- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 26, 2004

BLACKSBURG, Va. — With three seconds left, N.C. State tailback T.A. McLendon stared at the goal posts in disbelief.

After gaining only 35 yards in three quarters, Virginia Tech came within a 43-yard field goal of winning. But Brandon Pace’s kick sailed right, and the Wolfpack ran off the field with a 17-16 victory yesterday.

“Man, it was like if he kicks it, you’re going home sad,” McLendon said. “It just so happened he missed. I can’t tell you how happy I am.”

N.C. State (2-1, 1-0 ACC) solidified its reputation as having one of the country’s best defenses by sacking Virginia Tech quarterback Bryan Randall 10 times and holding the Hokies (2-2, 1-1) to 192 total yards.

Randall scrambled and spun but rarely had more than a second to look downfield before the Wolfpack were on him. He finished 11-for-25 passing for 156 yards, quietly setting Tech’s career record with 6,106 total yards.

“I never thought they would handle us that way — never, never, never,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. “We got our quarterback beat up today.”

The 10 sacks were the most the Hokies have allowed since at least 1989, when college teams started recording sacks in the box scores.

“Hold on to your seat and clench your teeth — our defense is capable of stopping anybody,” said the Wolfpack’s Manny Lawson, who sacked Randall three times.

Still, N.C. State would have left without a win were it not for the Hokies’ struggles in the kicking game — long a strength of Beamer’s teams.

Besides his miss on the game’s final play, Pace also missed a 33-yard attempt in the first quarter. And with the game tied 10-10 in the third quarter, Virginia Tech punter Vinnie Burns fumbled a snap that N.C. State’s Troy Graham recovered at the Hokies 5. Three plays later, Marcus Stone rushed for a 1-yard touchdown and a 17-10 lead.

Pace did connect from 23, 32 and 37 yards. After he kicked two field goals in the fourth quarter, the Hokies still had a chance when they got the ball at their own 5, trailing 17-16 with 2:44 left. Randall was just 3-for-8 on the drive but completed a 38-yard pass to David Clowney to set up Pace’s final attempt.

Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato watched the kick wondering whether he was going to lose because of field goals again. Last week Ohio State kicked five to beat N.C. State 22-14.

“It’s probably the least written-about phase of football,” Amato said. “All you want to write about is all the points, all the dazzling catches, all the yards, all the defense. And you’ve just seen two games won in two weeks because of kicking.”

McLendon finished with 93 yards and a touchdown. N.C. State quarterbacks Jay Davis and Marcus Stone, still struggling to replace Philip Rivers, combined for just 78 yards passing.

In the first quarter, Davis was picked off in the end zone, ending a Wolfpack drive. On the next series, he was replaced by Stone, who promptly fumbled a handoff on the N.C. State 35 that set up the Hokies’ first score — a 4-yard pass from Randall to John Kinzer.

The Wolfpack gave up on the passing game during their last drive of the first half. After sacking Randall twice and pinning the Hokies on their own 1, N.C. State drove down the field on six straight running plays and scored its first touchdown on a 6-yard run by McLendon.

Mike Imoh, playing his first game this season after a suspension for giving teenage girls alcohol at a party, led the Hokies with 74 yards. The diminutive tailback gave Tech its biggest gain in the fourth quarter when he darted through the line and ran 41 yards to set up a 32-yard field goal.

John Deraney hit a 53-yard field goal on the opening drive of the game. Tech answered after Stone’s fumble in the first quarter when Randall hit John Kinzer on a 4-yard bootleg to make it 7-3.

Pace added a 23-yard field goal in the second quarter, but McLendon and Stone answered with touchdown runs to put the game out of reach.

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