Virginia Tech 37, Pittsburgh 34
October 28, 2000
by Will Stewart, HokieCentral.com
1 2 3 4 F
Blacksburg, VA - With Michael Vick and Andre Davis on the sidelines, and Pittsburgh entering the fourth quarter up 34-27, the Hokies were looking for heroes. They found a handful of them, outscored Pitt 10-0 in the fourth, and won 37-34 on Carter Warley's 27-yard field goal with 16 seconds left.
This game was a battle all the way, made all the more nerve-wracking for Hokie fans when Heisman Trophy candidate Michael Vick went down with an ankle sprain late in the second quarter, with Tech down 20-17. As a sellout crowd of Hokie fans looked on silently, Vick was carried off the field, and Tech was left to battle a hot Pittsburgh team without two of the Hokies' best playmakers, Vick and flanker Andre Davis.
The sack that knocked Vick out for the game came with the Hokies facing a third and goal from the Pittsburgh 15 yard line. There were 21 seconds left on the clock, and the Hokies kicked a 38-yard field goal to tie the score at 20 points going into half time.
Facing a second half without their leader, against a Pitt team that was giving them fits, the Hokies dug in for the second half behind backup quarterback Dave Meyer. Tech fed the Panthers a steady diet of tailback Lee Suggs, who had a monster second half and kept the Hokies in the game while Meyer got his feet under him.
The game came down to a Hokie possession that started on the Tech 15 yard line with 4:52 remaining, and the score tied 34-34. From there, Virginia Tech embarked on a 13-play, 75-yard drive in which Meyer took control, completed 4 of 5 passes, and took the Hokies to the Pitt 10-yard line with 20 seconds left to go.
Out came Tech kicker Carter Warley, who had already made two field goals but had also registered his first missed field goal of the season on a 46-yarder earlier in the period that would have broken the 34-34 tie. This time, Warley was money, acing the game-winning 27-yard field goal with 16 seconds to go.
"I came in here as a freshman," Warley said in the post game, "and I saw the size of this stadium, and I wasn't sure I wanted to be in this situation. But as the year has gone on, I've gotten more and more confidence in my kicking."
Said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, "I've been involved in a lot of games, but I don't think I've ever been more proud to win a football game that what I am tonight. I'm just really proud."
The Hokies were led by Lee Suggs' 164 yards rushing on 28 carries. Suggs scored 3 rushing touchdowns, his 15th, 16th, and 17th touchdowns of the season. He shattered the old record of 14 touchdowns in a season by a Tech player, and it was his gutty running and standout play that carried the Hokies through the third quarter and deep into the fourth.
Meyer was 7-13 for 114 yards and no interceptions, and the Virginia Tech defense, though it gave up 311 passing yards, held Pitt to 24 yards rushing on 29 carries and stood tall in the fourth quarter, with the game on the line. The Hokies rolled up 477 total yards, including 283 yards rushing on a Pitt defense that was ranked #8 against the run coming into the game, and Warley made 3 of 4 field goals in his heaviest action of the season.
The game started out well enough for Tech. The Hokies controlled the game for much of the first quarter and took a 7-0 lead on Suggs' first touchdown, a 2-yard run with 2:59 to go in the quarter. The run came at the end of an 11-play, 74-yard drive, and Tech was in charge.
The comfortable feeling didn't last long. Pitt responded with a 47-yard flea-flicker from quarterback John Turman to Latef Grim. The Hokies blocked the extra point and still led 7-6, but the score got the Panthers rolling.
Tech's next drive was a killed by an interception deep in Hokie territory. Vick hit Tech tight end Derek Carter in the chest with a short pass, but Carter bobbled it and it was picked off by Pitt's stellar defensive end Bryan Knight on the Hokie 17 yard line. Pitt scored two plays later on a 17-yard pass from Turman to Antonio Bryant, the first of three TD's that Bryant would score. In just 74 seconds, Pitt had turned a 7-0 deficit into a 13-7 lead.
Tech answered by cobbling together an 11-play, 40-yard drive, and Warley made the score 13-10 with a 35-yard field goal. After a three-and-out by Pitt that ended deep in Pitt territory with a Nathaniel Adibi sack, the Hokies got a break when a punt by Pitt's Jay Junko went just four yards and gave the ball to Tech on the Pittsburgh 19 yard line. It took Tech 6 plays to score from there on Suggs' 2-yard run, and it was 17-13, Tech.
That score came with 6:26 to go in the second quarter. It took Pittsburgh a whopping two plays and 31 seconds to go 65 yards and make the score 20-17. Turman went 39 yards to R.J. English and then threw a 26-yarder to Bryant for the score. Just like that, the Hokies were back on the short end of the score.
Early in the Hokies' next drive, Vick was crushed by Pitt's Brandon Williams on an incomplete pass, and the Hokie QB had to leave with an injury, because Williams stepped on his leg during the tackle. Meyer came in for the Hokies, the drive stalled, and Tech's Bobby Peaslee pinned Pitt on their 9 yard line with a 37-yard punt.
After a three-and-out by Pitt, the Hokies took over on the Panthers' 45-yard line. Vick returned, and Tech drove to Pitt's 15-yard line, but it was a sack on the next play that knocked Vick out of the game and forced the Hokies to settle for a 38-yard field goal and a 20-20 tie at half time.
With Vick injured and obviously not coming back, Lane Stadium resembled a funeral parlor through half time and into the third quarter. The Hokie faithful, feeling the absence of Davis and Vick, and having seen the Pitt passing game, smelled an upset.
Tech's Lee Suggs would have nothing of it. The Hokies began the second half by weathering a 13-play, 50-yard drive by Pittsburgh, a drive that ended when a batted pass was picked off by Tech's Eric Green on the Tech 20.
