Virginia Tech 22, Syracuse 14
October 21, 2000
by Will Stewart,

                        1   2   3   4    F
                       --  --  --  --   --
Virginia Tech (2)       0   3  12   7   22
Syracuse               14   0   0   0   14

1st Quarter:
SU-Brown 9 yard run (Shafter kick), 7:11
SU-Jackson 78 yard pass from Nunes (Shafer kick), 2:21

2nd Quarter:
VT-Warley 47 yard FG, 7:17

3rd Quarter:
VT-Suggs 5 yard run (pass failed), 6:24
VT-Suggs 1 yard run (pass failed), 2:49

4th Quarter:
VT-Vick 55 yard run (Warley kick), 1:34

Syracuse, NY - The Hokies spotted Syracuse 14 quick points and then broke the curse of the Dome with a great defensive effort and an opportunistic offense.

On the strength of two long pass plays, Syracuse outgained the Hokies 177-60 in the first quarter and shot out to a 14-0 lead. But from that point on, the Hokies clawed their way back into it, closing the gap to 14-3 at half time and then taking a 15-14 lead late in the third quarter. After a see-saw fourth quarter, Michael Vick scrambled for a 55 yard TD run with 1:34 to go to put Syracuse away.

For the second game in a row, Virginia Tech had a character check, and for the second game in a row, they responded.

"It was a war from the first snap, but we were able to hang in there and do what we had to do to win.  We sputtered at times, but we were able to come back strong," Vick said.

Tech rover Cory Bird agreed. "We knew coming in it was going to be a war, and they're a great team."

As usual, the Orangemen played one of their best games of the year against Tech in the Carrier Dome, in particular their defense. Syracuse held Tech to just 240 yards of offense and sacked Vick 8 times for 60 yards in losses. The charge was led by Syracuse junior defensive end Dwight Freeney, who had a whopping 4-1/2 sacks, raising his Big-East leading total to 13 for the year.

The Syracuse defensive effort drew raves from Tech tailback Andre Kendrick. "By far they were the best defense we've faced this year. We talked about how we were down last weekend, and we knew we had the character to come back."

Of Freeney, Vick said, "There aren't too many defensive linemen like him in the country."

Syracuse completed two long pass plays to receiver Maurice Jackson that spurred them to the first quarter lead. The first completion was a 54-yarder on third and 15 that took the ball from the Syracuse 31 to the Tech 15, and the Orangemen scored three plays later on a 9-yard run by Dee Brown on an option to make it 7-0.

After a short Tech possession, Syracuse took over on their own 32 yard line, and on a third and 19, completed a 77 yard bomb to Jackson for a touchdown. With 2:21 to go in the first quarter, the Carrier Dome crowd was rocking, and the Hokies were in trouble, down 14-0.

The Hokie offense was under a heavy rush from the Syracuse blitz, and from Syracuse's defensive ends, primarily Freeney. Led by Freeney, the Orangemen sacked Vick 6 times in the first half alone.

The second quarter was a defensive struggle. After the two teams totaled 237 yards in the first quarter, they could manage only 29 yards of offense between the two of them in the second quarter.

After Syracuse's second TD, the Hokies drove quickly to the Syracuse 18 yard line, but the drive fell apart under the weight of three penalties and a sack. Tech wound up punting from the Syracuse 47 on 4th and 38.

Tech's first break of the game came early in the second quarter, on Syracuse's next possession. From their 19 yard line, the Orangemen lined up in the shotgun and snapped the ball over quarterback Troy Nunes' head. Nunes ran the ball down and heaved it downfield under a heavy rush. Tech's Willie Pile picked it off at the 50 yard line for the first of his three interceptions on the night.

From there, the Hokies inched down to Syracuse's 25-yard line and then took a sack and had to attempt a 47-yard field goal. Tech's Carter Warley, who had not attempted a field goal since the first quarter of the ECU game, nailed the long kick to put the Hokies on the board and close the gap to 14-3.

After playing a strong first half, the Orangemen disintegrated in the second half. Tech's third quarter touchdowns were both scored on short runs by Lee Suggs, and they both followed Syracuse turnovers.

Syracuse had a 10-play drive to open the second half, but they missed a 48-yard field goal. Tech responded with a short drive that stalled, and Ben Taylor came in to punt. He planted a punt at the Syracuse 1 yard line, and on third and 8 from the Syracuse 3 yard line, Nunes took the snap and tripped into the end zone. He fell on his rear end and heaved the ball into the air, where Pile picked it off at the Syracuse 10 and returned it to the 5. Lee Suggs scored an option touchdown two plays later, and after Ernest Wilford dropped a 2-point conversion pass, it was 14-9, Syracuse.

