Tyrod Taylor dodged several defenders and threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Dyrell Roberts with :21 left, rallying No. 13 Virginia Tech over No. 19 Nebraska 16-15 Saturday afternoon in Blacksburg.
Taylor, known for his running much more than his passing, completed two big, late throws to lead the Hokies. Taylor first hit Danny Coale for 80 yards down the right sideline with 1:11 left, setting the ball up at the Nebraska three.
"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.
"That's kind of what you play for, moments like that," said Coale.
Taylor wasn't finished. After being sacked on the first play from the three for an 8-yard loss and then rushed into throwing the ball away, Taylor scrambled around for what the school said was :09 before rifling the ball to Roberts on the right side of the end zone.
"I redeemed myself," said Roberts, who had dropped a third-down pass earlier. "Every kid that plays football dreams of a game like this."
"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."
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.
The victory was the 32nd in a row for Virginia Tech at home against non-conference opponents. Nebraska (2-1) lost for the 21st time in its last 22 games against teams ranked in the Top 20.
Roy Helu Jr. went over 100 yards rushing early in the third quarter, Zac Lee made several key completions and when Virginia Tech's defense stiffened in its own end, Alex Henery tied a Lane Stadium record for a visitor with five field goals in five tries.
Had one of those drives ended in the end zone, the Hokies' late comeback might not have been possible. But one of the Cornhuskers' best TD chances also turned into a key failure.
Leading 12-10, Nebraska had a first-and-goal at the six 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 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."
NU coach Bo Pelini thought it could have been the turning point. "If we scored there, I though we were in pretty good shape."
That missed opportunity seemed bigger when the Hokies' two-point attempt to take a three-point lead failed when Taylor's pass was off the mark, but it didn't matter as Lee's final desperation heave was picked off.
Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams finished with 107 yards and a one-yard touchdown run set up by Roberts' 76-yard return of the opening kickoff.
Taylor lost 22 yards on nine carries, repeatedly passing on open field when flushed from the pocket.
Helu finished with 169 yards on 28 carries and Lee was 11-for-30 for 136 yards and two interceptions.
Nebraska managed to finish the first quarter with zero yards of offense, but points on the board. The Huskers trailed only 7-3 after Henery's first field goal was set up by Paul's 55-yard punt return to the Tech 22.
"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."