BLACKSBURG, VA., SEPT. 26 -- Virginia Tech linebacker Victor Jones was in disbelief as he stood in the Hokies' locker room after today's 35-21 loss to Syracuse. The Hokies' 14-point halftime lead was taken away as quickly as it was earned.

"Maybe something happened in their locker room at halftime that I don't know about," Jones said.

That something was a word put on a blackboard in the Orangemen's locker room. Syracuse offensive lineman Bob Fuller said offensive line coach George DeLeone, lips pressed firmly together, wrote "Character" in big letters.

"Everybody on the offensive line took it to heart," Fuller said.

So much, in fact, that they paved the way for a Syracuse backfield that rushed for 220 yards in the second half, helping the Orangemen (4-0) erase a 21-7 halftime deficit.

The rushing yardage set up two touchdown passes from quarterback Don McPherson to wide receiver Tommy Kane. Robert Drummond gave the Orangemen the lead for good, 28-21, on a 51-yard run with 10:54 to play in the game.

And Syracuse limited Virginia Tech to minus-1 yard rushing.

"It wasn't a miracle," said Syracuse nose guard Ted Gregory, an Outland Trophy candidate who had 12 tackles -- two for losses -- and a sack. "We had the bad breaks in the first half, and it was just a matter of time before we got squared away."

The Hokies (0-3) led, 7-0, three minutes into the game. The score was set up by Erik Chapman's 50-yard pass to wide receiver Myron Richardson, who made a nice catch over defensive back Chris Ingram at the Syracuse 10-yard line.

On third down, Chapman, from DeMatha High School, connected with tight end Steve Johnson in the right corner of the end zone.

On Syracuse's next possession, punter Cooper Gardiner fumbled a one-hop snap and the Hokies recovered at the Orangemen 9-yard line. Chapman then found Richardson in the left corner of the end zone to make it 14-0. Syracuse 0 7 14 14 35 Virginia Tech 14 7 0 0 21

V -- S.Johnson 8 pass from Chapman (Kinzer kick)

V -- Richardson 9 pass from Chapman (Kinzer kick)

S -- Owens 34 pass from McPherson (Vesling kick)

V -- Stokes recovers block punt in end zone (Kinzer kick)

S -- Barnes 4 run (Vesling kick)

S -- Kane 17 pass from McPherson (Vesling kick)

S -- Drummond 51 run (Vesling kick)

S -- Kane 11 pass from McPherson (Vesling kick)

A -- 33,300 Syracuse Va. Tech First downs 23 12 Rushes-yards 52-256 30-(-)1 Passing yards 186 214 Return yards 39 64 Passing 13-25-1 15-32-2 Punts-average 6-32 8-41 Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-0 Penalties-yards 6-40 3-15 Tim

RUSHING -- Syracuse: Johnston 13-85. Virginia Tech: E. Jones 7-26.

PASSING -- Syracuse: McPherson 13-25-1, 186 yards. Virginia Tech: Chapman 15-32-2, 214.

RECEIVING -- Syracuse: Kane 3-49. Virginia Tech: Richardson 5-99.