Virginia Tech 38, Boston College 14
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 11/26/99
Blacksburg, VA - November 26, 1999
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13 weeks. 11 games. 57 touchdowns. 7 ESPN appearances. 2 ESPN GameDay shows. 8 Michael Vick ankle grabs. 12 Andre Davis touchdowns. 1,119 Shyrone Stith rushing yards. 17 Corey Moore sacks. 2 shutouts. 7 Big East victories. 12 Michael Vick touchdown passes. 455 points. 6 Lane Stadium sellouts. 1 game-winning field-goal.
And 2 torn-down goal posts.
These things, and many more, are what make up the dream season.
The most difficult thing about making history is that it takes time, distance, and perspective to truly appreciate when something great has been accomplished. When you're in the midst of it, as the pieces fall into place and the record books are written, you're never sure where it's going to go.
Along the way, questions abound. Will Michael Vick come back soon from his JMU injury? Will he last the season? Will he cost us a game with freshman mistakes? Is Clemson good enough to beat the Hokies? Will Tech beat UVa in its first road contest? Does Syracuse have the defense it takes to stop the Hokies? Will Pittsburgh ever throw an incompletion? Will Shayne Graham make the game winning kick? Is this the year that Miami finally beats Tech? Will Boston College, of all teams, knock off the Hokies at home?
Is this season going to be 11-0? And will those stupid BCS computers do the right thing?
There are so many questions along the way, and so much worrying, and we're all so close to it all, that sometimes, it's almost impossible to see what is right before our very eyes. The brightness of the glare makes it difficult to see the very thing we're looking at.
On the evening of November 26th, as the clouds cleared and the final gun sounded on Virginia Tech's perfect season, the Tech fans rushed the field and tore down the goal posts, releasing the energy of months of worry and the euphoria of the realization that after all this time, the mountain had indeed been climbed, and the peak had been reached, and there was nowhere left to go.
Except New Orleans.
In the end, despite an 8-2 season and upset hopes coming into the game, Boston College provided less resistance than Miami, and little more than Syracuse. The Eagles are justifiably proud of their season, but pride can't run with Andre Davis down the field, pride can't figure out how to stop Michael Vick, and pride can't block the hordes of blitzing Tech defenders.
It is worth noting that Mother Nature, the great equalizer, attempted at the beginning of this game to affect the outcome, in the form of rain. A day that had been cloudy most of the morning and early afternoon released rain as the kickoff approached, dampening the field, which had been protected from the rains of the night before by a tarp.
Rain was worrisome for the Hokies, because it played to the strength of the Boston College team, their line play. If the field got soggy, the BC offensive line might be able to set the Hokie defense back on its heels and make a game of it.
The Hokies received the opening kickoff and moved smartly downfield, covering 88 yards in 7 plays and 2:26. Mother Nature saw that, shrugged, and gave up trying to even things out for Boston College. The rain stopped soon thereafter. The Hokies didn't.
Boston College threatened a few times in the first quarter, and there were times that the Eagles had a shot at tying the ball game up at 7 points. But Boston College opened the door a crack early in the second quarter by going for it on fourth down in Tech territory. They failed, and the Hokies took over on downs at their own 31.
Watching in the stands, I started screaming for Tech offensive coordinator Bustle to throw the bomb to Andre Davis. It was time to blow this thing open (I would be so easy to coach against. Every time the other team turned the ball over, I would throw the bomb, and every time I got inside the opposition's 5 yard line, I would run the naked bootleg).
You know the rest. On Tech's first play from scrimmage after taking over, Vick hit Davis with the perfect pass in stride at the BC ten yard line, and Andre took it into the end zone. It was a statement play, one that told the Eagles (a) you're not going to win unless (b) you make about five or ten plays just like the one we just made.
It was a mere four minutes later that Vick hit Davis again, this time for a 59-yarder. Vick rolled left and winged the ball on the run to the wide-open Davis, who turned to catch it, straightened out his crossed-over feet, and waltzed into the end zone.
At that point, there were 9 minutes and 12 seconds to go in the second quarter, it was 21-0 Tech, and the Boston College team's collective chest must have tightened. The Hokies were off to the races again.
Over the next 23+ minutes of the game, Boston College would actually outscore the Hokies 7-3 to close the gap to 24-7, but it was just delaying the inevitable. The field position pressure that the Hokies were putting on the Eagles was tremendous, despite Jimmy Kibble's troubles kicking off and punting (more on that later).
The Second Half
After taking a 24-0 lead into the half, the Hokies backed Boston College up to their goal line twice in the third quarter, and both times, the Eagles escaped.
The first time, about midway through the third quarter, the Eagles committed a chop-block penalty that backed them up inside their five yard line, and Chris Cyrus nearly hauled BC's Cedric Washington down in the end zone, but Washington fell forward to the one-yard line.
BC punted the ball out of the end zone, and the Hokies used a reverse by Andre Davis to drive the ball down inside BC's five yard line, gaining a second and goal from the BC one yard line. The Hokies couldn't stick it in the end zone in three straight running plays up the gut, and BC took over on downs.
