- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Several members of Lee Suggs' family made their first airplane trip to watch Virginia Tech's star running back compete in the inaugural San Francisco Bowl.

With plenty of deliberate offense and a last-minute defensive stand, Suggs and his teammates made sure this West Coast trip was worth the while of every Hokies fan at Pacific Bell Park.

Suggs rushed for two 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.

"It would have been a really long plane ride back if we hadn't won, because we expected nothing less," said Suggs, who ended his remarkable comeback season by extending his NCAA record with a score in his 27th straight game.

It was a satisfying victory for Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, who won his fifth bowl game with the Hokies by limiting Air Force's option offense to mostly meaningless yardage and just three points after the first 7½ minutes.

"We had a game plan that was better than their game plan, I think," Whitaker said. "We knew what they like to do. We've all seen the option before in rec league ball or high school. You just have to stay with your assignments."

But it wasn't over until Whitaker followed up an exceptional deflection by stopping Air Force quarterback Chance Harridge at the Hokies 4 on the final play.

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).

Harridge completed just one of his first 13 passes, but 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 fumble.

"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," Beamer said. "They're an upset special waiting to happen. They were down near the end zone, and everybody was holding their breath."

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 for us."

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