Tech Paces Themselves To Win Over Syracuse
Hokies' game ripe for Gameday as Tech dismantles Orangemen 62-0.
October 16, 1999

by Jimmy Robertson
Editor, Hokie Huddler

With ESPN Gameday in town for its morning show and the actual Tech-Syracuse game not starting until 6 p.m., Tech head coach Frank Beamer told Hokie fans to "pace themselves."

In fact, the Hokies set the pace.

And Syracuse couldn't come close to keeping up.

Proving its one of the nation's top thoroughbreds, fourth-ranked Tech raced out to a 31-0 halftime lead and never looked back in a eye-popping, nation-waking 62-0 whipping over the Orangemen in front of a raucous 53,130 fans at Lane Stadium.

With the win, the Hokies improved to 6-0 overall (2-0 Big East), marking the first time since 1967 that Tech has started a season with six straight wins. That season, Tech started out 7-0 with head coach Frank Beamer playing in the secondary.

The win marked Tech's largest margin of victory over an opponent since beating Catholic University 73-0 in 1922 and it was the second-largest margin of victory by any team over a team ranked in the Associated Press poll. Two years ago, UCLA beat Texas 66-3.

It also marked Syracuse's worst loss since 1912.

"This is a special night in Blacksburg," Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. "The team played really well against a good football team and I think we did it with a little bit of everything, which is nice to see.

"I never thought the game was going to end up like it ended up. I thought it was going to be a tight one down to the wire. But things got going our way. The kids played great with great emotion. I like the way our kids step it up in the big ball games right now."

Tech also avenged last season's heart-breaking 28-26 loss to the Orangemen at the Carrier Dome. The Hokies lost that one on the last play of the game when former Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb threw a touchdown pass to tight end Stephen Brominski.

"We didn't talk about it much to be honest," cornerback Anthony Midget said. "I mean, that was a hurting feeling. But we just wanted to come out and play a good game, so it wouldn't come down to that. Fortunately, that's what we did."

To say the least.

Had this been an actual race, Tech would have lapped Syracuse several times. The Hokies supposedly were facing one of their toughest tests of the season. After all, the Orangemen came into the game with a No. 16 ranking and took mighty Michigan to the fourth quarter before succumbing 18-13 to account for their only loss coming into the game.

But Tech put Syracuse out to pasture early. In a dominating defensive performance, Tech held Syracuse to 120 yards of total offense 54 of that coming in the final quarter with the game already decided. The Orangemen finished with just seven first downs, averaged a mere two yards per play and converted just 1-of-15 third-down attempts.

In the first half alone, Syracuse amassed just one first down and 34 yards in total offense. In fact, Syracuse had nearly as many punts in the first half (6) as it did passing yards (8).

"It's a darn good defense," Syracuse tackle Jeff Pilon said. "They're a really good defense. But I just think we couldn't get ourselves rolling.

"It's kind of hard to explain how discouraging it is. There aren't any words to describe what happens. You just feel this pain in your stomach when things just aren't going right."

The pains started from the beginning as Tech's defense launched the first shot. On the Orangemen's third possession, Syracuse quarterback Troy Nunes hit receiver Quinton Spotwood with a pass. But as Spotwood turned to go upfield, Tech cornerback Anthony Midget stripped him of the ball and rover Cory Bird plucked it out of the air.

The redshirt junior then went untouched into the end zone for the touchdown. Shayne Graham's extra point gave the Hokies a 7-0 lead with 7:26 left in the first quarter.

"We wanted to set the tone on defense," defensive end Corey Moore said. "When we came out and scored on defense, we felt like it was in our hands. If they didn't move the ball, if they didn't score any more, then the defense would have won the game. I think it [that play] was a big momentum swing for the home team."

Bird's romp started the trend for the night. Tech's defense went on to score two more touchdowns a 43-yard interception return for a score by reserve rover Phillip Summers and a fumble recovery by reserve whip Tee Butler in the end zone, both in the fourth quarter.

Once Bird set the tone for the game with his score, he and his defensive teammates turned it over to the offense. After punting on its first two possessions, Tech's offense scored on four of its final five drives of the first half, accumulating 229 yards of total offense in the first 20 minutes.

Tech's first offensive score came courtesy of a couple of big plays. On the second play of the drive, Tech quarterback Michael Vick hit tight end Browning Wynn for a 30-yard gain to the Syracuse 25.

Three plays later, Syracuse made a costly mistake. A holding penalty on third-and-7 by the Orangemen gave Tech a first down at the Syracuse 12. Four plays later, tailback Shyrone Stith capped the 55-yard drive with a 1-yard run. Graham's extra point gave Tech a 14-0 lead with 2:24 left in the first quarter.

Tech expanded that lead on its next possession. Using the arm of Vick, who completed all three of his pass attempts for 49 yards, Tech marched 80 yards in six plays. Vick capped off the drive by finding receiver Ricky Hall in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown with 12:58 left in the first half. Graham's extra point gave the Hokies a 21-point lead.

Vick's first-half performance resembled that of Tech's. He completed seven of his 13 pass attempts for 122 yards and a touchdown. He finished the game completing 8-of-16 for 135 yards despite seeing little time in the second half.

"They're very solid offensively and Michael Vick gives them another dimension," Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "We've been around this type of thing. Vick is throwing the ball with a great deal of accuracy. That really helps their running game."

The Hokies actually put Syracuse away right before halftime. Facing a third-and-20 situation at their own 44, Vick hit tight end Derek Carter for a 19-yard gain to the Syracuse 37. On fourth down, Vick picked up two yards on a quarterback sneak and Stith later put the finishing touches on a 14-play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard run. Graham's extra point and his 25-yard field goal with 27 seconds left in the half made it 31-0 at halftime.

Tech also scored 31 in the second half, thanks to the touchdowns by Summers and Butler. André Davis scored on a 28-yard reverse and André Kendrick scored on a 7-yard run to account for the Hokies' four second-half touchdowns.

Tech finished with 411 yards of total offense for the game. That's with most of the second- and third-teamers playing in the second half.

And despite that, nearly all of the more than 53,000 fans stayed for the end, reveling in one of the biggest wins both statistically and figuratively in the program's history.

"I thought those fans paced themselves nicely," Beamer said with a laugh after the game. "They were good at 6 o'clock and they were even better at 10 o'clock."