After one short running play, the Eagles completed the longest offensive scoring play in Lane Stadium history, throwing a 97-yard TD pass to Dedrick Dewalt. On the play, cornerback Ronyell Whitaker got turned around, and safety Anthony Midget bit on a fake and was nowhere to be found. Dewalt outran Whitaker and Ike Charlton to the end zone.
The play gave BC momentary life. The Eagles had won the third quarter 7-0 and had aggravated Michael Vick's tender ankle earlier in that same quarter, causing him to gimp around for a while. Vick had attempted only one pass in the quarter, not because of the injury, but because Tech was trying to grind out the victory on the ground.
But Vick and company squashed any hopes that BC had for a comeback, responding with a beautiful 30-yard hookup from Vick to fullback Cullen Hawkins. Hawkins laid out in the end zone to catch the TD, his first touchdown of the season. It came with 12:31 to go in the game, the Hokies were up 31-7, and the Eagles were done.
The Hokies spent the remainder of the fourth quarter making sure that the margin of victory stayed up and that the team's chances of making the Sugar Bowl were maximized. After stopping the Eagles, Tech continued to pressure BC offensively. Vick kept throwing, and Tech even went for it on a fourth and three with five minutes to go (Boston College made it easy by jumping offsides on the play).
The Hokies added their last touchdown on a Vick bootleg from the five yard line that boosted the lead to 38-7 with just under four minutes to go. It was Vick's first rushing touchdown of the night, to go along with 3 passing TD's.
Boston College tacked on a touchdown against the Hokie reserves with 0:47 to go. By then, though, the magical 21- to 24-point margin of victory that the computers seem to like was ensured. Many of the fans in the stands were watching the scoreboard and listening to their radio headsets for updates on the Nebraska - Colorado game. As the Hokies were pulling away, the Buffs were closing in on the Huskers, and the Hokie faithful, over 53,000 strong, were smelling sugar.
The Post-Game Celebration
As the final gun approached, the PA announcer asked Hokie fans to stay in their seats for some post-game comments from Coach Beamer, but as Cory Bird said after the game, "Yeah, right!"
The clock ran down, the cannon went off, and Hokie fans, most of them students, poured over the wall and onto the field. The North (Cassell) end zone goal post was abandoned by Blacksburg's finest police officers and never stood a chance, falling in just a few minutes under the weight of the hysteria caused by an 11-0 finish.
After vanquishing that goal post, the crowd surged towards the South end zone goal post, where a small assemblage of officers and stadium security were able to hold them off for a while, using a piece of the downed North goal post as a makeshift barrier to hold back the crowd.
Eventually, of course, that gave way. The officers fought for a while but decided that it wasn't worth the risk of life and limb to try to protect a few thousand dollars worth of metal. The fans poured over the second goal post and brought it down fairly easily, as well.
I have noticed that in the last few years, the goal posts are more difficult to tear down. It used to be that it took just a few people to weigh them down and bend them into the crowd, where a few more people would hang onto them until they broke. These days, it's harder to get them to bend, and once they do give way, they don't bend gracefully -- they snap before they've been bent all the way to the ground.
As the South end zone goal post bent over under the weight of the fans, a guy who had climbed halfway up one of the uprights lost his grip and fell about fifteen feet into the crowd when the goal post snapped. He didnít appear to be injured by the fall, or at least if he was, he didn't feel it. 11-0 and untold amounts of alcohol will do that to you.
Somewhere in the pandemonium, Beamer addressed the crowd with a few heartfelt but disconnected thoughts, along the lines of, "How about those players?" and "Who's going to New Orleans with us?"
Meanwhile, the PA system was playing some celebratory music, including "We Are the Champions" by Queen, and "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang (or, as I call it, "The wedding reception song." Three years ago, I threatened not to pay the DJ at my wedding if he played "Celebration" or anything by Michael Bolton).
Not even the announcement that Nebraska had come back to defeat Colorado in overtime could calm the party. Eventually, the pieces of the goal posts were passed up over the wall and carried in the direction of downtown, and those of us in the stands broke up and headed for the parking lots to contemplate a near-certain date with a national championship game.
A Near-Perfect Michael Vick. Tech's redshirt freshman super-QB finished 11-13 for 290yards, and the two incompletions were drops that hit the receivers in the hands.
The day before the game, I read a cocky post on a Boston College message board that made me laugh. The poster made a comment about how Vick is "not an accurate passer." All I could think to myself was that the poster must have seen only one of Vick's games -- the Temple game, where he threw two interceptions on poorly-thrown balls. Or maybe Vick's so-so Clemson game.
Against JMU, UVa, Rutgers, Temple, and Boston College -- half of the games he has played this year -- Vick was a combined 40-50 for 1,041 yards, 10 TD's, and no interceptions.
"Not accurate"? Yeah, right. He may not complete eighty percent of his passes all the time, but oh yes, he can be accurate.
A footnote: with 1840 passing yards, Vick is already tenth on Tech's career passing yardage list Ö after just one season.
