It was supposed to be the Kevin Jones show. The Virginia Tech faithful who flocked to Lincoln Financial Field easily outnumbered a strong contingent of Temple fans. For Jones, the Hokies’ star running back and Chester native, it was a homecoming.
But it turned out to be the Walter Washington extravaganza. The second-string sophomore quarterback nearly willed the Owls (1-9, 0-5) to victory.
Despite an indefatigable effort from Washington, the Owls were ousted by the No. 12 Hokies (8-2, 4-2) 24-23 in overtime on Saturday.
During coach Bobby Wallace’s first year at Temple in 1998, his squad mustered just two wins, but the highlight of that season was upsetting the No. 14 Hokies 28-24 in Blacksburg, Va. Yesterday it almost happened again. The Hokies have struggled on the road this season and barely escaped Philadelphia with the win.
For the Owls it was the same story as in 1998, but a different team, and they somehow found a way to lose. Senior kicker Jared Davis, who has been in a season-long slump, helped push the Owls into overtime only to lose the game on a missed point after try. He has now botched three point after attempts this season.
“It was nothing with the snap or the hold, I just missed it left,” Davis said.
Devastated by the loss, Davis sat at his locker hunched over with his hands in his face. A win for the Owls could have helped to make up for a season of endless pratfalls.
With 2:01 left in the game and facing fourth and nine, the Owls needed to convert to stay alive. Washington saw Goodman in single coverage for a crucial 20-yard hook-up. That set up Davis’ game-tying 37-yard FG. The Owls nearly won the game in regulation following a Jonathan McPhee interception with 20 seconds left. Davis’ 50-yard FG attempt had the distance, but it was wide right.
In overtime the Hokies used two plays to score on a 23-yard TD run by QB Bryan Randall. Temple would equal that when Washington hit senior WR Zamir Cobb on a 22-yard WR screen pass. Davis needed to make the point after to force a second overtime. He didn’t, leaving Davis and the Owls stunned.
“I was just shocked. I can’t describe it,” Davis said.
The loss overshadowed the magnificent show Washington put on for the 27, 425 on hand. He rushed for 151 yards on 26 attempts, while going 15 of 30 for 156 yards and two TD’s. You could tell it was going to be a good day for Washington, after he took off for a 39-yard run on the game’s first play from scrimmage.
Washington was making his second career start in place of injured starting QB Mike McGann, who is out with torn tendons in his elbow. Hokies coach Frank Beamer was amazed with Washington’s performance.
“We couldn’t get him tackled,” Beamer said. “I never seen a guy play against us that was that strong. I don’t know if it was him…but I know he made a lot of tough runs and we couldn’t get him on the ground.”
“I base my game off the total package,” Washington said, who made history for being the first Temple quarterback to rush for 100 yards in a game. “If you want to be a complete player, you have to make people miss and run over them if you have to.”
Washington juked, faked and ran through tacklers. He had four runs of 15 yards or more, using deceptive play action fakes. He rushed for one yard more than Hokies’ running back Jones, who finished the game with 28 carries for 150 yards and one TD.
Before the game Jones felt ill from what he suspected was food poisoning from some pasta. He said he threw up twice on the sidelines.
In their last two home games the Owls had been outscored in the first half 45-0. The Owls defense had struggled giving up 39 points a game in their last five. Against the vaunted Hokies they found themselves trailing 3-0 after two quarters.
Jones ran circles around the Owl defense and scampered nine yards for a TD, giving the Hokies a 10-0 lead with 10:33 left in the third.
The Owls responded with Davis missing a 40-yard FG and a three-and-out. Virginia Tech marched 85 yards, converting a third and 21, followed by a 28-yard TD pass to Wilford and a 17-0 lead.
The Owls would finally get on the board when Washington found RB Umar Ferguson for a 13-yard TD pass, cutting the deficit to 10 with 10:52 left. The score galvanized the Owls as they began a frantic fourth quarter rally.
Washington was a demon on the field. He reeled off a dazzling 34-yard run evading seven would-be tacklers. A play later Ferguson scored on a 1-yard TD run. All of the sudden, Temple had snatched the momentum back trailing 17-14 with still 5:08 left to go.
The Hokies looked lost. Jones had a big day, but managed just 11 yards rushing in the final quarter.
“I wasn’t sure things were going to hold up at the end,” Jones said. “I know their quarterback [Washington] was making a lot of plays. So I was just watching him the whole game and he was running good and passing the ball.”