<
>

Hokies fall from unbeaten ranks

11/3/2002

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -- Pittsburgh did it again to Virginia Tech,
taking the team they want to emulate out of championship
contention.

Brandon Miree ran 53 yards for a touchdown with 4:11 remaining
Saturday night, completing Pittsburgh's comeback from a
two-touchdown third-quarter deficit and lifting the Panthers past
No. 3 Virginia Tech 28-21.

"You need to pinch me right now,'' Miree said. "I'm still in
awe of everything. Virginia Tech is a great program. I've been
watching them for years, and like coach said, we do idolize this
team and this program.''

With the victory, the Panthers (7-2, 4-0 Big East) moved ahead
of the Hokies in the conference race. They're 4-0 in the league for
the first time since it was formed in 1991, and maybe there are
bigger things in store for the rest of the season.

The Panthers play Temple next weekend, then have 10 days to
prepare for a showdown against No. 1 Miami for the Big East lead on
Nov. 21.

"We're working our way up the ladder,'' Pitt coach Walt Harris
said. "To win here with this crowd, this atmosphere, to be down
14-0 ... to still come back and win the game, it's almost more than
I can fathom.''

The victory was the Panthers' first against a top-five team
since they beat No. 4 Notre Dame in 1987, and it was as impressive
as last year's game when they won 38-7, handing the Hokies their
worst loss in five years.

Pitt got three touchdown passes from Rod Rutherford to freshman
sensation Larry Fitzgerald, and 275 yards rushing against the
nation's best defense against the run (40.75 yards), including
Miree's big run.

On the play, a simple off-tackle run, he burst through the line,
slipped a tackle and ran it in virtually untouched.

Hokies cornerback DeAngelo was locked in on Fitzgerald in man
coverage, and "by the time I turned around, he was off to the
races.''

Miree finished with 161 yards on 23 carries.

The Hokies (8-1, 3-1) were done in by their offense, which
scored its touchdowns on first-half drives of 3 and 21 yards set up
by special teams plays, and on Lee Suggs' 59-yard touchdown run
just after halftime.

The Panthers outgained Virginia Tech 483-275, and the Hokies
committed three turnovers, giving them 10 in three games.
Quarterback Bryan Randall had an interception and a fumble.

"We never really got the momentum today on offense, but you've
got to give the credit to their defense. They did exactly what we
thought they were going to do. It was a matter of executing, and we
didn't,'' Randall said.

With 37 seconds left and one last chance to tie, Randall threw
incomplete on first down, was sacked and fumbled out of bounds at
his own 6 on second down and threw a fluttering duck that the
Hokies' Ernest Wilford caught at the 39. A late-hit penalty against
Pitt put the Hokies at the Pitt 46, but a final pass for Wilford
was incomplete as time ran out.

Before Miree's capper, the Panthers offense was Rutherford, who
threw for 208 yards and ran for 56 more, and the 6-foot-3
Fitzgerald. Trailing 21-7, Rutherford led the Panthers on two quick
drives to tie it, both times hitting Fitzgerald in the left corner
for the points.

The first drive covered 86 yards in eight plays and was kept
alive by a 15-yard personal foul against Hokies cornerback Ronyell
Whitaker, who got caught shoving a Pitt player to the ground after
an incomplete pass on third-and-9 from the Pitt 46. Rutherford hit
Kris Wilson for 45 yards on the next play, then threw a fade to
Fitzgerald, who beat Whitaker in the end zone.

After a Hokies punt, Miree ran for 10 yards, Tim Murphy burst 52
yards up the middle on his first carry of the season and Fitzgerald
made a dazzling over-the-shoulder touchdown catch, again in the
left corner.

"They have a lot of confidence in their cornerbacks. As a
receiver, that's what you look for,'' said Fitzgerald, who had five
catches for 105 yards. "If you can't beat man coverage, you can't
play at this level.''

The Hokies' vaunted ground game, nicknamed "The Untouchables,''
struggled to break anything against the Panthers' stacked front in
the first half, which ended with Tech having 35 yards on 22
carries.

Suggs more than doubled the rushing total on the third play of
the second half, going 59 yards around the left end for a
touchdown. But that was about the only thing the Hokies could do on
offense.