Syracuse 50, Virginia Tech 42 (3 OT)
November 9, 2002
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com
1 2 3 4 1OT 2OT
Syracuse, NY - Bryan Randall and Ernest Wilford put up shocking, record-setting performances, but a porous defense doomed the Hokies to a painful 50-42 triple overtime loss in their house of horrors, the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
The Orangemen's Damien Rhodes raced 25 yards for a touchdown to open the third overtime and put Syracuse up 50-42, and when Randall followed up with an interception on the very next play, the Orangemen were winners. The triple overtime capped a wild game that saw seven lead changes and 1,163 yards of offense, the third-most ever in a Big East conference game.
Randall set a Big East record with 504 yards passing, and Wilford set a Big East record with 279 yards receiving, but the unexpected outburst of offense was not enough for the Hokies. Though they rang up 559 yards of offense, Tech surrendered 604 yards and was powerless to stop Syracuse's rushing and passing attacks late in the game.
Syracuse tallied 201 yards rushing (118 by Walter Reyes) and 403 yards passing (all by Troy Nunes) in handing the Hokies their second straight defeat after an 8-0 start. The Hokies had five turnovers, three interceptions by Randall and two fumbles, but none of them led to Syracuse points. The Orangemen, did however, block a Hokie punt and score off of it.
Wilford had 8 receptions and a Big East record-tying 4 TD receptions for his 279 yards. He scored on passing plays of 75, 34, 87, and 6 yards and had his way with the porous Syracuse pass defense, one of the worst in the country. Randall's 504 yards passing were the second-best single-game performance in Virginia Tech history, behind only Don Strock's 527 yards against Houston in 1972.
Randall was 23-of-35 for 504 yards and a Tech-record 5 TD's, but it was for naught. The Orangemen ran a staggering 100 offensive plays to Tech's 60 offensive plays, and Syracuse held the ball for 37:16 against just 22:44 for the Hokies, fatiguing the Tech defense and contributing to the loss.
In one sense, the Hokies were victims of their own success, scoring on "drives" that went 75 yards in one play, 90 yards in three plays, 87 yards in one play, and 95 yards in three plays. When the Hokies weren't scoring in a hurry, they often struggled, with five three-and-out possessions and five turnovers. Tech also did very little with the rushing game, carrying it just 25 times for 55 yards.
The result was a defense that spent entirely too much time on the field and couldn't stop Syracuse late in the game. Syracuse had 252 yards of offense in the fourth quarter alone.
Despite Tech's defensive futility, the Hokie D put Tech in position to win. Garnell Wilds intercepted a pass, one of three by Wilds on the day, on the Syracuse 38 yard line with 1:07 to go and the score tied 35-all. Tech positioned themselves for the field goal, but Carter Warley, kicking in his first game after being out with a back injury, left a game-winning 46-yard attempt short with ten seconds to go.
Wilds intercepted Nunes to open the first overtime, but in Tech's half of the period, Warley missed yet another field goal, this one from 36 yards out. After the two teams traded scores in the second overtime, Rhodes peeled off his 25-yarder and Randall threw his last interception, bringing the game to an end.
The loss drops the Hokies to 8-2, 3-2 in the conference. Syracuse has won their third in a row after a 1-6 start, and the Orange are now 4-6, 2-3 in the Big East. Tech will try to regroup against West Virginia, a 24-14 winner over Boston College, in a Wednesday night tilt on November 20th in Lane Stadium.
Syracuse opened the scoring with a field goal by Collin Barber to go up 3-0, and the Hokies responded with 14 straight points. First Tech went 73 yards in 9 plays, capped off by a 15-yard pass from Randall to Lee Suggs. On their next possession, Randall threw a play-action deep ball to Wilford, hitting the big receiver in stride for a 75-yard TD. The first quarter ended with Tech up 14-3.
Syracuse went 72 yards in 11 plays but couldn't put it in the end zone, settling for a 25-yard field goal by Barber that made it 14-6. After Randall threw an interception and Tech stopped Syracuse on downs, the Orangemen's David Tyree blocked a Tech punt, and Syracuse recovered at the Tech 2-yard line. The block was Tyree's third blocked punt against the Hokies in three years. Syracuse's Reyes scored on a two-yard run, and after a missed two-point conversion, the Hokies were up 14-12.
