Bill Dooley, Virginia Tech's football coach, walked out of the locker room minutes after his team's 20-10 loss to Miami in the Peach Bowl today and began talking about the game.
He talked about how his offense moved the ball, how his defense started slowly but came on and about how hard his team had played. He talked for 10 minutes, dragging on a cigarette all the while.
There was a brief silence. Then, Dooley said, "Course, I'm disappointed we lost the football game."
Perhaps. But after being told that his team had played a powder-puff schedule and after hearing that the Gobblers would be annihilated by a Miami team that had played six bowl teams in compiling an 8-3 record, Dooley and his players seemed more delighted by the closeness of the score than disappointed by the defeat.
Miami got first-half touchdowns from Larry Brodsky and Chris Hobbs and two second-half field goals from Dan Miller on a brisk, breezy day in front of a crowd announced at 45,384 but that was probably closer to 30,000 because of no-shows.
Those that came never were terribly excited. Neither was Miami. But Tech. which finished 8-4, walked away feeling almost satisfied because it did better than expected.
"I think we proved some things today," said Tech tailback Cyrus Lawrence, who finished with 134 yards rushing on 27 carries and had the Gobblers' only touchdown on a one-yard dive in the third quarter. "We heard all the stuff about how Miami was going to beat us 50-0; how they were just going to beat us to death.
"Well, they didn't."
"They're a good team, no doubt about it," said Miami Coach Howard Schnellenberger, whose 20th-ranked team probably will move up in Saturday's final polls. "We started well, then let down a bit. By the third quarter, they had us fighting for our lives."
Or at least a bit worried.
Miami had started the game as if it intended to make Dooley's critics look very good, taking the opening kickoff and cruising 68 yards in eight plays for a 7-0 lead.
On the drive, quarterback Jim Kelly did a reasonable imitation of Mark Herrmann, picking the Tech secondary to pieces. His primary target was junior wide receiver Brodsky, who finished the day with four catches for 80 yards, three of them on the initial drive.
Brodsky made a key catch on second and 25 at the Miami 368 leaping to grab a high, outside Kelly fast ball at the Tech 36. Three plays later, Brodsky faked defensive back Lawrence Young to the outside, ran inside and was wide open for a 13-yard score just 2:23 into the game.
The Hurricanes, who fumbled four times, gave Tech its first opportunity when Fred Marion fumbled a punt at his 25 and John Gambone grabbed it for Tech.
Dooley tried to get even immediately, calling a halfback pass by Lawrence, who never had thrown a pass except in practice since arriving in Blacksburg two years ago.
"As many times as Lawrence runs the sweep, it seemed like a good play to call," Dooley said. "The receiver was out there but Miami made a good play."
Receiver Tony McKee was, indeed, out there, several steps behind the defense. But Lawrence's moon ball was well underthrown and Marion, making up for his fumble, drifted back to intercept on the one.
From there, Miami made like a juggernaut, slamming 99 yards in nine plays for a 14-0 lead with 13:47 left in the half, fullback Hobbs going the last 13 yards on a trap play up the middle on which he was not touched.
It was beginning to look like a debacle for the Hokies.
"The first couple of times we had the ball moving, it was about as hard as picking oranges off a tree," Kelly said. "But then I started making some mistakes and they played better."
Tech did play better, driving 74 yards to the six after Hobbs' score only to turn the ball over again on a poorly conceived pass by quarterback Steve Casey, who had a nine-for-23 passing day. The forced pass, intended for Sidney Snell, was intercepted at the goal line by Ron Lippett.
The Gobblers finally got three points on the board when, largely on the strength of Lawrence's running, they drove to the Miami 12 at the end of the half. They stalled when Casey was sacked by all-America Jim Burt for a 13-yard loss but Dennis Laury hit a 42-yard field goal.
"At that point, we felt pretty good," said Tech center Roe Waldron, son of Doonie Waldron, coach at St. John's high school in Washington. "They had been fired up, then got a little lackadaisical and that helped us get back in it."
Tech was genuinely in it in the third quarter when it took the opening kickoff and marched impressively 80 yards on 12 plays, Casey and Lawrence both running well and Casey hitting a key pass to Rob Purdham for 42 yards on a beautifully executed tight end delay that put the ball on the Hurricane 14. Three plays later, Lawrence did his swan dive from the one. It was 14-10 and the Hokie fans almost made the stadium sound alive.
It was even livelier when Miami's offense did a three-and-out routine and the Gobblers took over on their 22. But now the Hurricanes had seen enough. tAfter Scott Dovel got four, Lawrence lost two and went nowhere and Tech had to punt.
From its 33, Miami drove to the Gobbler 10 before two sacks brought on field-goal kicker Miller. He was good from 31 yards. It was 17-10 Miami with 29 seconds left in the third quarter and the momentum Tech had felt was gone.
"After we scored, we were hoping for a quick fumble, to get right back out," Waldron said. "When we got the ball deep (the 22), it took some of the fire out of us. This time we got a little lackadaisical and they got their fire back."
They also got another Miller field goal, this one from 37 yards with 6:27 left to clinch the game.