North Carolina State 17,
Virginia Tech 16
Forty minutes after the worst football beating he had ever endured, 10 sacks in all and several other knockdowns after he had released passes, Virginia Tech quarterback Bryan Randall slumped onto a chair. A welt had formed under his left eye and slivers of grass still clung to the left side of his face.
"You look up and they're in your face," Randall said of the defense that carried North Carolina State to a 17-16 victory. "You try to get away and there's nothing you can do . . . seemed like every play I was pulling myself off the ground . . . at one point I wondered: 'Are we gonna get 100 yards in total offense?' We were losing more yards than gaining yards."
Two first-half trips inside the Wolfpack 10-yard line resulted in a total of three points for the Hokies. In contrast the Wolfpack scored two touchdowns on drives that totaled just 39 yards. Ugly as it was for the Hokies, they still had a chance at victory after Randall led a drive that started on the Tech 5 and put Brandon Pace in position for a 43-yard field goal attempt on the game's last play. It was wide right by a yard.
So a week after its first-ever ACC victory, Virginia Tech suffered its first-ever ACC defeat. The Hokies did muster more than 100 yards in total offense, but had just six at one point in the third quarter. Randall became the school's career leader in total offense, getting exactly the 128 yards he needed to pass the 6,105 Maurice DeShazo had in the early 1990s.
The defense mostly played well, with both Wolfpack touchdown drives more the responsibility of the Tech offense and senior punter Vinnie Burns. N.C. State's 34 yard-drive that tied the score at 10 a little more than a minute before halftime came after Randall twice had been sacked for losses totaling 18 yards and Burns hit a short punt from deep in his end zone.
What ultimately became the decisive touchdown, with four-plus minutes left in the third quarter, was a five-yard push into the end zone after Burns muffed a near-perfect snap.
"I didn't even catch it," Burns said. "It just hit my hands and fell."
Pace missed two field goal attempts, but hit a 23-yarder early in the first quarter and 32- and 37-yarders in the fourth that lifted Tech to within a point with eight-plus minutes left. Most disappointing, shocking even to Coach Frank Beamer, was Tech's offensive linemen being overrun for most of the sacks.
"I never thought [State's pass rush] would handle us the way they did," Beamer said. "Never, never, never. Never thought that would happen."
The offensive linemen Tech made available to reporters, left tackle Jimmy Martin and center Will Montgomery, said several times that a review of the tapes would be necessary to access blame. Said Martin: "It was ugly. I'm kind of embarrassed, feel bad for Bryan that we didn't give him time to throw."
Randall said he blistered his blockers "repeatedly" and added he was surprised that State blitzed so often rather than from schemes it hadn't shown.
The Hokies had a pass interception, a fumble recovery and a 58-yard punt return by freshman Eddie Royal in the first half, but had to settle for a 10-10 tie.
After State took a 3-0 lead on a 53-yard field goal by John Deraney, momentum swung Tech's way when free safety Vincent Fuller intercepted a pass near his end zone, flipped a lateral to cornerback Eric Green at about the 15 as he was being tackled and watched Green run down the right sideline to the State 39. After a first-and-goal situation was squandered, however, Pace missed for the first time in his young career after four successes.
On the Wolfpack's next series, backup quarterback Marcus Stone fumbled and defensive tackle Jim Davis recovered. The Hokies drove 36 yards to grab a 7-3 lead behind four short runs by tailback Mike Imoh and two for 19 yards by Randall before Randall hit fullback John Kinzer in the end zone from the 4.
After a three-and-out by State on its next possession, Royal fielded a punt and used a block by defensive end Chris Ellis to dash down the right sideline to the Wolfpack 15. Randall ran to the 5, but three cracks from there failed and Pace hit a 23-yarder.
The Hokies' defense had kept tailback T.A. McLendon in check for most of the first half. But after those back-to-back sacks of Randall and a one-yard loss by tailback Justin Hamilton, Tech had fourth and 29 from its 1. After a 10-yard return of a Burns's punt, McLendon was responsible for most of the 34-yard drive scoring, including the final six.