The place kicker, who was suspended from the team and missed last season’s Sugar Bowl following an arrest for breaking and entering in December and later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor trespassing, hit a 41-yard field goal at the end of regulation and then nailed a 17-yard kick to clinch the first overtime game in Lane Stadium history.
Though it was the first game for both teams this season, both understood beforehand the impact it could have on the ACC standings. The winner of the Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech matchup has gone on to win the ACC’s Coastal division every year since 2005.
Their latest encounter put Journell — who had been reinstated to the team in July — squarely in the spotlight, and not just because of his off-field troubles. Before his clutch kicks, Journell had missed a 38-yard field goal earlier in the fourth quarter with the Hokies trailing, 10-7. In his first public comments since being arrested, Journell told reporters in a postgame news conference he had never before kicked a game-winning or game-tying field goal during his career.
“Any time you get a chance to tie a game up with [six] seconds left and you kick a field goal in overtime, it’s always special,” said Journell, who declined to discuss anything related to the December incident. “My teammates and all my coaches let me know: ‘Hey I’m probably gonna have another kick. We need you out there. If it comes down to it, we need your head in the game.’ I let everything go and did what I needed to do.”
The Yellow Jackets led 10-7 following a 34-yard field goal from place kicker David Scully early in the fourth quarter, but the Hokies’ offense finally answered the bell after an anemic showing in the third quarter.
Quarterback Logan Thomas found wide receiver Demitri Knowles streaking past Yellow Jackets cornerback Rod Sweeting for a 42-yard touchdown with 7 minutes 46 seconds remaining, and it seemed the Hokies were on their way to a come-from-behind victory. Knowles and senior Corey Fuller (career high five catches for 82 yards) both received extensive playing time because of injuries to starting wide receivers D.J. Coles and Marcus Davis.
But the Yellow Jackets wouldn’t wilt. Georgia Tech running back Deon Hill responded with a 10-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter, a play that capped a 13-play, 72-yard drive and left the Hokies trailing, 17-14, with 44 seconds remaining in regulation.
After the game, linebacker Jack Tyler (career high 17 tackles) admitted fatigue played a role in Georgia Tech’s success. The Yellow Jackets had the ball for more than 22 minutes in the second half, and converted a fourth-and-six to extend their final drive in regulation. It marred what was, for the most, a strong effort by Virginia Tech’s defense.