Virginia Tech 43, Miami 10
by Will Stewart,, 11/13/99

Click here for the game recap with stats

The Rock, Blacksburg, VA - November 13, 1999

                    1  2  3  4  F 
                    -  -  -  - -- 
Virginia Tech (2)   7  7  6 23 43 
Miami (19)         10  0  0  0 10 

UM-FG Crosland 28
UM-King 7 pass from Kelly (Crosland kick)
VT-Stith 1 run (Graham kick)
VT-Stith 41 run (Graham kick)
VT-FG Graham 42
VT-FG Graham 28
VT-Hall 64 punt return (Graham kick)
VT-Charlton 51 fumble return (kick failed)
VT-FG Graham 42
VT-Davis recovered fumble in end zone (Graham kick)

Attendance: 53,130

Hey, BCS: stick that in your Pentium and compute it.

In a series that has seen some great games, this one was the most hard-fought of all. It was nastier and more brutal than any other game played between these two teams.

This is a great rivalry, eclipsing the Tech/UVa rivalry in terms of bad blood and sincere enmity between the two teams. Whereas the Tech/UVa rivalry often pits brother against brother and is, truth be told, more of a gentleman's rivalry, the Tech/Miami rivalry is characterized by trash talk, disrespect, and, dare it be said, hatred.

Each time this game is played, there are millions of dollars and a Big East championship on the line. But more so than that, for Tech fans, players and coaches, there is a burning desire to beat this team over and over and over, and to beat them bad, all in the hopes that somewhere, someday, both the Miami Hurricanes and the college football world in general will admit that Miami is not, and never has been, the Beast of the Big East.

For the Hokies, it burns in their collective conscience that despite the fact that Tech had beaten the Hurricanes four years in a row before this game, Miami has always been the media darling of the Big East, and year after year, the Canes are picked to finish ahead of Tech in the Big East. And year after year, they lose to the Hokies.

But the next year, the cycle always begins again. The preseason polls come out, and the Hurricanes are picked ahead of Tech. The Big East holds its media day, and the Hurricanes are picked ahead of Tech. Every year, the conference commissioner talks about the league, and his comments center around Miami, and how they're "back," and how that's good for the Big East.

CBS releases its college football broadcast schedule, and nearly every Big East game involves the Hurricanes, while in some years, like 1998, Tech doesnít appear on CBS at all. It always makes the Hokies and their followers wonder what it will take for Tech to be acknowledged as the premier team of the Big East.

Perhaps this is it. Perhaps a 43-10 victory and a legitimate run at the national title game will finally make those who watch the Big East stand up and take notice that perhaps, for all these years, it has been the Virginia Tech Hokies who have been the best team in the conference.

Probably not, but it's nice to dream, and it's nice to have something to shoot for.

In any event, this was a great game, not just because Virginia Tech romped, but because both teams went at it like it was warfare, and two teams full of young men who don't get paid for what they do risked life and limb and left it all on the field. This was the most important game all year long for both teams, and they played like it.

Both teams went toe-to-toe, snarled at each other, and didn't back down. At least, not until Virginia Tech had beaten Miami's starting quarterback, Kenny Kelly, into submission. Only then did the Canes fold up their tent and go home.

Game Recap

This game is somewhat fascinating in that each of the four quarters had its own distinct personality:

  • First quarter: Miami dominates both lines of scrimmage and sets the tone, although late in the quarter, the Hokies break through for a touchdown, taking advantage of Miami mistakes and penalties. The quarter ends with the score 10-7.
  • Second quarter: Although Miami continues to hold Tech's running game at bay, the Hokies start to have some success. Miami commits a slew of turnovers and penalties, and the Hokies very nearly go up on top 21-10, but a horrible option pitch late in the quarter by Vick is recovered by the Canes, and Miami is only down 14-10.
  • Third quarter: Tech's defense starts to take control, hammering Kenny Kelly, and Tech's offense starts to pressure the Canes defense. Tech squanders several opportunities and only leads 20-10 at the quarter's end.
  • Fourth quarter: the Canes give up and the Hokies blow Miami out, outscoring the Canes 23-0 on a variety of scoring plays to win 43-10.

The First Quarter

The Canes came out strong, stuffing the Tech offense and striking deep on their own first possession. After holding Tech to an opening three-and-out, the Canes hit Reggie Wayne deep in Tech territory, and after the Tech defense held, Miami kicked a field goal to go up 3-0.

