- The Washington Times - Monday, September 1, 2003

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Bryan Randall knew Marcus Vick’s debut as his backup would get lots of attention yesterday. He also felt ready to leave no doubt about his status as No.9 Virginia Tech’s starter.

Randall gave Vick a tension-free stage by leading the Hokies to touchdowns on their first three drives and later threw a clutch scoring pass as Virginia Tech beat Central Florida 49-28 in its season opener.

“I probably felt the most comfortable since I’ve been here for this game,” Randall said after completing 22 of 28 passes for 278 yards.

“I realize the situation that I’m in. I’ve got a good backup in Marcus and he’s here to push me, trying to take my job,” he said. “At the same time, I know I’ve got to keep improving. I can’t look back or worry about what people are saying out there because I’ve got a game to play myself.”

Randall’s fast start and an 80-yard scoring drive led by Vick in his first series gave the Hokies a 28-0 lead and made it look real easy.

Then the Golden Knights changed strategy from throwing long to “trying to dink ‘em to death,” coach Mike Kruczek said, and scored the next three touchdowns. That gave Randall another chance to prove his No.1 status.

He did, driving the Hokies 67 yards in seven plays and finding DeAngelo Hall in the end zone from 29 yards to make the margin 35-21.

When Jason Lallis intercepted a pass from Ryan Schneider and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown 39 seconds later, the victory was secure. That gave coach Frank Beamer a good lesson to prepare for his team this week.

“I think we were guilty of getting lulled into 28-zip, the game is over,” Beamer said, including himself among the guilty parties.

UCF used an effective mix of Schneider’s short passes, Alex Haynes’ cutback running and a 56-yard trick play to close the gap, leaving Kruczek thinking the game was there to be had, and with momentum on UCF’s side.

“Our kids were sky-high,” he said.

The backbreaker came in typical Tech fashion: With 11:32 left, Schneider threw to avoid a blitzing Vegas Robinson, Lallis picked it off over the middle and rambled 45 yards to give the Hokies a 42-21 lead.

“I think it’s good to win that way,” Beamer said. “You kind of find out about yourselves when things are tightening up pretty good.”

Vick, who didn’t return again until after Lallis’ touchdown, said he appreciated the cushion Randall built and was relieved just to play.

“It felt great just to be out there and finally be a full college player,” he said after finishing 7-for-10 for 102 yards. “I wasn’t nervous. I was ready to do what the defense gave me and just take it.”

Early on, the Hokies (1-0) looked unstoppable.

Kevin Jones capped the opening drive with a 2-yard scoring run and Randall threw touchdown passes of 21 yards to Richard Johnson and 7 yards to Justin Hamilton, the first career touchdown reception for each.

By the time Vick trotted onto the field to a rousing welcome from the largest crowd in Hokies history, 65,115, Randall was 12-for-14 for 169 yards. He’d thrown one pass away and Virginia Tech was leading 21-0.

Vick rolled right and hit tight end Keith Willis for 14 yards on his first play, hit Ernest Wilford for 14 more on his third play and rolled right and hit Hamilton for 18 more to set up Jones’ 18-yard scoring run.

Vick finished 3-for-4 on his first drive, overthrowing an open Hall in the end zone. Brother Mike went three-and-out on his first career series against James Madison in 1999, but the Hokies won that one 47-0.

Hall caught two passes for 41 yards in his first game, adding spot duty as a wide receiver to his cornerback and return jobs. He proved an effective decoy for Wilford, too, as Wilford caught nine for 96 yards.

Jones, expected to have a breakout season now that he’s not sharing the job with Lee Suggs, gained 83 yards on 22 carries, but struggled at times behind an offensive line that sometimes had trouble making holes.

UCF’s third scoring drive included a 56-yard pass from wide receiver Brandon Marshall to Darcy Johnson that went to the Hokies 14 yard-line.

Even in defeat, Kruczek said he learned about his squad.

“You have to find out early if your team is going to fight or fold,” he said. “It was nice to find out these guys are going to fight.”

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