The remainder of the second quarter saw Randall throw another interception, and the Hokies thwarted a fake Syracuse field goal attempt. The teams went into half time with the score still 14-12.
Syracuse continued to keep the Hokie offense under wraps early in the third quarter. Barber kicked another field goal, this one a 35-yarder that made it 15-14, Syracuse, midway through the quarter.
The snoozing Hokie offense then exploded, going 90 yards in three plays to go back up 21-15. Wilford caught a 21-yard pass, Suggs carried for a 20-yard gain, and after the referees tacked on a late hit penalty in Syracuse, Randall hit Wilford with a 34-yard TD down the right sideline.
Syracuse answered with a 9-yard run by Reyes, and the score was 22-21, Syracuse, at the end of the third quarter.
Reyes scored again early in the fourth quarter on a 6-yard carry, but Barber bounced the extra point off the upright, and it was 28-21, Syracuse.
The Hokies converted a fourth down on their next possession when Randall, in the arms of defenders, pitched to Suggs, who rumbled for a first down. Suggs lost the ball as he was tackled, and the referees ruled it a questionable fumble, giving it back to Syracuse. The Hokies stopped Syracuse, and then Randall hit Wilford on the left sideline for an 87-yard TD. Wilford caught the ball, split two defenders, and outraced them to the end zone to tie the ball game at 28.
The Hokies stalled Syracuse yet again, and Tech struck quickly on their next possession, going up 35-28 when Randall hit Wilford with a 6-yard TD on a fade route. The TD was set up by an 87-yard pass from Randall to tight end Keith Willis from the Hokie 5-yard line.
The Hokies led with less than five minutes to go, but it was short-lived. Syracuse scored in two plays. Rhodes followed a 62-yard Tyree reception with a 3-yard TD run that tied it at 35 with 4:27 to go.
On Syracuse's last possession of regulation, the Hokies stopped them on the SU 22-yard line, but then gave the Orange new life by running into the punter. The penalty wasn't costly, because Wilds broke up a short Syracuse pass and picked it off with a juggling catch on the Orange 38 yard line with just over a minute to go.
The Hokies positioned themselves for the field goal, but Warley's kick from 46 yards out was short with ten seconds to go.
The game went into overtime. In the first OT, Wilds picked Nunes off in the end zone. The Hokies ran the ball into the middle of the line three times to set Warley up, but Warley was again not up to the task, missing a 36-yarder that would have won it.
In the second OT, both teams scored a TD. Randall scored on a one-yard option keeper, and the Orangemen narrowly avoided the loss by hitting Joe Donnelly with a 6-yard TD pass on fourth and three.
On the very next offensive play, Rhodes ran it in from 25 yards out and then converted the two-point conversion on a cut-back run. On Tech's next offensive play, Randall threw to Wilford in the end zone, but his pass into double coverage was short and was intercepted.
RUSHING: VT-SUGGS, Lee 19-65; TEAM 1-minus 1; RANDALL, Bryan 5-minus 9. SU-REYES, Walter 21-118; RHODES, Damien 17-67; BELTON, Thump 4-20; DAVIS, Chris 5-13; TEAM 1-minus 1; NUNES, Troy 12-minus 16.
PASSING: VT-RANDALL, Bryan 23-35-3-504. SU-NUNES, Troy 24-40-3-403.
RECEIVING: VT-WILFORD, Ernest 8-279; PARHAM, Terrell 5-48; WILLIS, Keith 2-113; SUGGS, Lee 2-24; EASLICK, Doug 2-19; WITTEN, Shawn 2-11; JOHNSON, R. 2-10. SU-TYREE, David 9-229; RIDDLE, Jamel 8-65; REYES, Walter 2-40; DONNELLY, Joe 2-32; RHODES, Damien 2-21; MORANT, Johnnie 1-16.
INTERCEPTIONS: VT-WILDS, Garnell 2-0; HARDEE, Billy 1-0. SU-McCLAIN, M. 1-0; SCANLON, Rich 1-0; GREGORY, Steven 1-2.
FUMBLES: VT-JOHNSON, R. 1-1; SUGGS, Lee 1-1. SU-NUNES, Troy 2-0.