Panthers rally to knock off Tech
By Jimmy Robertson
November 3, 2002

Post Game Notes Pittsburgh Panthers
at #3 Virginia Tech Hokies
Saturday, Nov. 3, 2002
Lane Stadium/Worsham Field - Blacksburg, Va.
Saturday night's kickoff temperature was 39 degrees. Under head coach Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech is now 7-3 when the temperature is 40 degrees or below at kickoff.

Nathaniel Adibi's blocked punt in the first quarter was the first of his career. It also marked the 95th blocked kick - 49th punt - under Beamer in 183 games. Since joining the BIG EAST in 1991, Tech has blocked more kicks - 10 - against Pittsburgh than any other team it has played.

With his touchdown in the first quarter, Lee Suggs has now scored a touchdown in 22 consecutive games in which he has played and started in. He now has 45 career rushing touchdowns and 47 total touchdowns, both school and BIG EAST Conference records.

With his 128 net yards against Pittsburgh, Lee Suggs passed both Shyrone Stith (2,292) and Vaughn Hebron (2,327) and moved into eighth place all-time at Tech in career rushing yards. He now has 2,398 career yards. He now needs 64 yards to move past Phil Rogers (2,461) and into seventh place.

Suggs' 59-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was a career long. His previous was 56 yards in 2000 against East Carolina.

Willie Pile's interception in the fourth quarter was the 13th of his career, moving him up into a tie for third place all-time at Tech with Ron Davidson and Lenny Smith.

The 275 net rushing yards by Pittsburgh were the most by a team against Virginia Tech since Nebraska ran for 279 yards against Tech in the 1996 Orange Bowl. The 483 total yards of offense were the most by a team against Tech since Virginia put up 502 yards of total offense in 1997.

Tech now holds a 7-3 lead in the series, but Pittsburgh has won the last two games. All three losses by Tech to the Panthers have come in the month of November.

This is just the second loss for the Hokies in 12 games on ESPN2. The only other loss was in 1998 to Syracuse.

Tech now has a record of 64-49-1 in night games, including a 31-16-1 record under Beamer. Tech has lost just three of its last 25 regular-season night games and Tech now has a 14-3 record in night games against BIG EAST opponents.

The following players will be re-evaluated on Sunday for injuries sustained in the game:
Justin Hamilton: left ankle sprain; X-rays were negative
Ronyell Whitaker: left shoulder sprain
Kevin Jones: left hamstring strain

Virginia Tech is now 8-1, 3-1 in the BIG EAST and will travel to Syracuse next week for a game against the Orangemen. Game time and television coverage is TBA. Syracuse leads the series 8-7 after last season's 22-14 win over Tech at Blacksburg. Tech is 2-5 all-time in the Carrier Dome and 2-6 in games played at Syracuse.

Complete stats from the game
Pittsburgh rallied from 14-0 and 21-7 deficits to knock off the third-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies 28-21 in a BIG EAST game in front of 64,971 fans at frigid Lane Stadium in Blacksburg.

The win marked the Panthers' second consecutive over the Hokies as they improved to 7-2 overall and 4-0 in the BIG EAST on the season. The Hokies dropped to 8-1, 3-1 and saw their hopes of playing for the national championship dashed.

Tech lost mainly because its defense gave up a season-high 275 yards rushing and 208 yards through the air - 483 total. And the Hokies, which came into the game ranked No. 1 nationally in rush defense and scoring defense, couldn't come up with the big stop when they needed it.

Pittsburgh scored the final 21 points in the game. The game-winning touchdown for the Panthers came with 4:11 left when Brandon Miree scored on a 53-yard run. Miree finished with 161 yards on 23 carries.

Tech got the ball twice after that. The Hokies went three-and-out on their ensuing possession, and then on their final possession, the Hokies got as far as the Pittsburgh 46 before time ran out.

"I think you give Pittsburgh a lot of credit," Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. "They made some great plays and I thought we had too many long plays against us. I thought we had things under control when we're leading by 14 and have them stopped and then get a penalty. Things kind of burst loose there for a while.

"It seemed like every time we had a first down, we'd get a holding call. We just got in a bad groove in the second half. A lot of that goes back to Pittsburgh. They took it to us and won the football game."

Tech took a 14-0 lead thanks to its special teams. Midway through the first quarter, Tech's Nathaniel Adibi blocked the punt of Pittsburgh punter Andy Lee and the Hokies' Jimmy Williams recovered at the Pittsburgh 3. On the next play, tailback Kevin Jones took it in from 3 yards out to give the Hokies the lead. Nic Schmitt drilled the extra point as Tech took a 7-0 lead with 7:07 left in the first quarter.

Then, the threat of Tech's Pride and Joy team - the punt block/return team - led to another Hokie score. On the Panthers' next possession, Pittsburgh snapper Kurt Johnson nearly snapped the ball over Lee's head on fourth down at the Pittsburgh 20, and Lee, under a fierce rush, never got the punt off, running out of bounds at the Pittsburgh 21.

That miscue led to a Lee Suggs' 1-yard touchdown run. Schmitt's extra point gave the Hokies a 14-0 lead with 4:58 left in the first quarter.

But Pittsburgh answered on its next possession. Taking over at their own 23, the Panthers went 77 yards and scored when quarterback Rod Rutherford found Larry Fitzgerald for a 31-yard touchdown strike. David Abdul's extra point cut the lead to 14-7 with 3:06 left in the first quarter.

Fitzgerald proved to be a thorn in the Hokies' side all evening. The freshman caught five passes for 105 yards and three touchdowns.

"We knew he was a good receiver," Tech cornerback Vinnie Fuller said. "We knew if he could put his hands on it, he'd come down with it. We were in good position a couple of times, but we just didn't make the plays."

Tech took a 21-7 lead in the third quarter. On the third play from scrimmage, Suggs took a hand-off from Randall and sprinted 59 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. Schmitt's extra point gave the Hokies a 21-7 lead with 13:52 left in the third quarter.

But again, Pittsburgh answered. On its' ensuing possession, Pittsburgh went 86 yards on eight plays, with the big play coming on third-and-9 from the Pittsburgh 26. On that play, the Hokies forced an incomplete pass from Rutherford, but after the play, Tech's Ronyell Whitaker shoved a guy late and the officials threw the flag. Two plays later, Rutherford hit Fitzgerald for a 14-yard touchdown pass.

"I've seen worse," Beamer said of the infraction. "But when the play's over, you need to find your own teammates and celebrate with them."

Pittsburgh then tied it on its next possession. A 52-yard run by Tim Murphy - his first carry of the season - put the Panthers at the Tech 10. On the next play, Rutherford again found Fitzgerald, this time for a 10-yard touchdown pass and Adbul's extra point tied the game at 21 with 7:09 left in the third quarter.

Suggs led Tech's offense with 128 yards rushing on 25 carries. Quarterback Bryan Randall completed 12-of-22 for 145 yards and one interception.

Tech tailback Kevin Jones left the game early in the first quarter after suffering a hamstring injury. He will be re-evaluated on Sunday and his status for the Syracuse game is unclear.

The Hokies travel to Syracuse for another BIG EAST game next Saturday. The kickoff time has not been set.