ATLANTA — Virginia Tech gave coach Frank Beamer his first retirement gift, rallying from an early 14-point deficit to beat Georgia Tech 23-21 on Thursday night and move a step closer to becoming eligible for a 23rd straight bowl appearance.
After the Yellow Jackets fumbled it away on two straight possessions in the fourth quarter, the Hokies (5-5, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) grabbed their first lead on Travon McMillian's second touchdown, a 4-yard run with 6:58 remaining.
Beamer, who is retiring at the end of the season, can go out with the nation's longest active bowl streak if the Hokies win one of their last two games.
Georgia Tech (3-7, 1-6) added another bitter defeat to its disappointing season. The Yellow Jackets have dropped seven of their last eight games and are assured of a losing record, likely ending their own streak of 18 straight bowls.
Beamer, the winningest active coach in the NCAA's top division, announced his retirement last week with the once-mighty Hokies mired in another mediocre season.
As he walked off the field with his 278th career victory, the small Virginia Tech contingent saluted him with chants of "Beamer! Beamer! Beamer!"
Georgia Tech went ahead on freshman Brant Mitchell's 32-yard interception return early in the second half, but the Yellow Jackets simply made too many mistakes to hang on.
They turned it over three times, extended Virginia Tech's winning drive with a pass interference penalty inside the 10, and squandered their final chance with a downright silly flag. Having driven close to range for a potential winning field goal, quarterback Justin Thomas was stopped for a short gain.
When Chuck Clark tried to rip the ball out, offensive guard Errin Joe came in to level the Hokies safety. That drew a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness, essentially ending the home team's final hope.
The night started much better for Georgia Tech, which jumped ahead while many fans were still stuck in Atlanta traffic.
On the second snap of the game, Thomas stunned the Hokies by connecting with Ricky Jeune on a 58-yard pass. Two plays later, Marcus Allen scored on a 4-yard run, putting the Yellow Jackets up 7-0 less than 2 minutes into the game.
It was 14-0 before the first quarter was done.
After recovering a fumble at the Virginia Tech 45, the Yellow Jackets finished off the short drive with another 4-yard touchdown run, this one by Clinton Lynch.
That was it for the Georgia Tech offense, which managed only 128 yards the rest of the way.
The Hokies went 80 yards in 10 plays, cutting the lead in half on McMillian's first TD from 2 yards out. Then, getting the ball back with just under 4 minutes left in the half, Virginia Techdrove for a tying score. Michael Brewer hooked up with Isaiah Ford on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds remaining.
Virginia Tech got the ball to start the second half, but it was Georgia Tech that reclaimed the lead. On third down from his own 25, Brewer threw a pass right to Mitchell, who took it to the end zone without being touched.
McMillian rushed for 135 yards on 24 carries. Brewer completed 15 of 29 passes for 178 yards.