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12/28/2012 10:55 PM EST
Va. Tech edges Rutgers in OT in Russell Bowl
VIRGINIA TECH 13, RUTGERS 10

By KYLE HIGHTOWER
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- After one of its most unfulfilling seasons
in recent memory, Virginia Tech desperately wanted to avoid its
first losing season since 1992.



Mission accomplished.



Cody Journell kicked a 22-yard field goal on the first
possession of overtime to help the Hokies beat Rutgers 13-10 in
the Russell Athletic Bowl on Friday night.



Virginia Tech won its final three games to finish 7-6.



"Not everything in life is real smooth," Hokies coach Frank
Beamer said. "These players worked hard and how they reacted to
adversity and to disappointment and when all of them wanted to
do better - they kept together."



Rutgers (9-4) had a chance to tie it in overtime, but Nick
Borgese missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt to the right.



The loss ended a run of five straight bowl victories for the
Scarlet Knights and kept them from recording their first
double-digit win season since 2006.



The win also was the Hokies' 12th straight victory over their
former Big East Conference rival.



Virginia Tech trailed 10-0 at the half, then rallied in the
final 30 minutes thanks to some timely turnovers and offense.
Quarterback Logan Thomas struggled in the first half and
finished with a pair of interceptions, but also had 192 yards
passing and the game's only passing touchdown.



"I can't commend the defense more," Thomas said. "The entire
season that's kind of how it's been. I have to give a shout out
to (linebacker) Bruce Taylor because he played his tail off the
entire game. It felt like he was in the backfield making a
tackle on every play."



Taylor finished the night with a team-high 11 tackles to lead a
defense that held Rutgers to 67 yards in the second half.



Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum, selected the most valuable
player of the game, picked off Gary Nova's pass early in the
fourth quarter to set up the tying score.



He said though the offense took its lumps early, he was never
down on their effort.



"That's just the way the game panned out," Exum said. "We never
lose hope with the guys on the other side of the ball. Our job,
honestly, is just to go out there and get as many three-and-outs
as possible and give the most opportunities as we can to put
points on the board.



"We did a good job of that tonight."



Rutgers seemed to be in command until the opening minutes of the
fourth quarter, when turnovers and a sudden surge from the
Hokies' offense quickly turned the momentum.



Down 10-0, Virginia Tech took over after Rutgers missed field
goal and moved into Scarlet Knights' territory for the first
time in the game on a 32-yard pass from Thomas to Dyrell
Roberts.



Thomas then found Corey Fuller for a 25-yard strike on the next
play, before the drive stalled on the 8. It forced the Hokies to
settle for Journell's 25-yard field goal.



Exum intercepted Nova's pass on the ensuing drive, giving the
Hokies a first down on the Rutgers 21.



The Hokies found the end zone three plays later on a 21-yard
touchdown pass from Thomas to Fuller with 10:56 left as steady
rain began to fall.



"We finally caught them off balance," Thomas said. "We finally
got them uncomfortable. ... I just had to put the ball out there
for him."



Virginia Tech defensive end Tyrel Wilson then came up with the
defense's second turnover of the night, recovering a fumble
inside the Scarlet Knights 40 after Nova dropped a snap while
lined up in the shotgun.



An intentional grounding penalty on Thomas forced a punt,
though, with less than 7 minutes to play.



They got another chance a few series later, only to see
Journell's 51-yard field goal come up short with 2:20 showing on
the clock.



Rutgers punted, but got it back just a play later when Thomas'
pass was intercepted by Brandon Jones.



"Two tremendous defensive performances, and one of the better
defensive performances I've seen from Rutgers players this
season," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. "It's unfortunate that
we came out on the wrong side of the game, and squander that
kind of performance as a result."



It was defense on both sides that controlled the action in the
first half as Rutgers took a 10-0 halftime lead.



The Scarlet Knights were the most effective offensively,
managing a modest seven first downs and a field goal. But the
Scarlet Knights came up empty on their best drive of the half,
failing to convert on a fourth down pass play inside the Hokies
35.



Virginia Tech struggled throughout, though, tallying only 73
yards total in the first two quarters. Thomas was also sacked
twice and intercepted late in the half, which severely hampered
an offense that never made it into Rutgers' territory.



Penalties also bent in Rutgers' favor. Virginia Tech was
penalized eight times for 60 yards. The Scarlet Knights weren't
whistled for any penalties in the half.



A miscue by Virginia Tech on the opening drive of the game
produced the game's first score.



Hokies center Caleb Farris sent his second snap of the night
sailing past Thomas and into the end zone.



Thomas scrambled back to pick it up, and tried to run it out,
but he was instantly swarmed and lost the ball as he was
tackled. It was eventually recovered by Rutgers linebacker
Khaseem Greene for the touchdown.



Beamer said the challenge to not any shortcomings from this
season cloud the offseason.



"I couldn't be more proud of this team," he said. "We've won
some more games in other years, but I think this group is
special."



Notes: The game was the lowest scoring the bowl's history. It
surpassed Stanford's 24-3 win over Penn State in 1993. ...The
game also set a bowl record with 20 punts, passing the previous
record of 19 in the 1991 matchup between Alabama and Colorado.



---



Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at
http://www.twitter.com/khightower .

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