Va. Tech Stomps Away With Win
Tuesday, January 3, 2006
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Jan. 2 -- Late in the first quarter of Monday's Gator Bowl, Virginia Tech's football team was imploding at Alltel Stadium for the second time in 31 days. The No. 12 Hokies had just given up a second touchdown pass to No. 15 Louisville, and Virginia Tech all-American cornerback Jimmy Williams had been ejected for bumping an official.
By halftime, the Hokies trailed by a touchdown and had committed five personal fouls or unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, which did not include perhaps the most egregious act, Hokies quarterback Marcus Vick's stomping on the knee of defensive end Elvis Dumervil, which was not seen by the game officials.
But after a stern lecture by Coach Frank Beamer, the Hokies (11-2) regained their composure in the second half and, behind a bruising running game and a resurgent defense, rallied for a 35-24 victory. It is only the third time Virginia Tech has won 11 games or more in a season, and the Hokies ended a two-game losing streak in bowl games.
The Hokies were penalized five times for 75 yards during the first half, each of the infractions setting them back 15 yards. It was all too reminiscent of their 27-22 loss to unranked Florida State in the ACC championship game on Dec. 3, which cost Virginia Tech an automatic berth in a lucrative Bowl Championship Series game. The Hokies were penalized a season-high 17 times for 143 yards in that game, their highest total in penalty yards since 1983.
Early in the first half against the Cardinals, it seemed Virginia Tech would easily surpass that dubious mark. After Louisville quarterback Hunter Cantwell threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Tinch to give Louisville a 14-3 lead with 2 minutes 53 seconds to play in the first quarter, Williams was pushed in the back by a Cardinals player. An official grabbed Williams to pull him away, and the senior spun out of the official's grasp. Williams was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct and was ejected from the game.
"I just spun out of the ref's hands," Williams said. "I didn't say anything to him. It's cool."
Officials never saw Vick's act, which occurred with Louisville leading 17-10 with about 1 1/2 minutes left in the first half. After scrambling for a nine-yard gain, Vick was tackled by Dumervil, who led Division I-A with 20 sacks this season. After Vick stood up, he looked down at Dumervil, raised his right leg and stomped on the back of Dumervil's left knee.
Fans sitting in the Louisville seating sections booed when the play was replayed on the video screen on the stadium scoreboard. As the teams left the field at intermission, several Louisville players attempted to go after Vick, but they were blocked by coaches and security personnel.
The play sullied what was one of Vick's better performances of the season, at least during the second half. Vick completed only three of his first 11 passes for 42 yards and was sacked twice in the first half. But after cornerback Roland Minor (H.D. Woodson) intercepted Cantwell's deep pass and returned it 25 yards to the Hokies 46 with 7 minutes 46 seconds left in the second quarter, Vick found his rhythm. He completed a 19-yard pass to tight end Jeff King on third and 12 and then threw a 33-yard touchdown to sophomore Justin Harper two plays later. Brandon Pace's extra point cut Louisville's lead to 14-10 with 5:06 to play in the first half.
Louisville went ahead 24-13 early in the fourth quarter, but then Vick threw a 54-yard pass to David Clowney and tailback Cedric Humes scored on a 24-yard run on the next play. Vick threw a pass to Josh Morgan for a two-point conversion, making it 24-21 with 13:04 remaining. After defensive end Chris Ellis sacked Cantwell and forced him to fumble, Vick threw a 48-yard pass to Clowney on the Hokies' ensuing offensive play. On second and goal, he threw a five-yard touchdown to King, and Pace's extra point gave the Hokies a 28-24 lead with 6:09 left.
On Louisville's next possession, linebacker James Anderson intercepted Cantwell's pass and returned it 39 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown to seal the victory.
"Marcus settled down and played great," King said. "I think that kind of sums up the game for all of us. We played out of character and got penalties and showed our [rears] for a little while."
Vick finished 11 for 21 for 203 yards and the two touchdowns, but those exploits did not garner the same attention afterward as the apparent attempt to hurt Dumervil.
"It basically shows he's a no-character person," Dumervil said after the game. "My left knee still hurts. He was talking garbage the whole game. In fact, he kept getting worse. He said, 'For a defensive end, you sure are short.' It just shows he doesn't have any class."
Virginia Tech officials said Vick tried to apologize to Dumervil after the game. Beamer said he would watch film of the play to determine whether Vick will be disciplined.
Vick said he told Dumervil "it was an accidental play, and I didn't intend to do it on purpose." Vick declined to comment further on the play, despite repeated questions from reporters after the game.
"There's no room for that in the game," Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers said. "It's flat embarrassing. I don't coach that way, and I don't expect him to play that way. It's out of character and you can't rationalize that in any way, shape or form, and he knows that."
Said Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino: "It's really unfortunate. You hate to have something like that happen. You hate to have kids at home seeing that happen. I just think it's unfortunate that everybody in the stadium saw it and the officials didn't."