The two teams traded fumbles, and the Canes found themselves in possession of the ball on Tech's 48 yard line. From there, they drove down the field and scored easily when Andre King got inside Nick Sorensen and caught a 7 yard touchdown pass.

At this point, Miami was leading 10-0 and was dominating the line of scrimmage, giving the Hokie faithful reason to worry. But this has been the pattern the last few years: the Canes jump out to an easy, early lead, but the Hokies get their feet under them and come back.

This game ran true to that form. Just as it looked like Miami was going to blow the Hokies off the field, just as it looked like they were in control, the Canes let turnovers and their emotions get the best of them. With 2:09 to go in the quarter, the Hurricanes fumbled, and Ike Charlton picked it up and returned it to the Miami 25 yard line.

Two other important things happened on the play. Kenny Kelly injured his shoulder tackling Ike, and the Hurricanes committed the first of many personal foul penalties, which led to the ball being spotted at the Canes 12 yard line. For a Tech team that was having trouble moving the ball, the extra yardage was critical.

The Hokies couldn't quite stuff the ball into the end zone, though, and that's when the Canes committed their third critical mistake in just a few minutes. They stopped the Hokies on third down inside the one yard line, but apparently, a Miami player engaged in some extracurriculars in the resulting pileup, because the next thing you know, the refs were calling a personal foul and giving Tech first down at the one yard line. Stith scored from there, and it was 10-7, Miami.

And we had ourselves a ball game.

The Second Quarter

The Canes continued turning the ball over and generally becoming frazzled, and Tech started clawing their way back into it.

Kelly was never quite the same after hurting his shoulder. Miami made a subtle shift from the pass to the run at that point, and since the run was working well, their offense continued to move the ball fairly well. The Canes would accumulate over 200 yards of offense in the first half.

Kelly can be counted on to play poorly under pressure, and sure enough, he threw an interception to Anthony Midget after escaping a blitz. The Hokies turned it into a touchdown in short order, when they ran one of the most perfectly-executed option plays ever seen. Andre Davis and Jarrett Ferguson both threw great blocks to spring Shyrone Stith for a 41-yard touchdown.

Just like that, the Hokies were up 14-10, but they still had yet to wrest control of the game from the Canes. Miami continued to pressure and brutalize Vick, including an ankle tackle with eleven minutes to go in the quarter that had Vick grasping, once again, at his tender left ankle.

The Hokies had one more shot at a touchdown when Tech offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle wisely abandoned an anemic Tech rushing attack that only had 27 yards on 19 carries with 9:43 to go in the half. Bustle went to a four-wide passing attack, and behind a rejuvenated offensive line, the Hokies moved smartly down the field.

The drive was killed with three minutes to go when Vick made one of the few truly hideous plays he has made all year, pitching an option from his knees that was fumbled by Stith and recovered by Miami. Vick was down on the play, but naturally, the Big East refs missed the call, and Michael and the Hokies had to suffer the consequences of his poor decision.

When the half ended, the Canes were lucky they weren't in a bigger hole than 14-10. They had turned the ball over four times, and only stellar line play and a bad play by Vick had kept them from being down 21-10 or worse. Statistically, the game was almost even in terms of yardage, with the Hurricanes holding a 30-40 yard advantage.

The Third Quarter

One of the most significant plays of the game happened two minutes into the second half. That's when Jamel Smith and Cory Bird hammered Kenny Kelly on a blitz and twisted Kelly's ankle. In addition to the damaged shoulder, it was too much for Kelly, and he was helped off the field.

The Canes brought in true freshman Ken Dorsey, and seeing that, the sharks that populate Tech's defense smelled blood. The back-and-forth game turned to the Hokies advantage for good at that point.

Miami could no longer move the ball effectively (they would have less than a hundred yards of offense in the second half), and the third quarter was a parade of squandered opportunities by Tech. The Hokies kept the pressure on but couldn't quite crack the end zone, and it was the Shayne Graham show. Graham went 2-3 on field goals in the quarter, and going into the fourth, with Miami hobbling but hanging around, Tech led 20-10.

The Fourth Quarter

Early in the quarter, on a 3rd and 20, Kenny Kelly, barely able to walk, finally threw in the towel. He called a timeout and took himself out of the game, and the Canes fell apart. Dorsey game in and threw an incompletion, and on the very next play, a Miami punt, Tech started the party.

For the record, it was Ricky Hall who opened the floodgates with a 64-yard punt return with 13:39 to go in the quarter. On the next Miami offensive play after the kickoff, Corey Moore showed why he is a legitimate Lombardi Award finalist, stripping Cane running back Clinton Portis of the ball. Ike Charlton turned it into a 51-yard return for a TD, and the rout, the seeds of which had been sewn much earlier in the game, was officially on.

