Hokies Are KO'd in the First
Sunday, October 1, 2006
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 30 -- Down the sideline sprinted Calvin Johnson, leaving in his wake a gaggle of Virginia Tech defenders and any notion that the Hokies are or will become an elite team this season. Before the first quarter had even halfway expired on Saturday, the Georgia Tech wide receiver had almost single-handedly shredded Virginia Tech's aspirations for a national championship.
Xavier Adibi buried his head in the turf at the 10-yard line as Johnson circled the end zone and spun the ball with his right hand, a hush falling over the Lane Stadium crowd. Johnson had just scored his second touchdown in a whirlwind first quarter, a nightmarish 15 minutes for No. 11 Virginia Tech that saw No. 24 Georgia Tech score 21 on its way to a 38-27 upset victory.
In one afternoon and one nationally televised disaster on its home field, the Hokies (4-1, 2-1) lost control of the ACC's Coastal Division to Georgia Tech (4-1, 2-0) and also showed themselves not ready for the national spotlight. After pummeling four overmatched opponents, Virginia Tech had by default been the favorite to win the ACC, but Saturday fell on its face in its first true test.
A defense that had surrendered 26 points all season yielded 24 before halftime. A running game averaging 118 yards gained only 42. And a team thought to be a challenger proved to be a pretender.
"I don't think the things we did tonight would have beaten a bad football team," Coach Frank Beamer said. "And that's not a bad football team. I feel like we helped them, and they didn't need our help. We got to grow up a little bit."
The backbreaker came on the first series of the second half, when Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon dropped back on third and 12. Outside linebacker Phillip Wheeler charged from the left, Glennon's blind side, around the line. Running back Branden Ore completely whiffed in his attempt to block Wheeler, giving him a free run at Glennon.
"It was a miscommunication between me and my line," Ore said. "Stuff like that happens. It was a failure to communicate between me and my line. I was responsible for two guys; I picked up one when I probably should have picked the other one up."
Glennon, looking to pass right, never saw Wheeler coming. Wheeler drilled Glennon's back just as he cocked his arm to throw, and the ball squirted loose. Linebacker Gary Guyton scooped up the ball and tore down the sideline, silencing the crowd and putting Georgia Tech up 31-13 with 13 minutes 29 seconds left in the third quarter.
While that score effectively finished Virginia Tech's chances, the Yellow Jackets used a stunning first quarter to decide the game, an unrelenting wave that began with the very first play, a 59-yard completion on a post pattern to wide out James Johnson from quarterback Reggie Ball.
But Georgia Tech's other Johnson, perhaps the best player in the country, a player who could push to become the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Desmond Howard, tormented the Hokies most. The Hokies planned on covering Calvin Johnson mainly with Victor Harris, not trying anything too extraordinary in fear the Yellow Jackets' other offensive options would take advantage.
Well, Johnson took advantage. He finished the first half with 100 yards, 5 receptions and 2 touchdowns. On the Yellow Jackets' fifth play of the game, Ball lofted a fade pass to Johnson from the 3-yard line. Harris covered Johnson by himself, and the 6-foot-5, 235-pound receiver brushed aside Harris, a 6-foot, 200-pound cornerback, and hauled in the game's first score.
"That's Calvin Johnson," Harris said. "I was in great position. There was nothing I could really do. Reggie Ball threw a great ball. He went up and got it."