Va. Tech 20, N.C. State 16
-- Marcus Vick's much-delayed debut as Virginia Tech's starting quarterback proved to be very much worth the wait for the No. 8 Hokies on Sunday night, as the junior threw the game-winning touchdown to David Clowney early in the fourth quarter, and then with his timely running helped the defending ACC champion hang on for a 20-16 victory at North Carolina State.
The Hokies avenged their only ACC loss of last season when safety Aaron Rouse intercepted quarterback Jay Davis's pass at the Virginia Tech 5-yard line as the clock expired in front of a sellout crowd of 55,600 at Carter-Finley Stadium. Virginia Tech rallied from a 13-10 deficit in the second half and bounced back after an apparent touchdown was nullified by the ACC's new instant replay rules.
"I'm really glad to get out of here with a win," said Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer, whose team lost to N.C. State, 17-16, at Lane Stadium last season. "I thought it was a hard-fought game. I said coming in that I thought N.C. State was really going to be one of the best teams in our league and I really believe that after playing them."
Vick, from Newport News, Va., completed 10 of 21 passes for 108 yards and one touchdown and ran 13 times for 31 yards in his first college start. With the game tied at 13 early in the fourth quarter, Vick rolled to his left and threw across his body for Clowney, who beat cornerback Jimmie Sutton III and slid to catch a 19-yard touchdown, putting Tech ahead, 20-13, with 12 minutes 24 seconds to play.
"Marcus just made a great throw," Clowney said. "He made an incredible throw. He threw the ball to a point where only I could catch it. I was either going to catch it or drop it."
After the touchdown pass, Hokies tight end Jeff King hugged Vick near midfield and lifted him off the ground. Vick's older brother, former Tech all-American and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, was watching from the sideline and raised both his arms in the air and pointed to the N.C. State fans sitting behind the Hokies' bench.
"It was great," Marcus Vick said. "It was everything I expected. We could have done a little more on offense to help ourselves, but N.C. State is a great team and they were bringing the dogs."
On a couple of occasions, though, a pack of Wolfpack defenders couldn't even bring Vick down. His running helped set up the game-tying field goal in the third quarter, and then he helped put N.C. State away for good with a one-yard sneak on fourth and inches at the Wolfpack 35 with 3:37 left.
"We've been waiting for this since he got here," Hokies cornerback Jimmy Williams said of Vick. "It was really exciting. I was standing over there like a fan watching him."
Playing in his first game in more than 20 months after missing all of the 2004 season because of a university-imposed suspension, Vick got off to a slow start against the Wolfpack. But in the third quarter, Vick showed why he has been compared to his older brother when he drove his team 99 yards for a game-tying field goal. On third and 10 at the Wolfpack 44, Vick took a shotgun snap and dropped back to pass. When the Wolfpack blitzed, Vick ran up the middle, stopped suddenly and then beat three would-be tacklers around left end for a 24-yard gain to the 10.
Three plays later, on third and three from the 13, Vick dropped back to pass, but all of Tech's receivers were covered. He scrambled to his left and broke three tackles for a two-yard gain to the 11. On fourth and inches, Vick sneaked for two yards. The Hokies settled for Brandon Pace's 28-yard field goal two plays later, tying the score at 13 with 2:19 left in the third.
"That was a fast defense chasing him and a couple of times he outran them," Beamer said. "I think Marcus gave indications that he's going to be dangerous. It looked like he was going to be caught and, all of a sudden, he was gone."
After Vick's scoring pass to Clowney, Virginia Tech's defense appeared to score a touchdown of its own on the Wolfpack's next offensive play. On first and 10 at the N.C. State 27, Hokies defensive end Darryl Tapp hit Davis's right arm, knocking the football out of his hand. Rouse scooped up the football and ran 23 yards down the right sideline and officials signaled it was a touchdown.
But the play was reviewed under the ACC's new instant replay rules, and officials didn't take long to overturn the call, ruling Davis's arm was moving forward when the football was knocked out, making the play an incomplete pass.