In all, the Hokies would score 23 points in just under six minutes, three more points than they scored in the first 46 minutes and 21 seconds of the game.

When it was done, the Hokies finally had the woodshed whipping they have been looking for against Miami. In much the same way that this year's 31-7 victory over UVa was a much needed hammer job on a team that Tech hadn't beaten soundly in a while, this 43-10 victory served notice to Miami that in this given year, there are no ifs, buts, or maybes.

This year, Tech is better. Not lucky, not the beneficiary of poor play by the other team, but just flat better. If you have any questions, please check the scoreboard.

Analyzing the Details

Going Back on the Attack

The Hokies got back to their style of football, sending Jamel Smith, Ben Taylor, Michael Hawkes, and Cory Bird on a multitude of blitzes.

Bud Foster took advantage of something that I suspect he already knew -- Kenny Kelly folds under pressure. His first interception was thrown when Bird rushed him, Kelly spun to avoid it, and then chucked the ball without looking where he was throwing it. It was a beautiful pass, right to Anthony Midget.

Once the Hokies started to get to Kelly, and once he was injured, all parties involved -- the Tech coaches, the Tech players, and the Tech fans -- smelled blood and went after it. Kelly couldnít handle it, and certainly his backup, Dorsey, couldn't handle it.

It was Tech defense the way it was meant to be played, and it was a welcome sight after being absent for two full games. And it couldn't have returned at a better time.

The Hokies Get the Bounces

Not only did the Tech attack defense mount a successful return, but so did the Hokies' good fortune. It seemed that in the Pitt and WVU games, the bounces simply did not go Tech's way, but in this game, it was unbelievable the way every loose ball hopped into the arms of a Tech player.

The sole exception that comes to mind right away is a kickoff that Portis fumbled that escaped out of bounds before the Hokies could recover it. Other than that, all three fumbles that Ike Charlton recovered hopped into his arms like happy puppies.

And then there's the ball that Vick fumbled, recovered after one bounce, spun, and turned into a 15-yard pass to Browning Wynn.

And don't forget the last touchdown the Hokies scored, when a fumble was kicked into the end zone with enough velocity to escape into the hedges, but it suddenly died and sat still on the ground, waiting for Andre Davis to come fall on it.

And lastly, after dropping multiple interception opportunities against Pitt and WVU, the Hokies made the most of every ball they had a shot at. You can thank Anthony Midget for that.

Nate Webster: Good? Yes. Out of Control Thug? Definitely.

Many message board posters reported seeing Miami linebacker Nate Webster engage in various forms of dirty play, including eye-gouging (to the point where Shyrone Stith put on a helmet visor) and punching.

One incident did make it onto the game tape. After Shyrone Stith fumbled Vick's pitch late in the first half, Webster clearly punched Michael as the refs tried to sort out the pile and find out who had the ball.

Look at the tape. It occurs with 3:07 to go in the second quarter. As the referees try to go through the pile, in the lower left-hand corner of the screen, Webster and Vick are walking side by side. Webster clearly punches Vick in the stomach, totally unprompted. A referee saw it, because the flag flew immediately. Miami coach Butch Davis also saw it, because he grabbed Webster when Webster reached the sideline and started yelling at him.

Naturally, neither one (the referee or Davis) had the guts to throw Webster out.

Late in the fourth quarter, when the Hokies were done drilling the Canes, Webster got into a shouting match with either Butch Davis, another Miami player, or both on the Miami sideline. By the time I got my binoculars on the scene, it was almost over, but it appeared that Webster was shouting at Kenny Kelly, and that Davis had to come in and break it up. I guess going 5-4 when you're "back" will do that to you.

What a class act Webster is. Makes me wish the Hokies had won 70-10 instead of just 43-10.

Play Like You Practice

My concern going into this game was that the team was too distracted by BCS talk, and that perhaps a Miami team with nothing to lose would finally beat a Tech team with everything to lose.

But on Friday night, during a question-and-answer session at Gobbler Town Tavern in Christiansburg, Bill Roth made a statement that indicated that no such thing was likely to happen: "This team (Tech) has had one of the best weeks of practice I've seen them have all year," Roth said.

That was the first time I had heard anyone say that all week, and I instantly felt better. Despite being worried in the pre-game analysis, I started to think that a focused Hokie team playing before a packed Lane Stadium couldn't lose.

