Last-minute Taylor TD pass gives Virginia Tech edge over Nebraska

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- With pressure coming and Virginia Tech desperate, Tyrod Taylor's eyes worked quickly from the left side of the field to the right, just fast enough.

The Hokies quarterback found Danny Coale running all alone down the left sideline and hit him for an 80-yard completion, setting up Taylor's 11-yard touchdown pass to Dyrell Roberts three plays later and rescuing the 13th-ranked Hokies against No. 19 Nebraska for a 16-15 win Saturday.

"Once I saw that he was open, I just had to let it go," said Taylor, who was hit just after he released the ball.

Coale hauled it in cleanly, but was forced out of bounds at the 3 with 1:11 left.

"That's kind of what you play for, moments like that," he said.

But Taylor wasn't finished. Not by a long shot.

After being sacked on the first play from the 3 for an 8-yard loss and then rushed into throwing the ball away, Taylor scrambled around for what the school said was nine seconds before rifling the ball to Roberts on the right side of the end zone with 21 seconds left.

"I redeemed myself," said Roberts, who had dropped a third-down pass earlier.

"Every kid that plays football dreams of a game like this," he added.

Especially when you come out on top.

"That's the game," cornerback Rashad Carmichael said. "Sometimes you've got to pull something out of some body part."

Carmichael was on the bench listening to defensive coordinator Bud Foster talk about how the Hokies were going to score when he saw the ball floating toward Coale only feet away.

"Great ball. Great catch," he said.

And a great win for the Hokies (2-1), who had struggled all day against the Nebraska defense, managing just 195 yards in the first three quarters and only one real scoring drive.

Their touchdown came on the game's opening series, a 24-yard drive set up by Roberts' 76-yard return of the opening kickoff, and their second-quarter field goal came after a 58-yard drive on which Ryan Williams accounted for almost all of it with runs of 46 and six yards.

In the third quarter, they gained one yard while the Cornhuskers, behind the running of Roy Helu Jr. and quarterback Zac Lee's heady play, controlled the ball -- and the outcome.

After the fourth, they were left thinking about missed opportunities, like the five drives that stalled in Hokies territory, all leading to field goals by Alex Henery, and one drive that should have, but didn't.

Leading 12-10, Nebraska had a first-and-goal at the 6 after Lee ran for 17 yards on third-and-3. Two holding calls, two false starts and an incomplete pass later, Nebraska faced second-and-goal from the 36 and later wound up punting it away -- into the end zone.

"We didn't have penalties the entire game until that series," wide receiver Niles Paul said. "It came at a point where we really needed the points. That hurt us."

Coach Bo Pelini thought it could have been the turning point.

"If we scored there, I though we were in pretty good shape," he said.

The Cornhuskers (2-1) fell to 1-21 in their last 22 games against teams in the top 20, and Virginia Tech extended to 32 its string of nonconference home wins.

For much of the game, it seems like both trends would be bucked.

Helu ran for 169 yards, almost all of it after the Cornhuskers were held to zero yards in the first quarter, and Lee finished 11 for 30 for 136 yards, but his completions all seemed critical.

They just never got Nebraska into the end zone.

"Our defense gave us the ball a lot and put us in the position to score a lot of points," Paul said. "We left a lot of points out there on the field. ... It's really frustrating when your defense is playing the way they were."

Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams finished with 107 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run after Roberts' big early return, but gained only 13 yards on six carries after halftime.

Taylor, known more for his running than passing, continued to frustrate Hokies fans with his apparent unwillingness to run. He lost 22 yards on nine carries, repeatedly passing up space in the open field when flushed from the pocket.

He did that on the winning touchdown, too.