Tech’s 2017 football season was an odd one. The Bulldogs ended the regular season 6-6, but four of those twelve games that were decided by one point. In those games, Tech went 1-3. To put it another way: if Tech had scored 6 more points where it mattered, they would have gone into bowl season at 9-3.
But let’s stay positive and focus on the “1” in that 1-3 record. How did Tech win that one game (which they honestly deserved the least of those four) against WKU?
Western Kentucky was in control throughout the night, leading Tech for 59:58 of the 60 minute game. But thanks to a key defensive stop, some offensive luck, and a clutch kicker, Tech was able to steal a game that ended up being the difference in Tech’s bowl eligibility.
Setting the Stage
With 3:37 left in regulation, Tech was in a position to take its first lead of the game. The Bulldogs had the ball at their own 45 yard line with a 2nd and 3.
Well that didn’t quite go as planned
unless Skip saw the 14,000,605 potential futures and knew this was the only way to win.
The interception felt like it had just decided the game. It was definitely possible for Tech to get the ball back and score with that much time left. But after a humiliating 57-21 loss to Mississippi State the week before, hopes were not exactly high.
Tech on Defense
1st and 2nd Down
After the interception, Western Kentucky took over at their own 15 yard line, hoping to run the remaining 211 seconds off of the clock. But the winner of the BBB’s Favorite Person of the Year 2016: Blake Baker had other plans.
On first down, Tech’s defense gave up three yards. On second down, no gain.
The Bulldogs had given up five rushes of 10+ yards earlier in the game, so although the team practically knew the Hilltoppers would run on the first two downs, it wasn’t guaranteed that Tech could sell out to stop the run.
So on 3rd and seven, WKU was forced to pass. Well, I guess it’s technically still a pass play if the throw never gets off:
Tech rushed five, but was able to close the pocket in three seconds, with Future First Round Draft Pick Jaylon Ferguson™ getting the sack.
The Game Winning Drive
The theme of this final drive was YAC, or Yards After Catch. Which should not be confused with a Yak: a large domesticated wild ox with shaggy hair.
Or a YAC yak I guess:
Anyway, Tech got the ball at their own 38 yard line and had 1:55 to score, practically how you would set up a Two Minute Drill in those old Madden mini games.
The first play was an incompletion intended for Teddy Veal, but on second down….
I just love the juke move here. After the receiver catches the ball, he fakes to the inside and runs to the outside. This allows him to fall out of bounds (stopping the clock) a few yards later.
Oh, and that receiver was Adrian Hardy by the way, a redshirt freshman.
The next play, it was Teddy Veal’s turn to get those yards after catch. The ball was now in field goal range so Veal could fight for every YAC (but not yak) he could get.
J’Mar targeted Veal on the next pass, but it fell incomplete. Then Craft ran up the middle for a nine yard gain that became a 18 yard gain with the help of a facemask penalty. After two more short runs by Craft, it was field goal time:
Or to put it differently:
Jonathan Barnes deserves the credit he got for hitting the game winning field goal, but he didn’t win the game himself (even if he is responsible for 11 of the 23 points scored). After J’Mar’s bad decision with 3:30 to go, Tech’s defense had to get a stop. Then, the redshirt sophomore QB had to trot back out and rectify his earlier error and get Tech into field goal range.
Everything had to go right in the closing minutes, and luckily for Tech, everything did.