- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 28, 2004

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Bryan Randall is wrapping up his career at Virginia Tech in style, and with the biggest stakes in front of him.

Randall threw two second-half touchdown passes and the No. 11 Hokies moved one victory away from the what once seemed an improbable ACC title yesterday with a 24-10 victory over No. 16 Virginia.

“The stakes just keep getting bigger,” Randall said after leading the Hokies to their seventh consecutive win and ninth in 10 games.

The Hokies (9-2, 6-1) can win the league title — and a Bowl Championship Series berth — by winning next week at No. 9 Miami, the team that moved from the Big East to the ACC with Virginia Tech this season.

“To go down to Miami and get a win and the whole championship outright by ourselves in the first year, it would be phenomenal,” Randall said.

“It would mean a lot to our whole team, the coaches, the program,” said Randall, one of 19 seniors honored yesterday. “It would make people respect us. I think we’ve gained a lot of respect for what we’ve done.”

The Hokies, picked to finish as low as eighth in the ACC, have done it by returning to the style of football that lifted them into the national elite a decade ago, using hard-nosed defense, big-play special teams and an efficient offense to wear down their opponents.

That senior quarterback has been a big part of it, mentoring a young receiving corps and playing the best football of his career.

“He plays his best when things look the worst,” coach Frank Beamer said. “There’s just something special about this kid. What a player.”

Randall finished 16-for-22 for 200 yards with the touchdowns, and passed Don Strock to become the career yardage leader at Virginia Tech.

Strock ended his career with 6,009; Randall now has 6,061.

The record came in dramatic fashion as he eclipsed Strock with a 12-yard pass to Jeff King on second-and-12 with 10 minutes left.

Randall celebrated on the next play, finding Josh Hyman against Tony Franklin for the second time, this one for 32 yards and a 17-10 lead.

“I wanted to throw it up there and give Hyman a chance,” Randall said of the 5-foot-11 redshirt freshman, who stopped as Franklin ran by, then beat him to the end zone. “He made a play, just like on the other ball.”

Earlier, Randall and Hyman teamed on a 45-yard scoring pass.

Cedric Humes, who ran for 95 yards after Mike Imoh aggravated a strained hamstring, closed the scoring on a 32-yard run with 5:08 left.

The defensive style was especially evident three times against the Cavaliers (8-3, 5-3), who were playing for a share of the ACC title.

First, the Hokies blocked a 45-yard field goal try by Connor Hughes to end Virginia’s first series. Then, after a 78-yard run by Alvin Pearman and two 6-yard bursts by Wali Lundy gave Virginia a first-and-goal at the 4, Tech’s Jonathan Lewis pounced on a fumble by Lundy.

And finally, in perhaps the biggest sequence of the game early in the fourth quarter, the Hokies led 10-7 and stopped three consecutive plays from their 1, forcing Virginia to end a 17-play, 78-yard march with just a tying field goal. That gave the Hokies a sense of accomplishment.

“Guys just kept responding,” Hokies defensive end Jim Davis said. “It’s something I can’t explain. It was so special. Guys just wanted to play. Guys wanted to go three-and-out and keep those guys from winning.

“Every time our back was against the wall, our defense responded.”

Virginia coach Al Groh saw it somewhat differently.

“I guess you don’t need a calculator to see that we left 14 points out there,” he said. “Clearly that’s how we see it.”

After the game, Virginia announced that it would decline any invitation to a bowl falling between Dec. 13 and 21 because of exams, taking the Cavaliers out of the running for the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 21.

Virginia came in with the nation’s ninth-best rushing offense, averaging 247 yards, and had 155 by halftime, but nothing to show for it in a scoreless tie. The second-half failure also was hard to ignore.

“For all the good the running game was for us, it was two running plays that really kind of let us down,” a testy Groh said.

The Cavaliers’ only touchdown came on a 32-yard pass from Marques Hagans to Pearman, who caught the ball over Jimmy Williams.

“We had a chance today and blew it,” safety Marquis Weeks said.

Pearman ran for 147 yards on 28 carries, but had just 21 in the second half on 12 carries. The Cavaliers’ passing game wasn’t much help as Hagans finished just 8-for-14 for 111 yards, the touchdown and three sacks.

Virginia also hurt itself with penalties.

Franklin was called for pass interference when Randall threw deep for Josh Morgan, and on the next play, Kwakou Robinson got a 15-yard personal foul for hitting Randall after he’d been tackled on an 8-yard run.

The plays led to Brandon Pace’s 31-yard field goal midway through the third quarter, and then the Hokies’ reputation may have helped them, too.

Facing a fourth-and-12 punt from his own 18, and aware of the Hokies’ affinity for blocking kicks, Virginia freshman punter Chris Gould got off a wobbler that was downed at the Virginia 45, a 27-yard kick.

On the next play, Randall hit Hyman and the Hokies led, 10-7.

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