Tech soars over Eagles to conclude unbeaten season.
November 26, 1999

by Jimmy Robertson
Editor, Hokie Huddler

At the end of the third quarter of Tech's game with Boston College, the sun broke through the dark clouds, which had dropped rain on the masses sitting in Lane Stadium.

The gesture seemed poetic for Tech and its fans. The sun has been shining on the Hokies all season.

Using three splendid touchdown passes from quarterback Michael Vick and a dominating defense that played recklessly for nearly all of the game, the Hokies staked their final claim for a national championship shot, capping a perfect season with a sweet performance in routing 20th-ranked Boston College 38-14 in front of 53,130 fans in the regular-season finale for both teams.

With the win, Tech ended up with its third unbeaten season in school history, including the first 11-0 season. The 1918 squad went 7-0 and the 1954 team went 8-0-1, with the only blemish being a 7-7 tie with William & Mary.

"Special group of players," Tech head coach Frank Beamer said after the game. "Special group of coaches. A lot of things got to flying around and a lot of people were saying a lot of different things.

"But I think the one thing you can say is our football team never quit playing. That's what I'm proud of. We never got caught up in everything that was going on. We just kept playing and there's something about that that is right and hopefully it's something right for this team to be playing in New Orleans for the national championship."

The Hokies, ranked No. 2 in both the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll and the Associated Press poll, all but assured themselves of a date with Florida State on Jan. 4 at the Sugar Bowl for the national championship. The official Bowl Championship Series standings won't be released until Dec. 5, but Tech figures to have nothing to worry about, particularly after Nebraska barely squeaked by Colorado 33-30 in overtime.

The Cornhuskers, who had closed the gap in the BCS rankings to within .6 of the Hokies, now must beat Texas handily in the Big 12 championship game to have any chance of passing Tech.

According to the Hokies, though, there's little chance of that happening.

"I don't know too much about the BCS rankings," said Tech tailback Shyrone Stith, who tied the school's single-season record for rushing touchdowns in a season with his first-quarter score. "But I know one thing we should be in the Sugar Bowl. No doubt about it. There's no question in my mind.

"We handled our business for the season and now its up to the voters and whoever else and hopefully they'll make the right decision and put us and Florida State in the Sugar Bowl."

"I believe in my heart that we will be playing in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship," said quarterback Michael Vick, who accounted for four touchdowns on the day. "We came out and took care of business."

Vick, the redshirt freshman who stole the glory on Senior Day at Lane Stadium, completed 11 of 13 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 76 yards and a score, accounting for 364 yards of total offense the fourth-best performance in school history. And after carrying the Hokies on his back for most of the season, he got a ride for himself by Tech fans who stormed the field after the final horn sounded and hoisted the 19-year-old on their shoulders.

Tech fans also hoisted the goal posts. Despite a plea from the public address announcer, scores of fans came onto the field in droves and tore down both of the goal posts.

"When I started seeing people running for the goal posts, it made me so happy that all the hard work that we put into this season finally paid off," said Tech receiver André Davis, who broke two school single-season records with his 172 yards receiving.

The moment, much like the season, seemed surreal. Tech fans went nuts as the P.A. announcer broadcast that Colorado and Nebraska were tied at 27 and Colorado was getting ready to attempt a game-winning field goal in the waning seconds. Everyone stopped celebrating and started watching the scoreboard to see if Colorado could pull off the upset.

But the Colorado kicker missed a 34-yarder, sending that game into overtime.

Then the place went nuts again just a few moments later when the P.A. announcer told the crowd that Colorado had won the game 30-27 on a field goal. Only the Buffaloes really hadn't won the game. Colorado scored on its first possession and the Cornhuskers had the ball. Nebraska then scored a touchdown to win the game.

The festivities, though, continued in a wild and crazy fashion as fans prepared for Bourbon Street. Mardi Gras, Blacksburg-style, hit Lane Stadium in a big way After all, 11-0 seasons come along every well, in Tech's case, it never had.

Until now.

"I don't think I've ever seen a scene like that," said Beamer, who was carried off the field by linemen Anthony Lambo and Josh Redding. "That's the great thing about us. We're all in this together.

"Our students, our fans, that's just a great feeling. Individual awards is one way to go, but when you do it as a group, as a team, it's great. This isn't the last time we plan to do this either."

Much like they have all season, the Hokies wasted little time in taking care of business. The Hokies scored on four of their six first-half possessions against the Eagles.

Stith's 3-yard run gave Tech a quick 7-0 lead just three minutes into the game. And then Vick hooked up with Davis for a couple of long touchdowns to blow the game wide open.

The first one came after Boston College went for it on fourth-and-15 from the Tech 25 and failed instead of kicking the field goal, giving the Hokies the ball back. On the very next play, Vick went back to pass and hit Davis in stride for a 69-yard touchdown. Shayne Graham's extra point made it 14-0 for the Hokies with 13:15 left in the first half.

The catch enabled Davis to break Tech's single-season record for receiving yardage. He came into the game needing only 37 yards to break the record set by Ricky Scales in 1972.

The Vick-to-Davis combination bit BC again on the Hokies' next possession. A five-play, 86-yard drive ended when Vick rolled left and hit Davis again, this time for a 59-yard strike and Graham's extra point gave the Hokies a 21-0 lead with 9:12 left in the first half.

That catch marked Davis' ninth touchdown catch of the season, tying Antonio Freeman's single-season mark of nine set in 1993.

Davis finished with five catches for 172 yards the third-best receiving performance in school history.

"After watching film, we knew we were going to be able to do that," Davis said of the bombs. "So I was just waiting for my chance to get my opportunity to do that. When it did happen, Michael was throwing the ball deep and I was going after them."

The Hokies waltzed into the locker room with a 24-0 lead after Graham connected on a 40-yard field goal with 2:40 left in the first half. BC got on the board in the third quarter when quarterback Tim Hasselbeck threw a bomb out of his own end zone to Dedrick DeWalt, who took it 97 yards for the score the longest pass play ever against Tech. John Matich's extra point cut the lead to 24-7.

But the Eagles never rallied after that, scoring just a meaningless touchdown with 46 seconds left in the game to account for the final score.

By the time the final horn sounded, Tech had racked up a season-high 555 yards worth of total offense, including a season-high 290 yards passing.

And the Hokies had wrapped up a season to remember.

With, of course, one game left to play hopefully, the national championship.

"To me, there's no question we should play in the big ballgame, Beamer said. "And I said when all the playing is done, the two best teams would play and I really believe, I really think, that the playing that counts is done.

"I would think we'd be in New Orleans for sure. These players and coaches sure deserve it."