On the ensuing drive, Meyer completed a key third-down to tight end Browning Wynn that took the ball to the Tech 48, and then Jarret Ferguson peeled of a 9-yard run to the Pitt 43. From there, Suggs took over and carried the ball to the Pitt 6 in three plays. Ferguson took over and took it in from there, and it was 27-20 Tech, with 6:40 to go, third quarter.
The two teams traded punts, and Tech felt good, but Pittsburgh spoiled that emotion by putting together a 9-play, 80-yard drive that tied it at 27 with just 29 seconds to go in the quarter.
And then, disaster struck. Dave Meyer, who was holding together rather well, fumbled a snap from center, and Pitt recovered it on the Tech 29. The Panthers scored effortlessly on the next play, with Bryant making a tiptoe catch for a TD. Suddenly, in just 25 seconds, Pittsburgh had scored 2 TD's and led 34-27, which was the score when the third quarter ended.
Fortunately for Tech, Meyer's fumble would prove to be the Hokies' last big mistake.
Entering the fourth quarter with their season in the balance, Virginia Tech put together a nice 8-play, 64-yard drive. The key play of the drive came on third and seven from the Pitt 32. Meyer threw a badly underthrown pass to Tech wideout Emmett Johnson, who came back and made a spectacular sliding catch on the Pittsburgh 3 yard line. From there, with an electrified Tech crowd ready to explode, Suggs scored his third and final TD, and the score was tied 34-all with over twelve minutes to go.
On Pitt's next drive, the Tech defense dropped the hammer on the Panthers. Led by a key ankle tackle from Jim Davis on a scrambling Turman, the Hokies stopped Pitt on third and 10, forcing a punt.
Tech took over on their 35 yard line and drove to the Pitt 29 on the strength of four Suggs rushes and a reception by Suggs on a screen play. With 6:23 to go, Warley missed his first field goal of the season, misfiring badly on a 46-yard attempt.
Pitt took over possession, and when Turman complete a 27-yard pass to a wide-open English that took Pitt to the Tech 44-yard line, Hokie fans were fearing the worst. But once again, the Tech defense stiffened, and Turman missed a wide-open English on third and five on a play that would have put Pitt ahead. The Panthers punted, and with 4:52 to go, the Hokies took over on their 15 yard line.
The similarities to the 1999 WVU game were eerie. 85 yards away, locked in a life and death battle, with a quarterback who had never faced this situation.
Onto the field trotted Dave Meyer. For most of the second half, he had hidden behind Tech's huge offensive line, handing off to Suggs and throwing screen passes when the situation warranted it. A redshirt senior, Meyer had yet to make his mark in Hokie history, but over the next 4 minutes and 36 seconds, he would calmly and coolly lead Tech to victory.
With the Panthers inexplicably calling off the dogs and rushing only four players, Meyer had plenty of time to work, and he made the most of every second. First he ran an option keeper to the Tech 20, and then he completed a flanker screen to Emmett Johnson to the Tech 24.
Lee Suggs carried twice for 10 yards to the Tech 34, and then Meyer avoided the Pitt rush with some Vick-like moves and advanced the ball with a three yard scramble. On third and five, Meyer fired a perfect pass to Shawn Witten, who was interfered with. First and ten Tech, on the Tech 40.
The Hokies threw deep to stretch the defense, and it fell harmlessly incomplete.
From the Tech 40 yard line, with about two minutes to go, it was time to get busy, and Meyer went on a tear, completing three straight passes for first downs. The last pass was a gutty shovel-pass call to Andre Kendrick, and the little guy went from the Pitt 37 to the 26, where Pitt called a timeout with 1:02 to go.
Meyer, calling his own plays (with the exception of the shovel pass) was on a roll. He shifted gears again on the Pitt defense, calling two straight fullback dives by Ferguson. Pittsburgh, accustomed to a steady diet of Suggs, was caught off-guard, and in two plays, Ferguson moved the ball to the Panther 10. From there, the Hokies called a timeout with 20 seconds to go, and then Warley calmly nailed the field goal.
13 plays, 75 yards, 4:36 off the clock, and Tech led 37-34. For drama and artistry, the drive did not quite match the drive from the 1999 WVU game, but for Hokie fans, it was at least as satisfying. With Meyer and Warley playing the roles of Vick and Shayne Graham, the Hokies saved another undefeated season from the clutches of a hungry opponent.
Meyer, who has been waiting years for a moment like this, deflected praise to his teammates in his post game comments. Lee Suggs and the Virginia Tech offensive line quietly and stoically carried the Hokie football team on his back for most of the second half. The Virginia Tech defense shut down a powerful Pitt offense for the entire fourth quarter. And Carter Warley, who was once afraid of Lane Stadium, found the cool composure to nail a game-winning field goal that keeps Tech's national championship hopes alive.
Very soon, this team will start to concentrate on next Saturday's road game against the Miami Hurricanes. But for now, forgive Dave Meyer and company, and forgive the Virginia Tech fans, if they take time to enjoy a satisfying victory that came from the most unexpected places.
RUSHING: Pittsburgh-Barlow 15-34, Polite 2-5, Goings 1-4, Team 1-0, Turman 10-minus 19. Virginia Tech-Suggs 28-164, Kendrick 12-39, Vick 10-34, Ferguson 6-32, Meyer 4-14, Hawkins 1-0.
PASSING: Pittsburgh-Turman 17-26-1-311. Virginia Tech-Vick 8-15-1-80, Meyer 7-13-0-114.
RECEIVING: Pittsburgh-Bryant 9-127, Grim 3-106, English 3-69, Polite 2-9. Virginia Tech-Johnson 7-79, E Wilford 2-25, Suggs 2-21, Wynn 1-28, Hawkins 1-18, Moody 1-12, Kendrick 1-11.