Even though it ended with a fumble that kept him on the sideline for the rest of the game, Cedric Humes said his one carry Saturday may have helped clear the mental hurdle necessary to again run effectively for Virginia Tech.

Coaches had been critical of Humes for failing to break tackles during the first five games, when he fell from the starter at tailback to number three. Humes called that "a mental thing . . . when a guy hit me I might have been scared to drive off my ankle."

His left ankle had required surgery after an injury early in Virginia Tech's first scrimmage of spring practice but had mended enough for him to start in the season opener against Southern California. Until that one carry early in the second quarter against Wake Forest, however, he'd never shown the burst of speed and tackle-breaking ability that had excited coaches and teammates before the injury.

"He actually broke two tackles," running backs coach Billy Hite said.

But Humes fumbled after a 10-yard gain, Wake Forest recovered at its 18-yard line, and Hite did not allow him back in the game.

"That play helped me a lot," Humes said. "I thought I could take it all the way, kind of lost track of everything and let the ball go. . . . I feel I can run like I used to, breaking tackles. . . . I've never been third string, and I still don't look at it that way. I know I'm there [behind Mike Imoh and Justin Hamilton]. But I've got to work my way out of there."

Hite and Coach Frank Beamer are confident that will happen, and Saturday's game against lightweight Florida A&M could offer the first opportunity.

"Before the season's over with, you'll see him playing like the old Cedric Humes," Hite said. "I really believe that. I believe it deep down inside me." Added Beamer: "We don't worry about him fumbling a bit."

Burchette to Miss Game

Redshirt sophomore defensive end Noland Burchette will miss the Florida A&M game because of a shoulder injury. Senior Jim Davis will move from tackle and start in Burchette's place. Davis's natural position is end. But Burchette had such promise and Davis a flair for pass rushing regardless of his position that Davis switched to tackle just before the season opener. Redshirt freshman Carlton Powell, who has had consecutive productive games, will start at Davis's spot. . . .

Redshirt freshman linebacker Xavier Adibi (torn biceps tendon) likely won't return until the Oct. 28 road game against Georgia Tech. . . . Eddie Royal (nausea) did not practice Tuesday and is considered questionable for Saturday.

The Magic Number Seven

Virginia Tech needs seven wins to qualify for a bowl. That's because the Hokies and Southern California are the only two Division I-A teams to play 12 regular season games. . . .

When the ACC divides into two divisions next season, Boston College will be Virginia Tech's permanent crossover partner, Athletic Director Jim Weaver said. That means the Hokies will face BC every season in addition to fellow division members Virginia, Miami, North Carolina, Duke and Georgia Tech.