5. Cody Journell’s field goal to win the 2012 U.Va. game
So there aren’t as many of these as you’d think. Virginia Tech beat the snot out of teams for such a long period of time that game-winners — at least the winning kind — were few and far between.
That changed when the Hokies came back to earth for a while, and 2012 was a year full of them. It started that year when Journell hit a field goal to beat Georgia Tech in overtime after an interception by Kyle Fuller. It ended when Journell hit a field goal to end one of the worst games in recent memory, the Hokies’ 13-10 “win” against Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
In between there was one more, and it gets the No. 5 spot because of who it came against. The Hokies’ winning streak against U.Va. was in peril for the first time in a while, with the game tied down the stretch. Then Antone Exum made a big interception in U.Va. territory, Mike London had a brain freeze with clock management and Journell booted an easy 29-yard field goal for a 17-14 win.
Was this the most dramatic win? No. But Tech fans will fondly remember any win against Virginia.
4. Last season’s goal line stand against Pittsburgh
This was as dramatic a win as the Hokies have had lately, going from sure victory to sure defeat to pure joy in a matter of minutes. Things looked bleak when Jester Weah broke free for a 74-yard catch in the final minute, although Reggie Floyd gave Virginia Tech hope by running him down at the 1-yard line.
What happened next was as pure a goal line stand as you’ll ever get. Tech stonewalled Pitt four straight times, the last a total team effort. Trevon Hill busted the play, forcing Darrin Hall to run left. By going that way, he ran straight into three or four Hokies defenders, who put him on the ground, shortly before the entire Hokies sideline rushed the field in celebration.
Tech technically won in last-gasp fashion against West Virginia in the opener, with a pass falling incomplete in the end zone as time expired, but there were two flags on that play, taking something away from the moment. This one was pure drama.
3. Antonio Banks’ pick-6 against Virginia in 1995
The end of this game was wild even before the final play, with Jim Druckenmiller hitting Jermaine Holmes for a 32-yard touchdown with 47 seconds left to put the Hokies up 30-29.
Virginia had one last-gasp drive, getting down to the Virginia Tech 40 with 6 seconds left. Quarterback Mike Groh tried a quick pass to the sideline to set up a field goal attempt, but Banks jumped the route, picked off the pass and was off to the races, sidestepping a tripping attempt by the U.Va. trainer, on his way to the end zone for a 65-yard touchdown as time expired.
An unconventional game-winner? Sure. But a game-winner nonetheless, even if the touchdown didn’t matter in the final score.
2. Chris Kinzer’s game-winning kick in the 1986 Peach Bowl
This was as far back as I got in the Hokies’ history, and it’d be hard to find a much bigger winner in a big game before that.
Tech was 0-5 in bowl games in its history and coach Bill Dooley’s Virginia Tech tenure was about to come to a tumultuous end. But this was a heck of a way to go out.
The Hokies gave up the lead midway through the fourth quarter, but had one final chance. They put together a drive with less than two minutes left on the clock, getting into field goal range on a fourth-down pass from Erik Chapman to Steve Johnson. A pass-interference penalty set up Kinzer for a 40-yard field goal, which he drilled as time expired for one of the most memorable wins in Virginia Tech history to that point.
1. Shayne Graham’s winner at West Virginia in 1999
As if anything else was going to be No. 1.
This moment had it all. A hated rival. The stakes of keeping a national championship season alive. A near catastrophic meltdown. Michael Vick being his best Michael Vick. And Graham with nerves of steel, making the field goal of his life, drilling a 44-yarder as the clock expired to send the Hokies sideline into delirium.
They don’t make documentaries about run-of-the-mill last-second wins. This one was special. Tech will be hard-pressed to ever top it.