Last week, college football fans nationwide were in awe as Lance Austin crossed the goal line alongside his twin brother, completing an iconic play in the history of the school and country alike, all while handing Florida State its first loss in conference play in over three calendar years. It was an incredible moment, emotionally-charged and something we won't forget for a long, long time.
To the team, though, it was more than that.
I should be more clear -- it was about more than just that play.
Coming into the game in question, Georgia Tech had lost five straight games and was reeling. They had suffered countless key injuries and lost several games in heartbreaking fashion. It was Paul Johnson's longest losing streak since his first year at the Naval Academy over a decade ago, and many were lost for words on where the preseason hopes had gone. They entered the game staring down a team that had won their ACC Championship meeting just a season ago, and one that had finished the past two seasons with a national championship and a College Football Playoff berth. The outlook was...less than favorable.
The team wasn't to be deterred though. Behind huge plays from some of its leaders -- Justin Thomas, Adam Gotsis, and Jamal Golden -- as well as a raucous Homecoming crowd, the team played the Seminoles close and tied the game with a little less than a minute left in regulation. In that last minute, the road favorites worked their way down and positioned themselves for the thing that they've done as consistently as any team in the country over the last 2+ years -- to send out their kicker, Roberto Aguayo, to nail a fourth-quarter field goal.
Pat Gamble got his hand up and blocked the field goal, Austin picked it up and started running, and his teammates threw a few key blocks. The rest is history -- in a sense, David prevailed over Goliath.
In that moment, though, it was more than that.
In taking down one of the country's best teams, Georgia Tech did more than get themselves on the board in ACC play. At the same time, they set themselves up to finish the season strong and gained a huge sense of confidence.
A week ago, Georgia Tech needed to win 4 of 5 against Florida State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Miami, and georgia in order to obtain bowl eligibility. As of today, they need to win 3 out of 4 against Virginia, Virginia Tech, Miami, and georgia -- which suddenly doesn't sound quite as hard, at least to this blogger.
Each of the ACC games remaining on the schedule is as winnable (if not more so) as any ACC game they've played to date. Losses to Duke, UNC, and Pittsburgh don't look quite as bad when they're looking to be the class of the Coastal Division and have a combined 1 conference loss, with that being Pitt's loss to UNC last night. Coming up, the Jackets have a classic below-average UVA team (albeit in Charlottesville), a badly struggling Virginia Tech team, and a Miami team that just fired its head coach. For the Jackets to run the table across those three games is hardly unthinkable, and if they do so, they'll retain both their bowl streak as well as their series of seasons with conference records of .500 or better.
Let's not put the cart before the horse here -- Georgia Tech has a game in a crazy environment this weekend against Virginia that cannot be taken for granted whatsoever. (And if they do take it for granted, they'll pay for it.)
But you have to admit, the waters look a lot more friendly looking ahead after a huge win last weekend.