Georgia Tech wide receiver Brad Stewart hasn’t shown that he doesn’t mind serving as an extension of the offensive line. He demonstrated it, among other times, in the wins over Virginia Tech and North Carolina, when the Yellow Jackets threw a total of three passes against 152 runs. Stewart contributed with zero catches and his full effort with perimeter blocking in the run game.
He has earned the full respect of coach Paul Johnson, who said last week that “I’d love to have a whole team of Brad Stewarts.”
But, in the past two games, Stewart has been called on again to use his hands for more than driving cornerbacks away from the ball on run plays. After his 31-yard touchdown catch helped seal the win for Tech against Miami last week, Stewart gave the Jackets perhaps the most difficult reception of his career in the Jackets’ 30-27 overtime win over Virginia, a 37-yard diving catch from quarterback TaQuon Marshall that extended a drive that resulted in a go-ahead field goal Saturday.
“I was just running my tail off and TaQuon put it up for me,” Stewart said. “I’ve had so many balls in my career where I’ve been missing it by fingertips, and that’s the one that I actually caught. It was big-time. I was just happy for it.”
With the score tied at 24 and a little under 3½ minutes remaining in regulation, Tech faced a third-and-6 from its 29-yard line. Coming up short would mean that, most likely, the Cavaliers would get the ball with about three minutes to play near their 30-yard line and two timeouts with a chance to wreck the Jackets’ senior night.
Johnson called for Stewart to run a stop-and-go route against cornerback Bryce Hall. Johnson said that Virginia’s corners had been sitting on the short routes all game, so he “was kind of waiting and we caught them at the opportune time there at the end of the game.”
Stewart ran what looked like a 10-yard hitch route, hitting the brakes and beginning to turn back for the pass. Marshall feinted a throw, and Hall bit on the fake, coming out of his backpedal to make a play on the anticipated pass. Stewart then took off, leaving Hall in his wake. Marshall lofted a pass for Stewart to run under.
Stewart chased it down, diving headlong with the zeal of a frisbee-catching dog to reel in the throw for the Jackets’ only completion of the game in eight attempts.
“He bailed me out,” Marshall said. “Threw the ball too early, probably could have been seven maybe. A good thing that it wasn’t maybe; it would have left too much time on the clock, but great catch. He sold out for it, put his body on the line, just laid out. Beautiful catch. He got us down there on a big third down. It was a play we definitely needed, so kudos to him because he definitely bailed us out.”
Beyond an acrobatic play, it provided the Jackets the field-position bump that they desperately needed. After A-back Qua Searcy gained 33 yards on a reverse on the first play of the second quarter, Tech had run 37 plays from scrimmage and only one of them advanced the ball more than seven yards (a 30-yard run by Marshall at the beginning of the third quarter). Tech was having significant difficulty gaining yards and probably needed an explosive play like Stewart’s to get into scoring range. He called it a catch that he’ll remember forever.
“This is crazy,” Stewart said. “That’s my last catch ever here (at Bobby Dodd Stadium). How crazy is that? It was special, how it turned out to be.”
Indeed, the play advanced Tech to the Virginia 34, and the Jackets could gain only three more yards before having to call on kicker Wesley Wells for the go-ahead field goal. (As Wells’ holder, Stewart was again called on to make a clutch reception, bringing down a high snap from Jack Coco to place it down for Wells.)
“I knew Brad was going to catch it,” linebacker Jalen Johnson said. “I remember when he first came in and he had no gloves on coming in in summer. He was just killing people. I was like, man, he’s going to be special. He just did what Brad does – he makes big plays.”
More from the game:
Game story: Georgia Tech takes down Virginia in overtime
Michael Cunningham: Offense stalls, so Georgia Tech wins with defense
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