Miami outburst too much for Tech
By Jimmy Robertson
December 7, 2002

The Hokies scored 45 points, but Miami just had too much firepower for Tech to overcome as the No. 1-ranked 'Canes knocked off the Hokies 56-45 in a wild, high-scoring BIG EAST affair in front of 76,108 fans at the Orange Bowl in Miami.

With the win, Miami improved to 12-0 and 7-0 in the league, winning the BIG EAST championship outright. Also, the 'Canes received an invitation to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl to play Ohio State for the national championship. Miami won it last year, beating Nebraska in the Rose Bowl.

Tech, meanwhile, finished the regular season with a 9-4 record, 3-4 in the BIG EAST. The Hokies lost for the fourth time in five games and lost their third straight against Miami.

Miami tailback Willis McGahee strengthened his bid for the Heisman Trophy, rushing for 205 yards on 39 carries and scoring a school and BIG EAST single-game record six touchdowns. Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey completed 12-of-20 for 300 yards and two touchdowns as the 'Canes amassed 556 yards of total offense against the Hokies. Miami also converted all three of Tech's turnovers into touchdowns.

"I'm proud of the effort," Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. "We hung in there and made some plays. But we had missed tackles and turnovers and we gave up too many big plays. We didn't play the way it takes to beat the No. 1 team in the nation."

Trailing 49-21, Tech appeared on the verge of getting blown out early in the third quarter when Miami tried a trick play. Nearing Tech's goal line, Jarrett Payton took the ball on a sweep and tried to throw back to Dorsey. But Tech safety Willie Pile intercepted the ball and went 96 yards for a touchdown.

That swung the momentum as Tech, scored the next 10 points after Pile's interception and closed to 49-37 on Lee Suggs' 9-yard touchdown run with 50 seconds left in the third quarter.

But the Hokies couldn't stop Miami. On the 'Canes next possession, Miami went 56 yards on 11 plays and scored when Dorsey hit tight end Kellen Winslow for an11-yard scoring strike with 10:06 to go to give Miami a 56-37 lead. Suggs' 4-yard run and Tech's two-point conversion with 1:51 left in the game accounted for the final margin.

"We played hard, but we just gave up too many big plays," Pile said. "We just couldn't get them stopped at any point in the game. We'd commit a mental error or lose leverage on a play and that's just demoralizing to any momentum we might have had."

On offense, Tech quarterback Bryan Randall kept the Hokies in the game, rushing for 132 yards and throwing for 165 and one touchdown. He accounted for 297 of Tech's 364 yards of total offense. Suggs rushed for 55 yards and scored three touchdowns as well and receiver Ernest Wilford caught six passes, which gives him 46 on the season. That ties the single-season record held by former tight end Mike Burnop.

With the regular season complete, Tech now awaits its bowl destination. That should be cleared up Sunday, but the Hokies appear to be headed to either the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte, the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl in San Fran, or the Motor City Bowl in Detroit.