Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick leaped into the arms of offensive guard Matt Lehr after the Hokies' first play from scrimmage tonight, was grinning broadly by halftime and enjoyed the second-half kickoff from a comfy seat on the Hokies' bench. He deserved the rest and Rutgers, which the fifth-ranked Hokies hammered, 58-20, needed the break.
Vick was near flawless at Rutgers Stadium in front of a crowd of 30,764 who came as much to see the Hokies--the highest-ranked opponent to ever play in Piscataway--as the winless Knights. With No. 3 Michigan's 34-31 loss to Michigan State earlier in the day, No. 5 Virginia Tech--already enjoying its highest ranking in school history--undoubtedly will continue its climb up the national polls. The Hokies (5-0, 1-0 Big East) are one of only nine unbeaten teams left in Division I-A.
Vick wasted no time getting things started, hitting split end Andre Davis deep for a 74-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage. The strike came just 18 seconds into the game and marked the first time in Coach Frank Beamer's 13-year tenure that his team has scored on the opening play. Vick, a left-hander with a strong and accurate arm, launched the ball nearly 50 yards in the air and Davis, the fastest man on the Hokies' roster, did the rest. The two scored on a similar 60-yard pass play last week to open the scoring against Virginia.
"We don't talk about it too much, but it's just kind of expected," Davis said. "I know he has a great arm and he knows I have the speed, so he's going to put the ball out there for me to run after."
The Hokies' offense was equally impressive--though not nearly as flashy--the rest of the first half, scoring touchdowns on seven of eight possessions for a huge 49-14 halftime lead. Vick (11 of 12 passing for 248 yards) hit Davis for 13-yard touchdown pass later in the first quarter and also found split end Ricky Hall twice--from 36 and five yards out--for four first-half touchdown passes. Vick, who became the first Virginia Tech quarterback to pass for four touchdowns in one half, added a spectacular 22-yard touchdown run of his own.
"I was yelling, 'Get down! Get down!' and about that time he made a guy miss and got to the end zone," Beamer said. "Shows what I know. I think it's just part of his makeup to get as many yards as he can."
Fullback Jarrett Ferguson and tailback Shyrone Stith added rushing scores of 20 and two yards, respectively, for the most points scored in a single half under Beamer.
"After we scored the third touchdown I knew these guys really couldn't stop us," Vick said.
In his past two games, Vick has completed 18 of 21 passes for 470 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. He also has gained 108 yards and scored once on 18 carries in that span.
Vick's first-half precision was in stark contrast to the Hokies' usually vaunted defense, which got off to its worst start of the season against the Knights (0-5, 0-2) before picking up the pace midway through the second quarter.
Virginia Tech, which came into the game leading the nation in total defense and scoring defense, yielded 14 first-half points to Rutgers, including its first rushing touchdown of the season on a 12-yard run by quarterback Mike McMahon, who left the game late in the second quarter with a sprained right shoulder. He did so, however, after completing a 36-yard touchdown pass to tight end L.J. Smith which tied the game at 14 before Virginia Tech went on its scoring spree.
"I'm not sure how to describe the feeling," rover Cory Bird said of the defenses' two first-quarter lapses. "It was kind of sick. We definitely gave up too many points and too many yards tonight."
But after yielding 155 yards in the first quarter the Hokies' defense put on the brakes. Virginia Tech's defense gave up just 22 yards in the second quarter.
The Hokies' special teams got into the act as well, making its first block of the season on an extra-point attempt by Steve Barone in the fourth quarter. Defensive tackle Carl Bradley did the honors and then watched as freshman Ronyell Whitaker returned the loose ball 91 yards for two points. It marked Virginia Tech's 62nd blocked kick in the 1990s.