BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 1 - Virginia Tech blew the national championship race wide open Saturday night — and got back its pride — with the biggest victory in its history, 31-7 over No. 2 Miami.
THE NO. 10 HOKIES (7-1, 3-1 Big East) got two touchdowns from their defense and another on a 10-yard drive set up by the defense to end Miami’s 39-game regular season winning streak, its 27-game winning streak in the Big East and perhaps its hope for a third straight championship appearance.
It was the first victory in Virginia Tech history in 34 games against teams ranked No. 8 or higher, and came just 10 days after one of the Hokies’ most humbling losses in 111 seasons, 28-7 at West Virginia.
“People were talking about how we were a fluke and all this other stuff,” said linebacker Michael Crawford, whose 44-yard interception return set up a touchdown. “We demonstrated toughness tonight.”
The Hokies held Miami to 377 yards, many of them coming after Virginia Tech had used its big-play defense to open a 31-0 lead. The Hurricanes’ only touchdown didn’t come until just 7:53 remained.
Miami (7-1, 3-1) hadn’t lost in league play since a 43-10 wipeout here on Nov. 13, 1999, and the Hokies came up with a similar effort this time to get back into the race after they seemed to have been ushered out.
“It feels real good. Real good,” said DeAngelo Hall, who started the rout with a 28-yard fumble return after stripping the ball from Roscoe Parrish on a reverse early in the second quarter.
“It kind of hurt us a little bit seeing how with one loss we dropped down like that” in the polls. It was just crazy. We wanted to come out tonight and show people we were for real.”
Virginia Tech did it the way it has so often under coach Frank Beamer, getting stout defense - and offense - from its defense and riding a thunderous wave of appreciation from 65,115 fans to victory.
“When things have been so rough here for about 10 days, to get one like this just seems all that much better,” Beamer said.
It was his first victory in 20 games against a top-eight team, the only top-10 victories in 23 since 1987 coming against a pair of No. 9 teams.
The Hokies also did it with virtually no passing game, Beamer choosing the safer means of keeping the ball on the ground both before and after he pulled quarterback Bryan Randall and let Marcus Vick take over.
Virginia Tech finished with 219 total yards, just 44 through the air, and didn’t complete a pass until Vick hit Doug Easlick on a swing pass for a 2-yard loss with 2½ minutes left in the third quarter.
InsertArt(2058806)About two minutes later, Vick made the only other completion a big one, hitting Ernest Wilford for 46 yards and a TD that made it 31-0.
Vick was 2-for-2 and also ran six times for 23 yards in his most extensive playing time this season. Randall, who ended the Hokies first drive with an interception, was 0-for-4 and ran five times for 15 yards.
Kevin Jones, who ran for 124 yards, scored the Hokies’ other offensive touchdown on a 2-yard run after Crawford’s long interception return. It was the second interception - and last pass - thrown by Brock Berlin.
“I was actually trying to get it out of bounds,” Berlin said.
Berlin, who led the Hurricanes back from 23 points down in a 38-33 victory against Florida, didn’t have it this time as the Hokies sacked him three times and had him running on both interceptions.
“We knew if we got pressure on him we probably could make him fold,” said cornerback Eric Green, whose 51-yard interception return for a touchdown sparked Virginia Tech’s 21-point third quarter.
Berlin finished 16-for-25 for 164 yards, but wasn’t the only Miami player who struggled. Kellen Winslow caught eight passes, but for just 48 yards, and drew a 15-yard personal-foul call as the game got away.
Green also blocked a 39-yard field goal try in the first quarter, the Hokies’ 101st kick block since Beamer arrived in 1987, and the Hokies caught an early break when Kevin Everett failed to catch a sure touchdown.
The play came on a fake field goal in the second quarter when Matt Carter spotted Everett completely alone in the end zone and threw a perfect pass to him, but the tight end let it slip through his hands.
“We would like to think it would be a different football game” if Everett had held on, coach Larry Coker said of the play, which would have tied the game at 7. “It was a good call. It was just a drop.
“Those are things in a game like this you can’t have.”
The loss was just Coker’s second in 33 games as Miami’s coach.
It was that kind of night for the Hokies, and for the Hurricanes, both of whom now find themselves trailing Pittsburgh (3-0) and tied with West Virginia in the race for the Big East championship and BCS bid.
Virginia Tech and Miami also both still have games against the No. 25 Panthers, who beat Boston College 24-13 on Saturday. Virginia Tech travels to Pitt next Saturday, and the Hurricanes go to Pitt on Nov. 29.
© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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