Virginia Tech 21, Miami 7
by Will Stewart,

Click here for the game recap with stats

Can I tell you a secret? Do you promise not to laugh? Promise you won’t say, “Yeah, right!”

All week long, I thought we were going to win this game. I thought we were extremely strong where Miami was weak, and I had the utmost confidence that the Hokies were crystallizing as a unit, coming together, and gearing up for an awesome stretch run. Druck has been playing flawless football, and I thought our defense would be good enough to hold the Canes down and ensure a Hokie victory.

But no way, under any circumstance, was I going to write something like that idiotic piece I wrote the week before the Syracuse game (“Why Tech Will Win This Weekend”). This time, I kept my opinion to myself.

Funny thing is, we didn’t win the game in the manner that most people thought we would. Conventional wisdom held that the Hokies were going to run the ball up the gut on Miami, where Tech’s offensive line held a 30+ pound advantage on Miami’s smallish tackles. A repeat of Tech’s 300-yard performance against the Canes last year was not out of the question. The only thing the Hokies supposedly had to fear were the Cane wideouts, who threatened to go deep often and successfully against the overmatched Hokie DB’s, especially since Antonio Banks was out and true freshman Anthony Midget was filling in.

Instead, the Hokies rode the pinpoint passing of Druckenmiller and the 100-yard interception return of special teams hero Keion Carpenter, who is now a defensive hero, to victory.

Before I get some emails about “not thinking Druckenmiller was going to lead us to the win,” let me say that I think Druck is the best QB in the Big East. However, he wasn’t supposed to be the difference in this game. Last year, we won with the running game, while Druck only had 97 yards passing. This year, it was expected that the game would play itself out in similar fashion, ending in a Hokie victory. Although the “experts” installed the Hokies as touchdown underdogs, I thought that was the biggest load of hooey I’d heard all year.

So there’s the setup. Now for the game analysis. Instead of the usual offense-defense-special teams run-down, I thought I would give you a chronological take on the events of the day.


I was eerily calm the whole week, but when I got up and read the newspaper Saturday morning, I started to get really worked up. The paper said that the weather was supposed to be wet, with gusts of wind up to 50 miles per hour. This would nullify Miami’s ability to pass deep, while the Hokies could get a good push off the offensive line and drive Miami back off the ball.

The paper also talked about Tech’s size advantage on the offensive line versus Miami’s defensive tackles. As I alluded to earlier, Tech’s offensive linemen average over 300 pounds, while Miami’s top three defensive tackles averaged only 272 pounds, with their fourth DT weighing in at only 258.

I started to smell blood, and the game hadn’t even started yet.

The Early Going

We settled into our seats at the new Hooters in Roanoke at about 2:30, and the next hour was torture as I waited for the game to start, but after an eternity, it finally did.

So much for confidence. In their first two drives, Miami treated Tech like an open window - hell, like an open garage door. Passing to their 270-pound fullback and the tight end, and - horrors! - peeling off effortless 10 and 20 yard runs, the Canes marched down field with ease. The Hokies somehow managed to stop the first drive, but on their next drive, Miami marched 92 yards without batting an eyelash, faking Midget out of his freshman jock with a play-action pass to the tight end for a TD.

For the Hokies part, they weren’t running the ball well, and although they scored on their first drive, it took a phenomenal passing effort from Druck and three cracks from inside the 5-yard line to get the ball into the end zone.

In total, I was very nervous. Three drives into the game, two by the Canes and one by Tech, and I saw it like this: Miami was scoring easily, and I wasn’t sure Druck could keep it up.

“Shades of Syracuse,” I said to my buddy. He shook his head grimly and said, “Yeah, we need a defensive stop in a big way.”

Miami’s next drive started at the 2, however, and the Hokies started to show signs of life defensively. In one of the more remarkable plays of the game, on third down, Brandon Semones blitzed, wrapped up Ryan Clement, and when Clement dumped the ball off to the fullback, Brandon jumped back up off the ground and made the tackle.

Phenomenal play. Miami punted, and they would not score again.

The Second Quarter

After that, the game settled into one of the hardest hitting, most cleanly played games I’ve ever seen. In particular, one collision between Tech’s Marcus Parker and Miami’s Earl Little, on a pass play to Parker, must have rocked the stadium. After the hit, Marcus staggered off in the wrong direction before falling down, and Little was down for about a minute.

Yatil Green put on a clinic. It was almost comical, watching Anthony Midget charge downfield on every play, while Green would sprint 15 yards and cut one way (in or out) for another catch. Midget was taking Loren Johnson’s advice (“Don’t get beat deep”) to heart, and it showed.

On the Hokie side of the ball, Tech was having very little success running up the middle, but they had a surprising amount of success working the perimeter, with toss sweeps and flanker screens. Druck continued to put the ball on the money, and he stood poised in the pocket, taking a few big hits from Miami defenders and shaking them off.

On one play in particular, a Miami defensive back blitzed and drew a bead on Druck, who stood tall and delivered a near-perfect strike 20 yards downfield to Bryan Jennings (THE MAN!). After the play, Druck was up off the ground in no time, trotting downfield for the next play.

Maurice DeShazo or Will Furrer would have been killed on the play. Memo to Al Clark and Mike Kocicka - lift weights. A lot.

Tech’s hiney was saved by a bizarre sequence of events at the end of the first half that saw both teams flip-flopping in confusion and drawing penalties. The strange series ended with Miami kicker Andy Crosland, who was 9-10 on field goals to that point, missing a 22-yarder. Crosland would miss a 38-yarder later, and the two misses would cost Miami dearly.

The Third Quarter

Ricky Bustle has developed a pattern of coming out and playing smash-mouth football on Tech’s first drive of the third quarter, and he kept the pattern going against the Canes. Tech’s first drive didn’t lead to a score, but for the first time all game, the Ox had significant yardage, gaining 40 yards on the ground during the series.

