Andrews' Pick Stops Surefire Tie, Possible TD

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Lost in a record-shattering offensive outing was the play of freshman free safety Quinton Andrews, who both led No. 13 West Virginia in tackles and had the game's lone interception to snuff No. 25 Georgia Tech's last major drive and help seal a 38-35 win in the Gator Bowl.

Andrews, a Florida native, was beaten early in the game when freshman quarterback Taylor Bennett avoided the rush and threw deep to receiver Calvin Johnson, who had gotten behind the Mountaineer secondary. Andrews had a bead on the ball, and the 6-0, 205-pounder timed his jump well, twice getting a hand on the pass. But Johnson ripped the ball away from the solid defender to give Tech (9-5) its third consecutive score and a 21-7 lead.

"It definitely made me angry, and it made me play harder for the rest of the game," Andrews said. "I had him by myself, and I went up to make a play. On the first score, Vaughn Rivers had slipped, and I was trying to get over there and help also. They spread you out with two wide receivers to one side."

Andrews, who had seven tackles, six of which were solo, made arguably the most definitive Mountaineer defensive play of the game to make up for the early struggled with Johnson, an All-American not covered well by any team outside the triple-teaming Clemson Tigers this year. Georgia Tech, having been burned for 21 unanswered points to trail 38-35 after leading 35-17 at the half, finally slowed West Virginia's spread offense and forced a punt from the WVU 41 to the Yellow Jacket 25-yard line.

Tech pieced together a steady, controlled seven-play push that moved the ball 52 yards in just more than two minutes. Bennett had hit Johnson with three passes on the drive to tally 25 yards and also completed one other throw, that to tailback Tashard Choice on a swing pattern on second and 20 – that down and distance set up by holding – that netted four yards and brought up a third down and 16 from the WVU 23-yard line. Tech was already in field goal range, and so decided to gamble with its young signal caller and go for the first down, meaning all the patterns were deep.

As a wideout flashed across the middle, West Virginia's cornerbacks illegally bumped him off his route about 15 yards downfield. The Mountain West Conference officials missed it, however, and Bennett, a left-hander being pressured by the right side of the Mountaineer defense, spun out of the pocket and searched downfield. He fired into where the route should have been. Andrews, squatting on the deep route and playing up between two wideouts, intercepted the pass six feet short of the goal line and returned the pick two yards. The score held at 38-35, vanishing at Tech hope of even tying the score, and when Tech's 54-yard field goal missed on the next series, West Virginia ran the clock out via a 5:02 drive to end the game.

"This is something we can build upon," Andrews said. "I think at the beginning of games we get excited. The same thing happened at Pitt, then we settled down. I think we did well after the half, and the interception was a big part of that."

Andrews' play also ensured the Mountaineers continued to shutout Georgia Tech for the final 28 minutes. Rambling Wreck head coach Chan Gailey said Bennett "learned a lesson there. You can't force it down that close when you have a chance to tie it."

"We played West Virginia football in the second half," Andrews said. "We got to the quarterback and stayed with Calvin Johnson, not allowing him to beat us. We wanted to make (Bennett) have to beat us. If he had to do that without Johnson, we knew we'd have a chance. Any quarterback can pick a defense apart if he has time to sit back there. Once we got him rattled, that made our job a lot easier knowing they did not have a free shot."


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