It was exactly the kind of play that makes Virginia Tech redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Vick dangerous. It is also the kind of play that will test the hearts of his coaches and teammates more than once. Vick led the No. 11 Hokies to a 47-0 shutout of Division I-AA James Madison before a sellout crowd of 51,907 at Lane Stadium.
Vick's seven-yard scramble--the last of his three rushing touchdowns in the Hokies' victory--was the most spectacular of the afternoon, but it also silenced the crowd.
On third and six from the James Madison 7-yard line, Vick saw the blitz coming and spotting no open receivers, opted to run. Still several yards shy of the end zone, Vick was confronted by two James Madison defenders and leaped for the goal line as he was undercut by a defender. Vick turned head-over-heels in a front flip into the end zone.
Though both feet hit the grass, Vick bent backward awkwardly and came down hard. Trainers rushed to the field as his teammates dropped to their knees. The crowd sat, silent, unwilling to even cheer the score that put Virginia Tech (1-0) comfortably ahead, 24-0, with 7 minutes 18 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Vick left the field unassisted, had X-rays taken and was back on the sideline before the end of the half.
"I think I was about four yards out, and I don't know what made me jump," Vick said. "I thought I was going to land on my head so it was a surprise when my feet hit first."
After seeing last year's starting quarterback, Al Clark, and top reserve Dave Meyer injured last season, the Hokies feared the worst.
"My initial thought was, 'Oh no, not again,' " senior split end Ricky Hall said. "My heart sank."
Vick suffered a contusion of the lower left leg, and though the X-rays confirmed there was no fracture, he will be reevaluated several times this week. He also will be back on the field Saturday when the Hokies host the University of Alabama-Birmingham--at least if he has anything to say about it.
"When they said the X-rays were negative, I knew I'd do whatever it took to get back next week," Vick said. "I wanted to go back in there today but there just wasn't a need to. If I have to go to treatment three times a day, I don't care, as long as I play next week."
Vick's postgame comments were a relief to Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer, who watched his young star perform as well as expected in the quarter-and-a-half he was in the game. Vick completed 4 of 6 passes for 110 yards, including a 60-yard pass to Hall. He also rushed for 54 yards on four carries--scoring from 3, 54 and 7 yards--to complement a 122-yard rushing performance by junior tailback Shyrone Stith.
"That's what [Vick] brings to the table," Beamer said. "He's a guy who can get the ball in the end zone a couple of different ways . . . with the deep ball or with a run. He was impressive early and if we can keep him on the field, then he'll be impressive a lot."
Virginia Tech was equally impressive on defense despite giving up an uncharacteristic 78-yard run by James Madison senior Curtis Keaton on the first play of the Dukes' second drive of the game. Facing a first-and-10 from their 16, the Hokies, ranked nationally last season in nearly every defensive category, responded by sacking quarterback Charles Berry twice. They also benefited from two James Madison penalties, which combined to push the Dukes (0-1) back to third and 50 from their 44. Virginia Tech contained Keaton on the third-down run to eliminate the Dukes' only real scoring threat. James Madison finished with 210 total yards.
Shayne Graham kicked six extra points and a 32-yard field goal to move atop the Big East career scoring list with 273 points.
CAPTION: Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick comes down hard in the end zone after a 7-yard touchdown scramble in the second quarter. X-rays showed Vick suffered a left leg contusion.
CAPTION: Virginia Tech's John Engelberger (96) sacks James Madison quarterback Charles Berry. Berry was 9 of 17 with one interception and no touchdowns.