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Roberts Redeems Himself

It appeared that Virginia Tech had lost its opportunity. With the Hokies down by 5 and trying to score late in the fourth quarter against Nebraska, Dyrell Roberts dropped what would have been a first down. At that point, there seemed like little hope Virginia Tech would complete the comeback.

But Roberts would redeem himself. With 21 second remaining, he caught an 11-yard touchdown pass to give the Hokies a 16-15 victory Saturday over the Cornhuskers.

It was a quick turnaround from heel to hero for Roberts.

On fourth and 9 from Virginia Tech’s 46-yard line, quarterback Tyrod Taylor broke from the pocket and ran toward the line before throwing at Roberts. But he dropped the ball.

“It really shocked me at the moment,” Roberts said. “I was in the right position to make that catch.”

Because Taylor appeared as if he was going to run, some of the Cornhuskers’ coverage crept in and left Roberts open for a first down. The pass was catchable but the outstretched Roberts did not reel it in. As he walked to the sideline with 2 minutes 7 seconds on the clock, Taylor pumped his fists in frustration as if he thought the Hokies had lost their chance.

“I never think that until the clock says zero across the board,” Taylor said. “I just knew that we needed that play, but that’s behind you.”

Taylor said he offered Roberts encouragement on the sideline. So did running back Ryan Williams. In the Hokies’ 34-24 loss to Alabama on Sept. 5, Williams muffed a punt and the Crimson Tide recovered. Williams said that Roberts’s dropped ball reminded him of his mental mistake against Alabama.

“When people make mistakes,” Williams said he told Roberts, “it’s how you bounce back that’s going to define your character as a football player.”

The Hokies, and Roberts, had a second chance with 1:44 remaining. On the second play of the possession, Taylor connected with Danny Coale on an 81-yard pass that brought Virginia Tech to Nebraska’s 3-yard line.

Three plays later, Taylor found Roberts in the back of the end zone. Taylor dipped and dived in the backfield as he waited for his receivers to get open. He danced around for nine seconds before releasing the ball when Roberts broke away from coverage.

“Yeah, he put something on that,” Roberts said of Taylor’s hard throw. “That’s one of the fastest balls Tyrod’s ever threw to me.”

But after already dropping one big pass thrown his way, Roberts was sure to hang on to this one.

By Mark Viera  |  September 21, 2009; 12:12 PM ET
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