Another strip may end Miami's title hopes

Originally Published: November 1, 2003
By Bruce Feldman | ESPN The Magazine

BLACKSBURG, Va.-- Florida State has Wide Right. Ohio State has Michigan, and with 12:55 remaining in a scoreless tie, Miami's kryptonite came to Lane Stadium. The Strip.

It happened again to Miami after the 'Canes speedy wideout Roscoe Parrish took a reverse and darted around left end. Too bad three Hokie defenders were waiting for him. DeAngelo Hall corralled the tiny receiver and -- in one fell swoop -- stripped the ball loose and snagged it before sprinting 28 yards for a touchdown.

It was a spectacular play by Hall, and Miami fans must have cringed at the replay and started having flashbacks. Last January, Ohio State's Maurice Clarett snatched the ball from Sean Taylor's mitts after the UM safety had picked off a pass. A decade earlier, Alabama's George Teague picked Lamar Thomas to cost Miami another national title. It's not a stretch to think Hall's slight of hand might just cost UM a third championship.

Bad omen or not, Miami self-destructed Saturday night and just like that Oklahoma was the only unbeaten team left from a BCS conference. The 'Canes committed 14 penalties for 117 yards, had three passes intercepted and dropped at least a half-dozen passes, including a sure touchdown that slipped out of Kevin Everett's hands on a fake field goal. The reserve tight end's drop would've tied the game at 7-7. "We would like to think that it would be a different game," said coach Larry Coker. "We felt like it would be there. It was a good call. It was just a drop. That's the thing you can't have and win."

No kidding. From that moment on, the Hokies controlled the game. Va Tech's D got 21 points off turnovers. "Our offense beat ourselves 21-7," said Miami OT Eric Winston. "Think about that, 21-7?!? That's pathetic.

"We gotta start growing up and being men."

The Hokies defense kept Miami off balance for much of the night, pressuring Brock Berlin, containing Jarrett Payton and bottling up All-American TE Kellen Winslow who had eight catches, but only one for over nine yards.

"I think we wanted it more," said Hokie DE Cols Colas. "We've lost to those guys three straight years. We made up our minds that we weren't going to come out here and lose again."

The victory will end any of the carping about the Hokies being a paper powerhouse and proved that they can win a "big" game. Tech came into the game 0-19 against top-8 opponents. So, with this being the final Big East meeting between the two conference powers, does this make the Hokies the king of the heap going out the door?

"Yeah, they're the top dog because they won their last 35 Big East games," quipped Winston. "They won one game. Good for them. They're 1-10 or whatever against top 25 teams.

"Let's see if they can finish off the season because I know we will."

Bruce Feldman covers college football for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at bruce.feldman@espnmag.com.

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