“Just will,” Thomas said. “I just tried to do everything I could to stay up and just get the ball out.”
“He’s basically on the ground and he somehow kind of rolled out of it and kept his feet and threw the ball away, or it might have been fourth-and-50 eventually,” Addazio said. “But the kid made that play, which was an unbelievable play.”
Thomas was dropped on second down, a nine-yard loss, and a third-down pass attempt to wide receiver Ricky Jeune fell incomplete. It set up fourth-and-19 at the Jackets’ 32-yard line. With about 2:45 remaining and two timeouts left, coach Paul Johnson said there was no decision to make – the Jackets were going for it.
Given that Tech went on to score with 35 seconds remaining, “I don’t know that we’d have had enough time if you get the ball back (after punting),” he said.
Johnson called for the receivers and A-backs to run vertical routes down the field. Having seen how Boston College aligned and defended in a similar situation earlier in the game, Thomas had an idea he would go to Searcy, lined up in the right slot.
“I was just hoping that he was looking, and he did,” Thomas said. “He made a big catch and the line protected long enough so we could get it off.”
Running between the hashmarks and the numbers, Searcy turned, leaped and brought in the pass, holding on even as he absorbed a hit from safety Williams Harris, a 22-yard pass to keep possession.
After the play, Thomas said his reaction was that “We’ve got a shot. We’re good to go.”
It was reminiscent of Thomas’ conversion of a fourth-and-15 against Virginia Tech in 2014, a 19-yard pass play to DeAndre Smelter that was critical in the Jackets’ come-from-behind win in Blacksburg, Va.
“We were there,” Addazio said. “They made a play, we didn’t make a play.”
Seven plays later, Tech B-back Dedrick Mills plowed into the end zone for a four-yard touchdown run, which gave the Jackets a 17-14 lead with 35 seconds left.
“It was probably one of the craziest ones I’ve been in, and I’ve been in quite a few,” Thomas said. “Like I was telling them out there, it felt like a movie. But we stuck together, we kept our heads up high and we found a way to do it.”