Virginia Tech senior cornerback Anthony Midget seemed never to stop moving tonight in the second-ranked Hokies' 43-10 victory over No. 19 Miami. On the field he grabbed three interceptions and off the field he exercised--by riding a stationary bike.
Midget, the most experienced player in Virginia Tech's secondary, missed most of the past two games with a pulled groin. In his absence, the Hokies' were shredded for 427 yards passing against Pittsburgh and 192 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the final four minutes of play, against West Virginia. Although the Hokies held on to win both games, the closer-than-expected margins of victory left plenty of discussion about the solidity of Virginia Tech's secondary.
"We just needed to play better," Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said of his team's defense. "It helps when Anthony Midget is in the lineup. He means a lot when you get in a game like this. Experience means a lot. He's got talent and he's got experience."
In addition to Midget's three interceptions, Virginia Tech was sparked by junior cornerback Ike Charlton, who recovered three fumbles. Charlton returned the last one 51 yards early in the fourth quarter for a touchdown. The score came just 24 seconds after senior Ricky Hall had returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown. The two quick strikes broke open what had been a close, 20-10 game.
The two scores gave Virginia Tech a 33-10 lead, and Midget's final interception followed less than one minute later, with 12 minutes 22 seconds to play, and set up a field goal. Midget got the final interception off the Hurricanes' backup quarterback, Ken Dorsey, and the first two off starter Kenny Kelly, who was spelled intermittently because of a sore ankle.
"It happened quick," Beamer said. "But we've got good athletes who can put the pressure on. I think that pressure takes a toll after a while."
The game took its toll on Midget as well. Though he rode the stationary bike on the sideline to keep loose, Midget occasionally limped on the field. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster offered substitutions, often motioning for another player to head onto the field to relieve Midget, but just as often the senior lifted his hand to decline and the would-be replacement retreated.
"My team needed me," Midget said. "I knew I had to be on the field no matter what. I was just going to have to play through the pain tonight and I knew that. There was no way I was going to miss this game. Personally, I didn't play very well against Miami last year. I gave up two touchdown passes in that game and I wasn't going to let it happen again."
Charlton picked up two fumbles from Miami tailback Clinton Portis, who he said was running with the ball held too far away from his body, and one from Kelly. This, Charlton said, was just the kind of game the Hokies' defense, particularly the secondary, needed.
"We came out tonight and we wanted to make a statement," Charlton said. "We wanted to show the world that me and Midget can be the two best corners in the nation. We worked extra hard this week, studied, and we were ready. It feels good to show people that we can play good football."