BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -- November in Blacksburg always seems to
have Big East championship implications, and it did again Wednesday
night. This time, though, it was West Virginia that stayed alive.
The Mountaineers (8-3, 5-1 Big East) ran all over Virginia Tech (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 13 AP) for three quarters and then made two huge defensive
stands in the final minutes to preserve a 21-18 victory -- and their
hopes for a title.
First, the Mountaineers stopped the Hokies on three straight
rushes from inside the 1-yard line, the last with 3:51 left. Then,
Brian King intercepted Bryan Randall's pass into the end zone with
12 seconds left -- a questionable decision, considering the Hokies
were easily in range for the tying field goal.
"This is a big thing,'' West Virginia linebacker James Davis
said. "We needed to show everybody around the world that we've got
a good team.''
The loss was the third in a row for Virginia Tech (8-3, 3-3),
which started 8-0 and had dreams of a national championship.
One year after finishing 3-8 and in disarray, West Virginia can
gain a share of the Big East title if Pittsburgh (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) beats
top-ranked Miami on Thursday night and the Mountaineers then beat
the Panthers on Nov. 30.
Winning this one was a good way to get ready for a big finish.
The Mountaineers came in with the nation's No. 2 running game,
averaging 295 yards, and proved itself against the rapidly
Quincy Wilson ran for 125 yards on just 11 carries, including a
42-yard touchdown run, and the Mountaineers gained 263 yards on the
The Mountaineers also struck quickly, with drives covering 80
yards in five plays, 70 yards in five plays and 86 yards in six
Wilson's big run, with 4:09 left in the third quarter, gave West
Virginia a 21-10 lead, and some breathing room it sorely needed.
"I was tired,'' starter Avon Cobourne said. "I said 'Go ahead,
Q. Get in there.' Then the first play, he busts it. I was like,
'Thank you, Jesus.' A lot of people saw this game. It was a
It was the play of the game until the closing minutes, when the
Mountaineers' defense was called on -- twice -- to finish off the
On the goal-line stand, set up when Lee Suggs ran 8 yards on
first-and-goal from the 9, West Virginia twice stopped Suggs,
including on fourth down. Suggs said he crossed the goal line
plane, but the officials didn't agree.
After gaining only 2 yards on three straight rushes, West
Virginia punter Mark Fazzolari stepped out of the end zone for a
safety with 2:30 remaining, pulling the Hokies within a field goal
of forcing overtime.
The Mountaineers' strategy backfired when Todd James' free kick
went out of bounds, giving the Hokies the ball at midfield with
2:26 left. Randall started driving his team, getting a first-and-10
from the 11 with 21 seconds remaining.
Randall's first pass was low and incomplete. He dropped back to
pass again, scrambled around and threw for the left corner of the
end zone. King was there, and the Mountaineers were safe.
"In the last five minutes, I've never been so proud of a
defense,'' West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. "The crowd was
pushing them. They had all the momentum.''
Coach Frank Beamer didn't blame Randall for the play, saying he
told the sophomore "If you feel like you've got a play, take it.
... I made sure he was going to throw it in the end zone. If it
wasn't there, I wanted him to throw it away and let's kick the
field goal and go into OT.
"I don't fault him a bit. We lost this together,'' Beamer said.
Earlier, Suggs made history because of his ability to get into
the end zone, running 28 yards down the left sideline for the first
touchdown. It gave him at least one TD in 24 straight games,
breaking an NCAA Division I record he shared with Bill Burnett of
Arkansas, who did it in 1968-70.
Suggs also had a 27-yard scoring run called back by a holding
penalty, and after five more plays -- and a holding call -- the
Hokies had to punt.
"That's a bad time to be holding,'' Beamer said.
West Virginia scored twice in a span of 3:24 to take a 14-7
lead. A 56-yard gain by Derrick Smith on a quick slant from Rasheed
Marshall set up Cobourne's 9-yard TD run. And Wilson's runs of 24
and 27 yards on consecutive plays set up Rasheed Marshall's 7-yard
run early in the second quarter.