Virginia Tech 20, Temple 10
-- More than 30 minutes after Virginia Tech's 20-10 win over Temple, sophomore quarterback Bryan Randall finally cracked his first smile.
Bothered by four turnovers and the first roadblock its running game has faced in weeks, the third-ranked Hokies merely survived the Owls when they had hoped to solidify their No. 3 national ranking by dismantling them.
Randall bemoaned his own performance, which included a fumble and two interceptions, one of which he labeled a "bonehead play."
But then, it hit him.
"We're undefeated," Randall muttered, shaking his head as if the thought needed time to soak in and, finally, smiling once it had. "There are some plays out there I'd love to have back, but I can only go forward.
"It was ugly, and ugly is fine with me as long as we win. But ugly won't win every week."
It did today, leaving the Hokies (8-0, 3-0 Big East) as one of just eight unbeaten teams in Division I-A and among a handful of teams still in the hunt for the national title. That -- despite the lackluster performance -- was enough to keep the crowd of 64,937 at Lane Stadium in a frenzy until the end.
Many of their cheers, and even more of the credit for the win, were reserved for a defense that has more than compensated for the recently erratic showing by the offense. The Hokies have turned over the ball seven times in the past two games after losing it just five times in its first six outings. They have escaped such mistakes, however, behind a defense that ranks as the nation's stingiest, allowing just 10.9 points and 41.0 rushing yards per game.
For the eighth time in as many games, Virginia Tech's defense held its opponent to less than 85 yards on the ground, yielding 39 yards on 25 carries. Senior Tanardo Sharps gained all but one of those yards for Temple (3-5, 1-2), but still finished 87.3 yards below his average. The Virginia Tech defense also grabbed three interceptions, one by sophomore DeAngelo Hall and two by sophomore Vincent Fuller, his fourth in the past three games.
"Running on us isn't an option," junior defensive end Jim Davis said. "The only thing they really hurt us with was their jailbreak plays on screens."
Meantime, the Hokies, who had posted 334 and 342 yards rushing in their past two outings, were similarly slowed by a Owls' defensive front that kept at least eight players in the box the entire game. Virginia Tech totaled 199 yards on the ground, including 72 by sophomore Kevin Jones and 47 yards by senior Lee Suggs. Suggs's performance was a career-low as a starter, one week after rushing for a career-best 197 yards.
"Their tailbacks only had 119 yards between them . . . that's about as good as you can do against them," Temple Coach Bobby Wallace said. "They're two of the best running backs in the country, but we're not too bad against the run."
After marching up the field on its opening series and taking a 7-0 lead on a four-yard touchdown run by Suggs, the Hokies' offense stalled. Their only other points of the first half -- a 21-yard field goal by freshman Nic Schmitt as time expired in the half -- came after a decision by Wallace to re-punt the ball after the Hokies were flagged for holding. But instead of backing up the Hokies as he had hoped, junior punter Garvin Ringwelski fumbled the snap and turned over the ball to Virginia Tech at the Temple 28.
The Hokies took advantage of another Temple mistake in the third quarter, turning Hall's interception into a 32-yard touchdown pass from Randall (13 of 20, 146 yards) to fullback Doug Easlick. Schmitt rounded out the scoring in the fourth quarter with his second career field goal, this one from 22 yards.
"We haven't played as well as we need to play the last couple weeks, everyone knows that . . . but we've been able to win football games and make plays when it counts," Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said. "To me, that's what it's all about."