A sight that Tech fans like to see. A welcome sight during the BC game was seeing Michael Vick run out of bounds or slide to the ground when he had nowhere left to go. Vick's tender ankle has been reinjured a number of times since the JMU game by diving tackles made around his ankles when he is attempting to elude defenders.
Several times in the game, Vick headed out of bounds or pulled up short and hit the ground when traffic got heavy. It's a smart move, one that will keep Vick alive for another play. When you're tearing up the opposition to the tune of 26.4 yards per pass completion, it just makes sense to hit the turf or the sideline a little early and get ready for the next play.
Speaking of Vick's ankle (or shin, or whatever it is he has grabbed repeatedly this year), he did reinjure it at one point in this game, with about ten minutes to go in the third quarter. The flare-up came after Vick was tackled right after releasing a pass to tight end Derek Carter. Interestingly enough, it wasn't the actual tackle that injured Vick -- it was the way the defender rolled around on the ground with Vick's ankle locked between his arm and his back.
Little twists like that go on all the time in football, and most of the time, they're not a big deal. But for a guy like Vick, whose ankle is gratefully looking forward to the five+ week layoff that it's about get, they can be painful.
But as usual, Vick gimped around a little, shook it off, and showed no ill effects. That sure is a bizarre injury he's got -- I can't wait until the end of the season, when the Tech trainers tell us what that "leg contusion" Vick suffered against JMU really was.
Running it up? Sure, the Hokies ran up the score. With a 31-7 lead late in the fourth quarter, Tech was doing everything it could to put up some more points, including going for it on fourth down and passing towards the end zone with under five minutes to play.
In game four this year against UVa, Tech was content to run the ball the entire second half after taking a 28-7 lead at the half. But that was long before the stakes became this high, and the Hokies were looking at the national championship game, with the Huskers breathing down their necks in the BCS standings.
In an article in Saturday's Roanoke Times, the Boston College coaches and players spoke extensively about Tech running up the score. To a man, they all said that they understood why, but the BC players weren't happy about it, and vowed to remember it "next year." I think the Tech players and coaches are willing to accept that. In today's BCS world, margin of victory is part of the deal.
BC's great defensive lineman, Chris Hovan, had a humorous quote. He said, "If they (Tech) want to put points on the board for a Sugar Bowl bid, so be it. But I'm not going to forget it."
Uh, Chris, you're a senior. It doesn't matter whether or not you forget it.
Hovan quickly covered himself, adding, "I'm not going to play these guys again, but I hope these young (BC) kids don't forget this for next year and think about redemption."
Stith loses tight Big East rushing race. Shyrone Stith lost a narrow Big East rushing title race to WVU's Avon Cobourne and Cedric Washington of BC.
Washington entered the weekend #2 in the Big East with 1017 yards, a mere five yards behind Stith's 1022 yards. In the game, Washington had 105 yards to Stith's 97, vaulting him ahead of the Tech back, 1122 yards to 1119.
But on Saturday, Cobourne came roaring from behind to catch them both. The WVU back had 210 yards rushing against Pitt and finished the season with 1139 yards, beating Washington by 17 yards.
Kibble struggles. Jimmy Kibble had one of the worst games he's had in his whole career against BC. Tech's punter and kickoff artist averaged 24 yards on three punts, kicked at least two kickoffs out of bounds (maybe three), and kicked several other kickoffs short.
The Hokies need Kibble, who has had a mediocre season, to turn things around. In the upcoming BCS game, national championship game or not, Kibble needs to kick well. He is averaging just 38.4 yards per punt this year and is struggling with accuracy on his kickoffs.
Davis: a special season. Andre Davis finished the season with 962 yards on 35 catches. The yardage total is easily a Tech season record, beating the old record of 826 yards set by Ricky Scales almost 30 years ago.
Davis's incredible 27.5 yards per catch average demolished Antonio Freeman's record of 22.0 yards per catch, and he also tied Freeman's mark for TD catches in a season, with 9. When you consider that Freeman is an All-Pro NFL receiver and the highest-paid receiver in the league, then you can see that Davis, just a sophomore, is running with some great company.
With two more years to go, and Michael Vick to throw it to him, Davis has the career marks for receiving yards (2272 by Scales) and TD catches (22 by Freeman) well within range.
Next Up: Florida State? Probably.
More than likely, the Hokies punched their ticket to New Orleans with this victory, combined with Nebraska's narrow 33-30 win over Colorado. Both teams needed to win big, and only one did -- Tech.
When the BCS rankings are released on Monday, look for Tech's 0.63 lead over Nebraska to increase. I haven't run the numbers, but it's just my gut feeling.
But for now, the Hokies get a much needed break, and Hokie fans get the opportunity to ponder what they just saw unfold over the last 13 weeks. In late September and October, we ran a poll on this web site asking fans to pick the best Tech football team of the modern era. The 1995 Sugar Bowl team won in a landslide, gathering 74% of the vote.
But of course, this year's team wasn't on the ballot.
Anybody want to take another vote?