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Virginia Tech escaped with a triple overtime victory, 29-21, in a sloppy, wet, and ugly affair in Lane Stadium. Quarterback Logan Thomas scored the game-winner and the subsequent two point conversion to give the Hokies the decisive lead after nearly four hours of play.
"We're lucky to get this win," Frank Beamer said afterward.
Thomas finished the day 18 of 34 for 181 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He added two scores on the ground.
"It's just hard to grip the ball and throw it," Thomas said of the conditions. "It seemed like Cato didn't have a problem at all, but I did."
A late Thomas touchdown pass to receiver Willie Byrn put the game into overtime and it was only beginning of the craziness. The pass, which could have easily been intercepted, deflected off of Marshall's Darryl Roberts and into Byrn's hands.
"Finally one went my way," Thomas said. "I always have the tipped balls go the other way. But I'm thankful. Obviously we really needed it."
Virginia Tech lost the coin toss and got the ball first in the overtime, only to go three-and-out. Ethan Keyserling missed the 50-yard field goal attempt.
Keyserling was 0-3 on the day after being inserted due to Cody Journell's one game suspension.
"I suspended Cody Journell this morning for today's game for a violation of team rules," Beamer said. "That is the only comment I'm going to make about that whole deal."
The Herd then took the ball and conservatively played for a field goal. On a 39-yard field goal attempt, defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins got through and blocked the attempt to preserve the game further.
Marshall played offense again following the blocked field goal, but it was the defensive line who came up huge again. Defensive end J.R. Collins sacked quarterback Rakeem Cato and forced the ball loose. Hopkins scooped it up and rumbled and bumbled nearly into a walk-off return before being brought down at the 20-yard line.
"That would have made my week," center Andrew Miller said.
The Thundering Herd nearly won the game with about a minute left when Cato threw long towards the end zone. Virginia Tech cornerback Brandon Facyson was beat on the play, but safety Kyshoen Jarrett bailed him out with a fantastic interception.
"It was definitely bang-bang," Jarrett said of the interception. "I got banged. It's all good, it was a good play."
The Hokies slogged through an ugly and ineffective first half that saw them head to the locker room down 21-14. Cornerback Kyle Fuller got the scoring started early as he blocked the first punt of the game and linebacker Derek DiNardo scooped up the loose ball and took it in for the early 7-0 lead.
Marshall responded midway through the first quarter as Cato found wide receiver Devon Smith in the front corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown. Thomas came back and led the Hokies 89 yards down the field in 13 plays and capped it off with a two-yard touchdown run.
Thomas, despite the strong start, struggled in the second quarter and finished the half just 6-17 for 80 yards and two interceptions.
After Thomas' punched it in from two yards out, the Thundering Herd dominated the rest of the half. Cato added a four yard touchdown run of his own and a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gator Hoskins, his fourth of the season.
Cato finished the day 19 of 41 for 228 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. He added 46 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
Virginia Tech threatened to cut the lead to 21-17 on their final drive of the half with a series of whacky plays. The Hokies were about to punt on fourth and nine from their own 21 when punter A.J. Hughes dropped the snap.
Instead of trying to force a punt off, Hughes scooted up the sideline for an improbably first down.
Later in the drive, with the Hokies facing a fourth and eight at the Marshall 34-yard line, Thomas threw deep to wide receiver Joshua Stanford in the end zone. A pass interference call gave the Hokies another first down. Keyserling clanked the 36 yard field goal off the left upright.
The third quarter didn't go much better offensively for the Hokies as they gained just 81 yards in the frame but were held out of the end zone. Their best opportunity came on a 16 play, 73 yard drive that ended when Thomas was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage on a fourth and short.
The fourth was largely uneventful until the Thomas-to-Byrn connection.
"I really believe we became a better football team today," Beamer said.
Virginia Tech returns to action in a matter of days, as they travel to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech on Thursday night.