Virginia Tech clinched at least a tie for the Big East championship yesterday in RFK Stadium -- and almost certainly added another chapter to the book of college football oddities in the process.
The Hokies' 38-16 victory over Temple before a crowd of 20,371 was all but assured when their two defensive tackles, 260-pound Jim Baron and 275-pound J.C. Price, scored touchdowns within 48 seconds of each other early in the second quarter.
"Shocking," said Price. "Never in my wildest dream could I have imagined it. Whole teams go entire seasons without doing anything close to that."
The 6-foot-4 Baron scored on a 46-yard fumble recovery caused by the wicked hit defensive end Hank Coleman put on Temple quarterback Pat Bonner.
"Felt like Deion going to the house," said Baron, referring to Dallas Cowboys defensive back Deion Sanders.
That gave Virginia Tech (8-2, 6-1 Big East) a 17-6 lead. Two plays later, on third and 16, Bonner tried a screen pass that the 6-3 Price caught and returned 24 yards for a touchdown with 12 minutes 16 seconds left before halftime.
No. 21 Virginia Tech's eighth straight victory, after back-to-back losses to open the season, was not unexpected -- and officials had T-shirts and caps ready to celebrate this first Big East title.
Syracuse and Miami, which also won yesterday and play each other in two weeks, are 4-1. So the bowl possibilities for Virginia Tech seem to range from the Sugar to the Gator.
Much also will depend on Virginia Tech's season-ending game against Virginia Saturday in Charlottesville. But Coach Frank Beamer wanted to savor this accomplishment awhile.
"I'm really, really proud of what we've got going," said Beamer. He added that no matter the outcome of the league race, "our rings will say Big East champions."
Temple (1-9, 1-5) was close to the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, with Coach Ron Dickerson saying: "This football team took one giant step backward today. . . . I am very, very disappointed in the effort of the guys, very disappointed in the execution. We did everything possible to lose."
The game was played here because Temple figured it could draw more fans than the usual 5,000 it attracts at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium. But Virginia Tech strutted into an area in which it has enormous alumni support and where it recruits successfully.
Temple led, 6-3, late in the first quarter after Zane Michalski kicked a 31-yard field goal after the Owls recovered a blocked punt at the Tech 29.
That was as good as it would get for the Owls, as Virginia Tech quickly took the lead on an 81-yard surge that ended with quarterback Jim Druckenmiller hitting wide-open flanker Byron Still from 35 yards for the touchdown.
"Our running game set it up," said Still, referring to five straight rushes for big yardage before his touchdown catch.
Quickly, the Virginia Tech defense produced its Baron-Price touchdowns and a 24-6 lead. In addition, the Hokies, who had allowed just eight touchdowns in six conference games prior to yesterday, caused five turnovers and had five quarterback sacks.
Beamer was not overly surprised at Baron's and Price's touchdowns, saying: "We had a touchdown at East Carolina last year. We have guys that have athletic ability. It's not out of the question for us."
Ten-plus minutes after Price's touchdown, the Virginia Tech offense finally matched its defense's touchdown production, capping a 71-yard drive with reserve fullback Marcus Parker bulling inside from the 2-yard line to increase the advantage to 31-9.
The key play was fourth and four from the Temple 32, when Druckenmiller and Still combined on a 25-yard pitch-and-catch.
Temple had an excellent scoring chance early in the fourth quarter, but Virginia Tech intercepted on its 3-yard line. The Hokies then went 97 yards in 12 plays and gained a 38-9 lead on Parker's second touchdown run, from the 1.
On their next series, the Owls scored on an 18-yard pass from Henry Burris to flanker Troy Kersey. With less than three minutes left, Virginia Tech intercepted Burris's pass near midfield. CAPTION: Virginia Tech defensive tackle J.C. Price pulls out of the grasp of Temple quarterback Pat Bonner and runs 24 yards with interception for a touchdown. CAPTION: Virginia Tech linebacker Korey Irby slows down Temple running back Corey Green, drops Green for five-yard loss.