It took the Hokies just a few more minutes to take the lead for good. On 2nd and 9 from their 15 yard line, Syracuse tried a flea flicker to Jackson, and it was successful, but a big hit by Tech's Eric Green popped the ball loose. The fumble was recovered by Jake Houseright, who returned it 15 yards to the Syracuse 20 yard line.

From there, Tech scored in 6 plays, this time on a 1-yard run by Suggs. Again, Tech tried the two-point conversion, and this time, Vick overthrew Johnson. With 2:49 to go in the third quarter, the Hokies had a 15-14 lead and the momentum in the game.

Syracuse turned the ball over a third straight time on their next possession. On third and 14 from the Syracuse 45, Nunes threw a long pass that was picked off by Pile for his third interception. He fell out of bounds on the Tech 9, and the Hokies took over from there.

The fourth quarter started, and the teams traded punts. Syracuse took over on their own 34-yard line with 7:15 to go in the game and mounted what would prove to be their last hurrah, driving to the Tech 40 yard line. From there, the Orangemen faced a 4th and 7, and with about three minutes to go, decided to go for it. Tech's Jim Davis hit Nunes as he attempted to pass, and the ball fell harmlessly incomplete.

The Hokies took possession and played it conservative, rushing twice for 5 yards.

And then, the dagger, courtesy of Vick. On a 3rd and 5 from the Tech 45, Vick sprinted left and raced 55 yards for the clinching touchdown. It came with 1:34 to go and put Tech up 22-14.

Syracuse's final attempt at scoring ended with a Cory Bird interception around midfield, the fourth interception by Nunes on the night. The Hokies ran out the clock, and ran out their long string of frustration in the Carrier Dome.

Tech Coach Frank Beamer was relieved to get the monkey off his back and his team's back.

"There's something about this team and hanging around," he said. "Syracuse got after us all the way. We ended up making enough plays to win the football game." 

Stats and Notes

Suggs Sets Rushing TD Record: Just 7 games into the season, Lee Suggs has scored his 14th rushing touchdown, breaking the Virginia Tech record for rushing TD's in a season. He has tied the record for TD's by a single player in a season, held by Tommy Francisco in 1966.

Clamping Down: After giving up 177 yards in the first quarter, the Hokies held Syracuse to just 151 yards for the rest of the game. Tech limited Syracuse's rushing offense, ranked 2nd in the Big East going into this game, to just 111 yards on 41 carries (2.7 yards per carry). The 111 yards are half of the 223 yards per game average that Syracuse had coming into the game.

Bird said, "We knew they were going to come in and try to run the ball on us. They called our defensive line out and said they were average, and our guys responded to that."

Not Good Enough: Both Vick and Kendrick were pleased with the win, but think the Hokies need to play better. Vick said, "The big thing is we came out with a win. I think we earned everything they gave us.  Hopefully, we can come out with a better game against Pittsburgh, and I think we will."

Kendrick concurred. "We gotta be focused. We can't come out and play the way we played tonight. We need to go back and get down to basics."

Nunes Implodes: after throwing just 1 interception in three previous home games, Syracuse QB Troy Nunes threw 4 in this game. "We wanted to force him (Nunes) to make bad decisions," Bird said, "and I think he made a couple of bad ones tonight. And it led to some key turnovers."

Flag Happy: Syracuse rolled up 12 penalties for 77 yards and came close to having several other penalties called, including at least two roughing-the-punter penalties and a blatant holding call on Brown's 9-yard TD run.

Hat Trick and Other Picks: Willie Pile is the tenth Tech player to intercept three passes in a game. This is the third year in a row that the Hokies have had a player accomplish the feat (three players did it in 1998). With 4 interceptions as a team, the Hokies now have 18 on the season, which leads the country. Tech's season record is 27, set in 1967.

Click here for HokieCentral's post-game analysis


                         VT        SU
First downs              14        15 
Rushed-yards         48-165    41-111 
Passing yards            75       217 
Sacked-yards lost      8-60       0-0 
Return yards             29        14 
Passes               6-11-0   13-25-4 
Punts                7-32.9    2-49.5 
Fumbles-lost            1-0       2-1 
Penalties-yards        6-40     12-77 
Time of possession    31:18     28:42 

Att: 49,033

Individual Statistics 

RUSHING: Virginia Tech-Suggs 21-91, Kendrick 8-73, Vick 16-9, Team 1-minus 1, Ferguson 1-minus 2, Johnson 1-minus 5. Syracuse-Brown 19-71, Nunes 13-33, Davis 2-8, Woodcock 1-7,Mungro 5-minus 3, Scott 1-minus 5.

PASSING: Virginia Tech-Vick 6-11-0-75. Syracuse-Nunes

RECEIVING: Virginia Tech-Johnson 3-47, And Davis 2-21, E Wilford 1-7. Syracuse-Jackson 4-155, G Manley 3-25, Campbell 2-17, Woodcock 2-17, Mungro 1-5, Brown 1-minus 2.


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