- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2003

BLACKSBURG, Va. — The Hokies had heard enough about their misadventure in Morgantown. And perhaps Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer had heard enough about his winless career against top-five teams. Now, all is forgiven and forgotten.

Beamer’s boys responded to their critics by bludgeoning mighty No.2 Miami 31-7 last night in front 65,115 euphoric gobblers at Lane Stadium.

They didn’t just hand Miami its first regular-season loss since 2000 (a span of 39 games), they humiliated the Hurricanes (7-1, 3-1 Big East) in a fashion rarely seen in the 25 years since smoke, swagger and sirens arrived on the national scene.

Tenth-ranked Tech (7-1, 3-1) shut out Miami for more than 52 minutes, rolling to a 31-0 lead that had maroon-clad maniacs celebrating well before the start of the fourth quarter. Miami had never been held scoreless in a half under third-year coach Larry Coker (now 31-2 in his tenure), much less blanked until scrub time.

And the Hokies didn’t just beat Miami mercilessly, effectively ending the Hurricanes’ hopes of reaching a third consecutive national title game, they beat them at their own game, parlaying turnovers into points and treating Miami quarterback Brock Berlin like a pinata in the pocket.

Virginia Tech’s first three touchdowns came via turnovers. The Hokies’ defensive assault began on the first series of the second quarter after a scoreless first frame. Tracking down Miami’s Roscoe Parrish on a first-down reverse from his own 28-yard line, Virginia Tech’s DeAngelo Hall not only popped the ball free from Parrish, but collected it in the air and waltzed untouched into the end zone.

After Carter Warley’s 39-yard field goal extended the Tech lead to 10-0 just before the half, the Hokies’ defense took total control in the third quarter, twice harassing the battered Berlin into ill-advised throws and mammoth interception returns.

The first came when Berlin was flushed from the pocket by Virginia Tech defensive end Cols Colas, scrambled desperately to his right and heaved a back-footed throw down the sideline toward receiver Kevin Beard. Berlin’s weak pass hung in the air for several eternities, giving Virginia Tech junior cornerback Eric Green ample time to jump the route near midfield and streak 51 yards past the stunned Hurricanes to put the Hokies ahead 17-0 with 9:22 remaining in the quarter.

Five minutes later, Tech made a near-duplicate of the defensive gem, once again coaxing Berlin to retreat and heave. Safety Michael Crawford didn’t quite reach the end zone with his pick and return. But 10 yards and two plays later, junior tailback Kevin Jones consummated the opportunity by diving in from 2 yards out for a 24-0 lead. As a final exclamation point, redshirt freshman Marcus Vick, brother of Michael and possessed of similar skills, tossed a 46-yard touchdown pass to Ernest Wilford on Tech’s next possession to complete the rout before the start of the final period.

And unlike in its miracle efforts against Florida and West Virginia earlier this season, Miami didn’t have a comeback left in the breach. In fact, Miami didn’t step up, it broke down. From a performance standpoint, the Hurricanes were horrid. The gave up a blocked field goal in the first half.

Reserve tight end Kevin Everett dropped a certain touchdown pass on a fake field goal that would have tied the game with just over five minutes left in the first half.

The Miami offensive line, which had given up just four sacks all season, allowed the Hokies to drop Berlin three times and hammer him all night.

And Berlin, who authored the comebacks against the Gators and Mountaineers, was so incompetent that he was benched in favor of Derek Crudup in the fourth quarter.

And if they played poorly, they handled the loss even worse, drawing a slew of personal foul calls and an ejection during a fourth quarter defined by poor sportsmanship from the Hurricanes.

In terms of the national title picture, last night’s beatdown in Blacksburg is a boon for No.3 Southern California (8-1, 4-1 Pac-10). After handling Washington State easily last night in Los Angeles, the Trojans now have the inside track to a showdown against top-ranked Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

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