Tech Kicks West Virginia, 22-20
Hokies give Mountaineers the boot on GrahamÔs last-second field goal.
November 6, 1999

by Jimmy Robertson
Editor, Hokie Huddler

The sign at the West Virginia state line reads "Welcome to Wild, Wonderful West Virginia."

Well, it was certainly wild.

And for Tech fans, it was certainly wonderful.

Tech kicker Shayne Graham made Tech fans delirious, drilling a 44-yard field goal as time expired to give the Hokies a 22-20 Big East victory in front of 56,907 fans at Mountaineer Field.

"All I was thinking when we were out there before that drive was, 'Please, give me a chance,'" Graham said. "I had an opportunity like this last year [at Miami] and I didn't convert on it. But I had the confidence in myself and I knew the snapper and the holder and everyone else was going to give me the chance to make it.

"We got on the field and it was just a matter of making it. I saw that it was straight as soon as I kicked it and that's when the celebration began."

Tech ¸ who went into the game as a 19-point favorite ¸ improved to 8-0, marking the first time since 1905 that the Hokies have started a season with eight straight victories.

In addition, they kept alive their national title hopes. The Hokies moved to No. 2 in both polls after Penn State lost to Minnesota on a last-second field goal. If the Hokies win their final three games, they more than likely will play for the national title.

Also, the win marked Tech's fifth win over the Mountaineers in the past six meetings between the two schools. With the loss, West Virginia fell to 3-6, and needless to say, the Mountaineers will be home for the holidays.

Graham's kick capped a wild fourth-quarter, which saw the two teams combine for 23 points. This coming after an ugly first three quarters in which the two teams combined for 17 punts, 15 penalties and numerous other mental gaffes.

But despite the Hokies' struggles, they seemingly had the game in command when quarterback Michael Vick found receiver André Davis for a 51-yard gain to the WVU 6 and tailback Shyrone Stith scored on the next play to give the Hokies a 19-7 lead with 4:59 left in the game.

Yet, one of many freaky plays kept the Mountaineers in the game. On the ensuing kickoff, the Mountaineers' Richard Bryant fumbled. But West Virginia's Boo Sensabaugh picked it up and returned it to the Tech 39. A bone-headed late-hit penalty on Jimmy Kibble tacked on 15 more yards, giving the Mountaineers the ball at the Tech 24.

Four plays later, backup quarterback Brad Lewis, subbing for an injured Marc Bulger (bruised thumb), hit Jerry Porter with a 4-yard scoring pass with 3:15 left. The extra point cut the Tech lead to 19-14.

On its next possession, Tech tried to run out the clock. But on second-and-6 from the Tech 38, Stith got hit hard by West Virginia linebacker Barrett Green and fumbled. Sensabaugh recovered at the Tech 34 with 1:44 left in the game. Four plays later, Lewis hit Khori Ivy for an 18-yard scoring strike with 1:15 remaining. The conversion pass failed, leaving West Virginia with a 20-19 lead.

"We had a ball carrier just trying to get as many yards as he can," Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. "He was trying to get the first down and get the game over."

For the first time this season, the Hokies found themselves trailing in a ball game. But Tech, starting at its own 15, went back to work under the cool leadership of Vick.

After an incomplete pass on the first play of the drive, Vick hit Terrell Parham for a 14-yard gain to the Tech 29 and then connected with Davis for a nine-yard gain to the Tech 38.

Vick then made the biggest play of his career. Going back to pass and finding no one open, he scrambled out of the pocket, put a move on West Virginia linebacker Barrett Green and scrambled 26 yards to the West Virginia 36. He got out of bounds to stop the clock with 23 seconds left.

"The defender thought I was going out of bounds," Vick said. "But that's one of those moves I've been working on for a long time. He just turned his head too fast. He made a mistake and I made him pay."

Vick, who completed 14 of 30 passes for 255 yards, then hit Ricky Hall for a nine-yard gain on the next play and hurried the Hokies to the line of scrimmage. He spiked the ball with five seconds left, setting up Graham's game-winning field goal.

"We felt like if we could get it to the 40 and with the wind, Shayne could knock it in with the ball being on the 40," Beamer said. "There was a lot of time [when Tech took over the ball]. We didn't have any timeouts, but if we made a couple of plays and got the ball on the 40, we could have a chance to kick the field goal."

West Virginia then called a timeout to try to ice Graham. But Graham stayed on the field, went through his routine and blistered the kick right down the middle.

"I was over there praying," Beamer said. "When they called timeout, he stayed out there on the field. He's been around it enough. He knows what he wants to do. He's a heckuva kicker."

"I don't want to say I was nervous, but I don't want to say I wasn't nervous," Graham said. "I've been in that situation before and missed and knew what it felt like. I think that's what helped me out because I knew that I would live if I missed it."

He would have lived, but maybe not Tech's hopes for a national championship. And by making that kick, he kicked the hearts right out of the West Virginia players and fans.

"Our kids really played their hearts out," West Virginia coach Don Nehlen said. "I feel really bad for them. They bled for this game. I've got a lot of sick guys in that locker room."