October 17th, 2015. Section 210.
It was just past 3:30 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
It was a new feeling for me. It was my first time in the stands all season. I missed the press box a little bit - where I knew I was forced to keep my composure.
56 yards? Come on. I mean … this is Chris Blewitt … the guy that - well - blew it last season against Duke and almost cost us a chance at the ACC Championship.
Right down the pipe.
Well, at least we get a chance to move it down the field. We've seen Justin Thomas do this before.
In a season in which we'd seen the Jackets struggle in every aspect to have a role in defeat, an opposing kicker broke hearts this time with a school-record 56-yard boot through the uprights.
The fans piled out, and I heard the murmurs the entire way on my 1.5 mile walk to Colony Square.
"Paul Johnson has to go." "This offense just isn't good enough." "This is the worst team in years."
They were much like the comments I heard last season after discouraging wins at home to start the season against Wofford and Georgia Southern. I'll never forget one I heard from a fan leaving at halftime against Wofford: "I'll never walk back in this stadium with Paul Johnson as the head coach."
I, of course, wasn't feeling this negative. But admittedly, I was about as pessimistic as I'd been in a long time about the Jackets as I headed home from the Pitt game.
October 24th, 2015. Section 210.
It was just past 10:00 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
I was in the seats for the second - and last - time this season.
As you know, it can always get a bit road-heavy in the upper north stands. Surprisingly, a Florida State fan below seemed to be just about as pessimistic about the game as most Tech fans were.
He must've been on to something.
Facing a 2nd-and-15 with 16 seconds left from the Tech 47-yard line, Florida State needed some yardage to put All-American kicker Roberto Aguayo in field goal range. It got that yardage. Everett Golson found Jesus Wilson for nine yards to get around the 38-yard line, and after an incomplete pass to the sideline, Aguayo came off the sideline to surely put Yellow Jacket fans into mourning with a game winning kick for the second consecutive week.
The length? 56 yards. Great.
At first, I turned my head around. I didn't really want to watch. I've become immune to the losses in a way, but the heartbreaking ones against huge opponents on home turf can be especially hard to swallow. Of course, my head didn't stay turned around. I always bluff not watching these moments, but I can never keep my eyes away long enough.
Besides … what if I miss something?
For all the things Tech has been bad at on special teams in recent years, its been extremely good at blocking kicks. My eyes were on Chris Milton.
The snap was good. The hold was good. I lifted my sight to the trenches as the pursuit from the edge didn't arrive in time.
Sure enough … block. Patrick Gamble.
I'll reluctantly admit my first thought was similar to Paul Johnson's. Just lay on the ball.
I've seen too many devastating sports moments in the city of Atlanta for me to see somebody get stripped and the Seminoles take it to the house for some weird blocked kick/forced fumble/return touchdown.
Because … I mean … we surely aren't going to return it.
This is Atlanta. This is Georgia Tech. The bad things happen to us.
But suddenly, I looked downfield. With my upper north end zone seats lined up on the west sideline, the unthinkable was forming right in front of my eyes. I had the perfect angle at the seam opening for Lance Austin.
I yelled to my dad, "he's got blockers!"
The crowd had gradually risen from a state of melancholy to an aspiring roar.
Lance Austin had the ball. Lance Austin was running really fast. Florida State's would-be tacklers were a bunch of offensive linemen and a couple of kickers.
This is happening, isn't it?
There were two more guys to beat … the kicker and the holder.
Chris Milton, the player I had my eye on for the block, took care of the holder.
Now, it was Austin and Aguayo. Would he try to outrun him down the edge and dive for the touchdown?
Austin stuck his foot in the ground and cut upfield to send Aguayo into an endless spin as he watched his first career blocked kick turn into an unbelievable game-winning touchdown.
Lance Austin had beat the last defender, and all he had to do was trot a few more yards to score one of the most memorable touchdowns in Georgia Tech history.
By his side? His twin brother, Lawrence Austin. As if the play needed anything else, the two brothers crossed the goal line at the same time to begin celebrating a play that will forever have them treated as royalty around the Georgia Tech campus.
Chaos broke loose. Seminole fans stormed for the exits. Students stormed on the field. Georgia Tech fans had broken out of their subdued, wait-and-see mentality that the team's performances had forced upon them in recent weeks. High fives and hugs were everywhere. The Jackets had just pulled off The Miracle on Techwood Drive.
Through all of the devastating losses, all of the deteriorating injuries, all of the disappointing performances from experienced players, the team had somehow found a way to beat a program that hadn't lost in the regular season since 2012. Somehow, a team that at one point had just five original starters healthy for a defensive possession held the Florida State offense scoreless in the second half.
Looking around the crowd after the indescribable win, it didn't look like fans going crazy for a team that had just won a game to get to 3-5. And that's how it should be. We know this season's original goals and aspirations are long gone. At this point, a bowl game is even in serious jeopardy. Those things happen. Teams have bad years. But the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets didn't just lay down for a top 10 opponent on Saturday night while they looked forward to next year. Instead, they fought relentlessly against one of the most talented teams in the nation and pulled off a victory and a play that anyone who watched will forever remember as one of the most memorable plays they ever witnessed.
What a time to be alive.