- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 6, 2005

BLACKSBURG, Va. — In three quarters, the Hokies went from title hopefuls to totally hapless.

The fifth-ranked Miami Hurricanes made landfall in Lane Stadium last night, swamping both Virginia Tech’s perfect season and its dark horse national title hopes by putting a Category 5 beating on the No. 3 Hokies.

Manhandling the favorites on their own field, the Hurricanes (7-1, 4-1 ACC) completely dominated in the trenches en route to a bruising 27-7 victory that looked far worse.

The loss clears the way for a controversy-free BCS title-game meeting between top-ranked, two-time defending national champion USC (9-0) and No. 2 Texas (9-0). Alabama is now the nation’s only other unbeaten team, and the overachieving Crimson Tide still have the toughest opponents on their season slate remaining (LSU, at Auburn and potentially vs. Georgia in the SEC title game).

Until last night’s debacle, Virginia Tech (8-1, 5-1 ACC) looked to be the team with this season’s blossoming BCS beef. But the only folks with a beef now are the 65,115 who paid to see their team emasculated last night.

The Hurricanes, who felt disrespected by pundits and oddsmakers who installed them as 6-point underdogs, showed up in foul spirits and proceeded to throttle their more heralded opponents along both lines of scrimmage.

Offensively, the Hurricanes literally ran the ball at will, totaling 152 yards on the ground even after starting tailback Tyrone Moss went down late in the first quarter with a sprained left knee. Backup Charlie Jones scored the game’s first touchdown when he walked into the end zone from 1 yard out to put the ‘Canes ahead 10-0 early in the second quarter. Jones, a 5-foot-10, 203-pound sophomore from Homestead, Fla., finished with 97 yards on 24 carries thanks in large part to a huge push from Miami’s front wall.

And when Jones wasn’t chewing up yards between the tackles, Miami’s daunting offensive line gave quarterback Kyle Wright forever to find his receivers downfield. Wright finished the game 13 of 23 passing for 146 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Wright’s scoring toss came on a brilliant, diving, one-handed snare by Darnell Jenkins that put the Hurricanes ahead 20-0 with 3:23 left in the third quarter.

But it was Miami’s complete mastery of Virginia Tech junior quarterback Marcus Vick that truly defined the game. Vick entered the game as the national leader in passing efficiency, prompting comparisons to his superstar brother, Michael, from opposing players, coaches and observers all over the nation. But nobody would dare to mention the siblings in the same sentence after last night’s performance. Frankly, Mike never looked this helpless, probably not in the crib, much less in a Virginia Tech uniform.

In the game’s first 46 minutes, as Miami waltzed out to a 27-0 lead, Vick was 3-for-13 passing for 33 yards while contributing an astounding six turnovers (four fumbles and two interceptions) to the ‘Canes’ blowout cause. In his defense, though even the state might deny him representation, his offensive line did absolutely nothing to keep the Hurricanes out of the offensive backfield.

“He had a lot of people back there in the backfield with him tonight,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “We didn’t protect Marcus tonight, but I’m not in the business of playing the name game. We just couldn’t quite get going for whatever reason, and Miami probably had a lot to do with that.”

Miami entered the game with the nation’s No. 1 total defense, allowing opponents just 221.6 yards a game. Last night, in one of the college game’s most infamously hostile environments against one of its brightest young stars, they held the Hokies to a laughable 167 yards of total offense.

Reminding anyone with the stomach to watch of the Miami defenses of yore, the Hurricanes sacked Vick a stunning eight times. The most meaningful of those hits, though far from the most vicious, came with 1:43 left in the third quarter when Miami defensive end Javon Nanton buried Vick from behind at his own goal line, jarring the ball loose. Miami defensive tackle Kareem Brown pounced on the fumble in the end zone to put an exclamation point on the proceedings and give the Hurricanes a 27-0 lead.

The loss not only costs Virginia Tech its title aspirations and flawless season, it also likely bumps the Hokies out of the ACC title game. Miami now holds the pole position in the league’s Coastal division and is likely headed for a rematch with Atlantic division winner Florida State in Jacksonville (Dec. 3).

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