SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Lee Suggs stood in the stadium hallway in cleats and a uniform covered in mud and paint. He posed for pictures, signed autographs and chatted -- anything to keep wearing his Virginia Tech colors for another minute.
Suggs capped his remarkable comeback season by rushing for two more touchdowns, and Ronyell Whitaker forced a fumble near the goal line as time expired to lift No. 21 Virginia Tech to a 20-13 victory Tuesday night over Air Force in the inaugural Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl.
Suggs extended his NCAA record by scoring in his 27th straight game, but until Whitaker followed up an exceptional deflection by stopping Air Force quarterback Chance Harridge at the Hokies 4 on the final play, Suggs couldn't breathe easily.
He knew his comeback following a knee injury that all but wiped out his junior year wouldn't have been complete without the win.
"I've played with these guys for five years, so not being out there and not putting on that uniform, it's going to be different,'' Suggs said. "But it's time to move on, I know. This is the way to do it.''
Bryan Randall was 18-of-23 for 177 yards as the Hokies (10-4)
stuck to a deliberate game plan to grind out a victory over the
Falcons (8-5). Virginia Tech's swarming defense limited Air Force
to three points after the game's first 7½ minutes.
Harridge completed just one of his first 13 passes, but he drove
Air Force to the Virginia Tech 10 with 17 seconds left on a
fourth-and-10 completion to J.P. Waller.
After two incomplete passes, Harridge scrambled for the end
zone. He was met at the 4 by Whitaker, who forced a game-ending
"If you've got Air Force where they've got to throw, you feel
like you've got them -- but we didn't have them,'' Virginia Tech
coach Frank Beamer said. "They're an upset special waiting to
happen. They were down near the end zone, and everybody was holding
The Hokies were ranked as high as No. 3 this season before
losing four of their previous five, but Beamer's team put a strong
finish on the season with its fifth bowl victory during his tenure.
Anthony Butler rushed for 75 yards for Air Force, which finished
the season with five losses in its last seven games despite leading
the NCAA in rushing.
"It's the second game we lost in a row on the last play of the
game,'' said Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry, whose team dropped its
regular season finale to San Diego State by four points. "It's
something we've got to address. I thought our guys fought hard and
had a gutty performance.
"I don't think we lost the football game. I think time ran out
Harridge rushed for 70 yards in the Falcons' option offense
while becoming the 16th player in college football history to run
and pass for 1,000 yards apiece in the same season, but he was
4-for-19 through the air against the Hokies.
On the second play from scrimmage, however, Harridge threw a
47-yard pass to Anthony Park, who had just 10 receptions all season
-- a total that made him the third-leading receiver in Air Force's
ground-bound option attack. Moments later, Matt Ward scored on a
That long pass was Harridge's only completion until the final 90
seconds of the game.
The Hokies fell behind 10-0, but they rallied with Suggs'
scoring runs and Randall's mobility, which extended several drives.
"We just didn't get off the field on third down,'' Air Force
linebacker Anthony Schlegel said. "It's a tribute to their
quarterback scrambling around.''
A bare-chested fan wearing orange body paint stood next to an Air Force cadet in the enthusiastic crowd of 25,966 at Pacific Bell Park.
The waterfront was warmer and less windy than it usually is for a San Francisco Giants night baseball game, though the turf was soggy from days of rain. Both teams stood on the same sideline of the field, which stretched from the first-base dugout to the left-field wall.
The San Francisco Bowl is sponsored by Diamond Walnut.
"I don't know how many people saw the game because it's New Year's Eve,'' DeBerry said, "but they missed a great game.''