, and on Wilson.
Wilson, who finished with 128 yards on 23 carries, had an 18-yard run on the drive, but the Hokies still faced fourth-and-1 from the 19 with 1:01 left when Thomas faked a handoff to Wilson, freezing the defense just enough, and then bolting through a hole to score easily.
It capped a great afternoon for Thomas, who was getting criticism after the Hokies managed only 258 yards last week and went without a touchdown at home for the first time since 1995 in a loss to Clemson.
Thomas finished 23 for 25 for 310 yards, and his only two incompletions were a short pass that Wilson dropped, and a pass that Thomas threw away after picking up a bungled snap.
Harris was good, too, going 13 for 21 for 267 yards with three TDs.
The Hurricanes looked sharp at the start. Harris hit Clive Walford for 24 yards on their second play of the game, and later hit Tommy Streeter for 26 yards as Miami drove to the Hokies' 14. But on fourth-and-1, the Hurricanes tried a fake field goal and Virginia Tech stuffed it.