BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech turned into Tyrod Taylor's team on Saturday, and the sophomore quarterback did nothing to raise any doubt that he's ready for the job.
Taylor led the Hokies' youth movement by running for 74 yards and a touchdown and leading a late scoring drive to a winning field goal as Virginia Tech beat Georgia Tech 20-17.
The touchdown highlighted Taylor's abilities, coming 10 seconds before halftime on a designed pass to the tight end that he instead ran in from 2 yards out on a draw play.
"We were too close to the goal line for me to throw it away," Taylor said of the run, on which he ignored instructions to throw the ball away if necessary. Virginia Tech had no timeouts remaining and would have been pleased to settle for a chip shot field goal.
The play also showed why Taylor has emerged, at least for now, as the only quarterback for a young Hokies team with an offensive line that continues to struggle. Last week, Taylor and Sean Glennon shared the position, but Glennon never left the bench on Saturday.
"I think for right now, this is where we are," coach Frank Beamer said of Taylor's ascension to the position only two weeks after the plan was to redshirt him this season.
"I think this is the best way for our football team to operate," Beamer said. He said Glennon will get back in the mix as the line and the youthful receiving corps improves.
The Hokies (2-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) did plenty to give their fans reason for optimism after a shaky start to the season, one that had even the docile Beamer agitated.
Darren Evans ran for 94 yards and a touchdown, and broke off a 26-yard run on the go-ahead drive, and the defense forced three turnovers and then held on in a harrowing finish.
The Yellow Jackets (2-1, 1-1) had a chance to win it or tie, but Josh Nesbitt overthrew Roddy Jones behind the Hokies' defense on a 3rd-and-7, then was sacked by Purnell Sturdivant on fourth down with 2:15 to play, one of the few times Nesbitt didn't get away all day.
"It was real nice. In my head, I was just thinking 'big play,"' Sturdivant said.
The sack was the Hokies' only one on a day when Nesbitt ran 28 times for 151 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-18, and often left defenders grasping at air.
Georgia Tech got the ball back one more time at its own 5 with 25 seconds left, and two long completions by Nesbitt moved them to the Hokies' 46, but they ran out of time.
New Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson was still seething afterward over the Hokies' 76-yard drive to Dustin Keys' winning 21-yard field goal. Safety Cooper Taylor was called for a 15-yard penalty for helmet-to-helmet contact on the drive, and a 15-yard facemask penalty against defensive end Michael Johnson two plays later also kept the
"That last drive was one for the books," Johnson said. "We pushed the quarterback out of bounds and get a helmet-to-helmet penalty. Wow."
Just before the drive, the Yellow Jackets had driven 81 yards in nine plays, mostly on the legs of Nesbitt. After his scoring run, Georgia Tech needed a 2-point conversion. A false start moved the ball back to the 8, but he dropped back, rolled to his right to freeze the defense and fired a pass to Lucas Cox under the goal post that tied it at 17 with 9:28 left.
"I thought we were going to win," offensive tackle Andrew Gardner said, "up until we lost."
The Yellow Jackets gained 387 yards, with 278 coming on the ground, but their turnovers hurt, setting up Taylor's touchdown run late in the first half and the drive that ended with Keys' first field goal, from 25 yards. Cody Grimm's interception started the latter.
Nesbitt attempted just eight passes, completing five for 109 yards. He found Jones all alone down the middle for a 41-yard scoring pass that gave the Yellow Jackets a 9-7 lead.