But I also knew it was going to be a war, and that if the Hokies didn't get the breaks, it could very well go against them. Fortunately for the Hokies, it all came together.

Quick Hitters

  • Notice Philip Hicks: for now, Philip Hicks has replaced Benny Wolfe as the top hitter on the kickoff coverage team. Hicks had two big hits in the WVU game, including the one that caused the fumble late, and he is consistently the first to arrive near the ball carrier. He's #44, so look for him, and hey Benny, consider yourself challenged Ö good-naturedly, of course.
  • Miami's Running Game: the Canes repeatedly ran successfully on the left side of the Hokie defense, without experiencing similar success up the middle or to the right of the Hokie defense. With John Engelberger out with an ankle sprain, the replacement defensive ends didn't provide nearly the run support that 'Berger brings to the game. He will be severely missed after this year. The softness on the left side of the Hokie defense helped lead to Portis's 139 yards on 27 carries.
  • Whitaker Improving Rapidly: Ronyell Whitaker is coming on strong, and his rapid improvement provided the Tech defensive coaches with the luxury of giving Nick Sorensen a break at safety and playing Anthony Midget there, while Whitaker held his own at cornerback. Whitaker is mean and a hitter. Unimpressed by Miami star Santana Moss, Whitaker could be seen jawing at Moss quite a bit during the game. Moss finished with just 4 catches for 25 yards.
  • A Rarity: Tech fans must have thought they were in the Twilight Zone when they saw three straight passes to tight end Derek Carter at point. Only the third one was successful, resulting in a 20-yard gain and a first down for the Hokies.

The Real Key to the Game

The Hokies won this game because they are better coached and better disciplined. After all these years of losing to Frank Beamer, Butch Davis still doesn't understand that the key to winning football games is to recruit kids with character and then get them to play hard and with focus.

Davis proved once again that he has utterly no control over his team, allowing them to commit multiple personal foul penalties, including throwing a punch in clear view of Davis himself, without reproach or consequences. The penalties and mistakes the Canes made were stupid and costly, and Davis was powerless to stop them.

Character counts, and the Canes donít have it. The Hokies took Miami's best shot, grinned, and came right back after the Canes, as they do year after year. Virginia Tech, including battered quarterback Michael Vick, never lost their composure, but when it got late and things got tough for the Canes, they coughed the ball up and gave way to a flood of Hokie points.

Vick was sacked, punched, and his ankle was tackled repeatedly, causing it to flare up, but he never quit, until it was 43-10. Anthony Midget could barely run, but he stayed in the game and made three interceptions. Ike Charlton has had a sore shoulder since the Pitt game, but he stayed in the game and kept hitting people. The Hokies did it on defense without two defensive line starters, Nathaniel Williams and John Engelberger.

For Miami, Nate Webster's punching and eye-gouging exhibition (he can be seen at the bottom of a pile gouging at Shyrone Stith's eyes before Tech's first touchdown) is beyond gutless and classless.  He's a punk whose team got what he deserved.  Perhaps if Webster had spent more energy playing football than taking cheap shots, his team would have won.

As for Kenny Kelly, I originally wrote and posted a version of this game report where I called him a quitter, but comments on the message board made me soften my stance and realize that it was Webster I was mad at, not Kelly.

After the game,  Kenny Kelly joined the Hokies' midfield huddle and exhorted Tech to go all the way this year.  For that, I have rewritten this section of the report and taken out the "quitter" comments, because Kelly really did take a beating, and since he's a class act, unlike Webster, he doesn't deserve some guy at a computer piling on.

Next Up: Payback Time

The last stop on the 1999 Hokies Revenge Express is almost here. First, UVa paid for last year, 31-7. Then Syracuse was drummed 62-0. Now it's Temple's turn.

Ordinarily, the thought of traveling to play in Veteran's Stadium is a scary proposition. It's easy to travel there, play in front of an empty stadium, and forget that the game you're playing counts.

The Hokies will have no such problem this time. Tech has played fifteen games since losing to Temple last year, and over that thirteen-month stretch, they have had to listen repeatedly to the Temple comments. Repeatedly.

A 9-0 season, a #2 ranking, and an approaching date with the Sugar Bowl (if the Hokies can win out) have dulled the pain of last year's Temple loss somewhat, but nonetheless, this next game is a chance to quiet the last ghost from last year.

The Hokies are no doubt exhausted and battered from this classic battle with Miami, and the tendency to let down would ordinarily be huge. But this is Temple, and this year, the Hokies get up for Temple.

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