- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 2, 2001


BLACKSBURG, Va. Virginia Tech found a replacement for Michael Vick. The ninth-ranked Hokies now might need to find one for running back Lee Suggs.

Grant Noel threw three touchdown passes in a near-perfect debut as Vick's replacement yesterday, but Virginia Tech lost Suggs to an injured left knee in a 52-10 win over Connecticut.

Suggs, the nation's leading scorer last season, has both a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial meniscus. He is scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery tomorrow to repair the meniscus and determine whether the ACL tear is new or a previous injury.

If the ACL tear is an old injury, Suggs could return this season and wait until January to have surgery to repair it. If it is not, Suggs will be out for the season.

"When you lose the best tailback in school history whether it's for a few weeks or the season that's a tough loss," coach Frank Beamer said.

Suggs gained 99 yards on 12 carries, including scoring runs of 1 and 49 yards before hurting the knee with about nine minutes left in the third quarter.

"I don't think it's that serious," Suggs said before undergoing the MRI. "I've been hurt before, and I've been hurt worse than this… . I think it's fine, a minor injury."

Otherwise, the hurting was put on the Huskies, with Noel shaking off some nervousness and leading the way. He finished 16-for-20 for 267 yards.

"I know what I can do and my coaches and teammates know what I can do, and I've been coached really well," he said. "I came out today and proved how well I've been coached… . As far as today, I couldn't be happier."

Noel completed his first pass, a screen that Andre Davis turned into a 47-yard touchdown 1:52 into the game, and was 8-for-8 for 129 yards when he finally threw a ball away under pressure late in the first half.

Davis, who caught another scoring pass from 19 yards before the half was over, matched his TD reception total of last season.

"This is exactly what we needed," he said. "Grant did a great job. I think he surprised a lot of people, but he didn't surprise the team."

Noel also hit Jarrett Ferguson with an 8-yard scoring throw, helping to build a 35-10 halftime lead, and was pulled in the third quarter.

"I thought he threw the ball well, I thought he handled situations well," Beamer said. "The offense played as a unit well.

"All indications were that he was going to handle this situation well, but you never really know until you get in there and there's people in the stands and the [scoreboard's] keeping score for real," he said.

"I thought he did great."

The victory was Beamer's 100th as the Hokies coach.

Before getting sidelined, Suggs became the school's career touchdowns leader with 32. James Barber and Cyrus Lawrence each had 30.

The Huskies (0-1), led by redshirt freshman quarterback Keron Henry, put up a fight early against a Hokies defense that has nine starters back.

Connecticut drove 41 yards to Marc Hickok's career-best 42-yard field goal on its first possession, and when Henry ran in from 15 yards the next time the Huskies had the ball, it was 14-10 late in the first quarter.

After that, the Hokies defense stiffened, the offense got big plays from several options and Beamer had his 13th consecutive home victory.

"I'm glad that we played them now because they're only going to get better," Huskies coach Randy Edsall said, predicting the Hokies will play for the national championship, slated this year for the Rose Bowl.

For the Huskies, playing only their second season at the I-A level and building to their debut as a Big East Conference member in 2005, the game was a rude early welcome. They were outgained 606-184.

"This is a game that can really help this program," Edsall said. "I thought there were a lot of positives other than the final score. Our kids stood in there and slugged it out… . We came out if it healthy."

Henry, who got the Huskies job when incumbent senior Ryan Tracy quit Aug. 19, completed 10 of 29 passes for 110 yards with an interception.

The blowout allowed Beamer to give tailback Kevin Jones and quarterback Bryan Randall, two top recruits, plenty of playing time.

Jones, wearing Vick's No. 7 jersey, gained 63 yards on 11 carries, and Randall scrambled effectively and directed two scoring drives. Both freshmen drew expectant roars every time they handled the ball.

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