More importantly, during the third quarter, the Hokies stiffened against Miami’s running game, which had been very successful to that point. The third quarter is a blur to me, but I remember getting the feeling that the Hokies were starting to establish control, and Tech managed to take the lead 14-7 on a great pass from Druck to Steuwe. I leaped out of my seat at Hooters and, for the first of two times during the game, stuck my fingers into the ceiling fan above my seat. No harm done, though.

Interruption for a game note: remember a few weeks ago, when Tech had trouble in the red zone against SW Louisiana, and I told you not to worry about it? Just wanted to remind you of that. Tech had no such trouble against the Canes on Saturday night.

One of the bigger plays of the game occurred late third/early fourth quarter, when Cornell Brown got a hold of Ryan Clement and knocked him out of the game with what was officially listed as a sprained ankle. Miami lost their fiery leader, the 10th ranked passer in the country, on that play.

The smell of blood started to get stronger. But the Canes weren’t done yet.

Down the Stretch

How did you feel when Miami was driving down the field in the last two minutes. Were you worried? Did you think the Hokies were going to lose? Two or three years ago, I would have been right there with you, sweating bullets, convincing myself that the Hokies had come this far only to lose at the end. Again.

But something is different these days. I remember watching the NIT championship in March of 1995. Marquette was fighting us tooth and nail, staying just out of reach the whole game, and I was thinking to myself, “I know we’re destined to win this game. The question is, how?”

Then Myron Guillory called for the ball at the top of the key. He got it. He shot it. Swish. I knew we were on our way.

I remember sitting at the Sugar Bowl last year, when Tech was down 10-0 in the second quarter to Texas, and thinking to myself, “I know we’re destined to win this game. The question is, how?”

Then Bryan Still broke through the middle on a punt return, and the score was 10-7. After that, Texas would proceed to go quietly into the New Orleans night.

So last Saturday, there I am at Hooters, and there’s two minutes to go, and Miami is driving. They’re inside our ten yard line, and I’m thinking to myself, “I know we’re destined to win this game. The question is, how?”

In the next three plays, Tony Gaiter didn’t catch the ball, and Keion Carpenter did. That’s how. It’s that simple.

At the moment Carpenter caught his interception, that was the second time I put my hands in the ceiling fan, but due to the ecstasy of the moment, not to mention the pitchers of beer that we’d been drinking all afternoon, I didn’t really notice.

The next thing I knew, I was hugging total strangers. Bedlam ensued.

The Post Game

We hung around Roanoke long enough that one of us got the bright idea to go out to the airport and meet the team when they got back. Since we had a designated driver (sometimes I think that’s the one of the primary reasons we guys get married), we decided to go for it, and we were standing and waiting for the team when they landed at about 10:30. There were about 50-100 fans, and we positioned ourselves between the Hokie plane and the waiting charter buses.

Brian Edmonds was the first to reach us, followed by Frank Beamer. Beamer was grinning from ear to ear, yelling “Thanks for coming out! Thanks for coming out!” I managed to clap him on the shoulder and yell something brilliant like, “You’re welcome!” when he went by.

Next up was Ken Oxendine, and if anybody’s out there reading this who can get a message to Ken, tell him I’m sorry I jumped out of the crowd and hugged him like that. It must have scared the crap out of him. But hey, I couldn’t control myself.

I also saw Brandon Semones (who may not look big, but he’s built like a rock), Cornell Brown, and Druck. By the way, next time somebody tells you Druck’s 6-4, 225 pounds, don’t believe them. He’s more like 6-8, 275. But maybe each victory just makes him a little bit larger than life. The Hokies hung around and signed a few autographs, piled onto the buses, and were on their way.

Big Win

The list of firsts is endless - first Big East team to win in Miami, first time Miami’s lost three straight at home in ten years, etc. etc.

In the end, the biggest thing this win does is allow us to continue dreaming. We still have a shot at an Alliance Bowl, if we beat WVU and Miami beats Syracuse. We may or may not have to beat UVa in order to go to the Alliance. That all depends on the rankings.

Just two scant weeks ago, most Hokie fans, me included, had a creepy feeling. This football season was smelling way too much like 1994. It didn’t look like this team had the cohesion necessary to close strong, and a lot of fans (me NOT included) were dreading a 6-5 finish and a dispirited trip to the Liberty Bowl.

Then the hammer dropped, the suspensions came, and the team was galvanized into action. The fans rose to the occasion, too, turning out 50,000 for a frigid night game against ECU, and suddenly, it’s starting to smell like 1995 again around here.

Even if we drop the next two games and wind up in the Carquest Bowl, you’ve got to love the fun we’ve had the last two weeks. I LIVE for big November football games, but more importantly, big November wins, and the Hokies have delivered two in two weeks.

Sorry this “game analysis” turned into a bunch of cheerleading, but sometimes, just like when I hugged Ken Oxendine, I just can’t help myself.

Next Up: WVU

The fun never ends, does it? There is no time to savor the victory over the Canes, because we immediately have to get ready for the Mountaineers.

This should be a blast. WVU features the #1 run defense, the #3 pass defense, the #1 total defense, and the #5 scoring defense in the country (which would be better, except about 100 points have been scored against their special teams). Those stats were built against ECU, Miami, and Syracuse, with the Hokies being the only good team on the Mountaineers schedule that they haven’t faced yet. So they’re for real.

Unfortunately, the game is “only” going to be on ESPN2, but at least that means ESPN might not ignore us this week (yeah, right). And it also means the game will be televised over the whole country (the Miami game, by the way, went out to 73% of the country - not bad).

It’ll be sold out, and it should be rocking. See you there!

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