Virginia Tech was 88 yards from the winning touchdown. The Hokies had gained 58 yards on their previous six possessions. Combined!
Can you say "dead team walking"?
Virginia Tech was 11 yards from the winning touchdown, and Tyrod Taylor was throwing toward Dyrell Roberts. The same Roberts who had dropped a fourth-down pass moments earlier. The same Roberts who hadn't caught a single ball all day.
What was Taylor thinking?
Such were the Hokies' predicaments early Saturday evening against Nebraska.
For more than 58 minutes, their offense had defined inept. But for Roberts' 76-yard return of the opening kickoff, they never would have penetrated the Cornhuskers' 20.
That Nebraska led by only five points was testament to a defense that had not yielded a touchdown and had forced a punt a mere three plays after the Cornhuskers had first-and-goal at the 6.
But still, what were the odds?
Sure, Ryan Williams had rushed for 107 yards. But 94 of those came in the first half.
Yes, Taylor oozes big-play potential, with his arm and feet. But his longest run was a meager 4 yards, and when he did throw accurately, receivers failed him.
"A daunting, daunting task," said offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, who contributed plenty to the malaise with some odd play-calls.
Daunting but not impossible.
By now you know how this story ends.
Taylor-to-Danny Coale. Redemption for Roberts.
Lane Stadium inside-out crazy. Prone Cornhuskers pounding the turf in frustration.
Virginia Tech 16, Nebraska 15.
Naturally, superlatives flew during postgame interviews, Stinespring going so far as to rate the experience with his wedding day and the birth of his children. Call it drunk on drama.
But sober reflection is inevitable, and with resurgent Miami next on the docket, the sooner the better for the 13th-ranked Hokies (2-1).
"It's pretty obvious we're going to have to be a better football team," coach Frank Beamer said.
Much, much better. In all phases.
The defense remains prone to glaring breakdowns, witness Roy Helu Jr.'s runs of 31, 29 and 20 yards (he totaled 169), and Zac Lee's 35-yard, third-and-6 completion to set up Nebraska's fifth field goal.
Special teams surrendered a 55-yard punt return.
But The Issue is Stinespring's offense.
Forget last week's gaudy stats against Marshall. Tech gained 155 yards in an opening loss to Alabama and 278 against Nebraska.
Anything less than 300 is unacceptable, and that's being generous.
Beamer said the problem is execution. A poor throw here, a drop there. A whiffed block here, an errant read there.
Maybe he's right. Maybe the collective youth of Williams, Roberts, Coale, Xavier Boyce and David Wilson is poised to riddle a quality opponent.
Until then, the Hokies must rely on improv. Sandlot plays.
Two saved them Saturday.
The first, Taylor's 81-yard hook-up with Coale, may be remembered as the biggest pass in program history. With Tech trailing 15-10 and Taylor rolling right to elude the rush, Coale broke off his underneath route and went deep along the right sideline.
Everyone in the joint saw him get behind free safety Matt O'Hanlon, and Taylor uncorked a rainbow.
"You don't breathe," Stinespring said of the throw's endless hang time.
Breathless turned to bedlam when Coale caught the ball in stride and sprinted to the 3.
Three plays and one sack later, Taylor danced around the rush again, this time remaining in the center of the field and directing Roberts in the end zone. Finally, he fired a laser that the sliding Roberts cradled with 21 seconds remaining.
On the Hokies' previous series, Taylor had thrown a similar ball to Roberts on fourth-and-9 from the Tech 46.
"After dropping that fourth-down catch," Roberts said, "it didn't matter how tough (the touchdown pass) was. I had to catch it. … I had to redeem myself."
Kudos to Taylor for not losing faith in his Hampton Roads comrade — Taylor hails from Hampton, Roberts from Smithfield. Bigger props to Roberts for not losing faith in himself.
Taylor, Roberts, Coale and friends authored Tech's first come-from-behind in-the-final-minute victory since Nov. 6 1999, at West Virginia. But while that Hokies squad was national-title caliber, this one is a far cry, and anyone who's seen Miami play understands the challenge ahead.
"We have had our exhibition season," Beamer said of three non-conference games. "Now it is serious time."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime