Virginia Tech 45, Syracuse 24
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) _ Coach Frank Beamer said Virginia Tech’s first bowl invitation since 1986, the year before he arrived, is a sign of the football program’s resurgence.
After Virginia Tech whipped Syracuse and voted to play in the Independence Bowl, Beamer was looking past the 25th-ranked Hokies’ final regular season game against No. 23 Virginia this week and even beyond the postseason game on New Year’s Eve.
″It’s a very satisfying feeling,″ Beamer said, ″but it’s kind of like you’re on a long journey. I’ve really got visions of this program becoming a lot better.″
Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni was thinking about his next opponent, Rutgers. ″It’s the last game of the season and the final chance for this team to have a winning season,″ he said.
In one six-minute stretch against Syracuse, Virginia Tech turned a scoreless game into a rout and left both coaches at a loss to explain why.
″I don’t know what went wrong,″ Pasqualoni said.
″Sometimes I think things just seem to fall into place,″ Beamer said after the 45-24 Big East victory Saturday.
More specifically, it was the ball that fell into Hokie hands.
Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-3) capitalized on four Syracuse turnovers by scoring three touchdowns and a field goal.
The loss dropped Syracuse to 5-4-1 overall and 2-4 in the Big East. The Orangemen had gone 5-0-1 in bowl games in the past six years, but the loss seriously damaged their chances of a seventh consecutive postseason appearance.
Maurice DeShazo threw two touchdown passes to tight end John Burke, and Dwayne Thomas ran for 163 yards to lead Virginia Tech.
During the last six minutes of the first quarter, Virginia Tech scored three touchdowns, blocked a punt, sacked Syracuse quarterback Marvin Graves twice and intercepted him twice.
Virginia Tech went ahead 7-0 after Thomas’ 1-yard TD run.
Torrian Gray grabbed the first of his two interceptions, and then DeShazo found Burke in the front corner of the end zone for a 23-yard TD pass.
Virginia Tech reserve Okesa Smith recovered a blocked punt at the Syracuse 7 yard line, and fullback Brian Edmonds carried it in on the next play to put the Hokies ahead 21-0.
After a Virginia Tech field goal, Jeyson Wilson returned the kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown to make the score 24-7 with 12:33 left in the second quarter.
The Orangemen added a field goal before halftime, but Virginia Tech scored twice in the first four minutes of the third quarter.
Pasqualoni said, ″I thought the way the game went, we needed to play well on Tech’s initial drive in the third quarter. It turns out they scored.″
After a 28-yard TD pass from DeShazo to Burke, linebacker DeWayne Knight picked up Graves’ fumble and ran it 23 yards into the end zone to put the Hokies ahead 38-10.
Graves threw two TD passes in the second half - the last one coming with a minute to play.