Oct. 28, 2000
By HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Pittsburgh knocked Michael Vick out of the game, but Lee Suggs and Dave Meyer wouldn't let the Panthers knock No. 2 Virginia Tech out of the national title picture.
Meyer replaced the injured Vick just before halftime and directed the Hokies on a 13-play, 74-yard drive to set up Carter Warley's 27-yard field goal with 16 seconds left as the Hokies escaped with a 37-34 victory Saturday.
"That drive. Dave Meyer coming in like he did. If there's a hero tonight, it's Dave Meyer," said Warley, who missed from 46 yards before coming back to make his first-ever game-winning field goal.
Suggs rushed for 164 yards and three touchdowns, but it was Meyer who did most of the work on the winning drive, completing three straight passes for first downs to get the Hokies in Warley's range.
"I was confident," the fifth-year senior said. "I've run this offense here for five years. I was ready to roll. I can't say enough about the way everyone hung together, kept their composure and kept doing the things that have made us successful. It was a good testament to this team."
And it all came in the most unlikely of circumstances, with their leader and top Heisman Trophy contender standing on the sidelines, his sprained right ankle in a brace and crutches under both of his arms.
Vick, whose status is day-to-day pending an examination when the swelling goes down Sunday, said it was difficult to watch, but he and the rest of the Hokies said they knew Meyer could lead them to victory.
"The defense feels just as confident with him in there as we do with Mike," defensive tackle Chad Beasley said. "He showed why tonight."
Meyer finished 7-for-13 for 114 yards, the last three completions going for 12, 11 and 11 yards on the drive to Warley's third field goal.
"The composure of our offense was something special," Meyer said. "There was never a time we didn't think we were going to win that game."
The kick gave the Hokies (8-0, 6-0 Big East) their 19th consecutive victory and conference-record 14th in a row in league play, a streak that figures to be tested next Saturday at No. 4 Miami.
It also wiped out another huge performance by Panthers quarterback John Turman, who came off a five-touchdown performance against Boston College with four more against the Hokies, three to Antonio Bryant.
"We played the second- or third-ranked team toe-to-toe, blow-for-blow," Panthers coach Walt Harris said. "We just didn't make enough of the good plays we had to make in a highly contested, highly competitive game."
Turman finished 17-for-26 for 311 yards, and Bryant caught nine for 127 yards, including touchdowns of 17, 26 and 29 yards. The other was a 47-yard throw to Latef Grim, who had three catches for 106 yards.
But Turman, who directed a 2-play, 65-yard drive and a 1-play, 29-yarder, both for touchdowns to Bryant, was no match for Meyer and a tense but energized crowd of 56,272 when it was time to decide the game.
"I think that hurt our defense," Harris said of the quick-strike drives, the last to give the Panthers a 34-27 lead with 15:04 to play.
But it was as much Suggs, Meyer and the Hokies as it was fatigue.
Virginia Tech trailed 34-27 and faced a third-and-7 at the Panthers 32 when Emmett Johnson made a sliding catch of a wobbly pass from Meyer at the 3. Suggs ran it in on the next play to tie it with 12:16 left. It was his third scoring run of the game and school-record 17th of the season.
After holding Pittsburgh, the Hokies drove again with a chance to go ahead, but Warley's 46-yard field goal try missed left badly.
Then, watching Meyer lead the Hokies on the final march, Warley paced the sidelines, hoping for a shot at redemption and that first game-winner.
"I was excited," he said. "I was looking forward to it."
Earlier, the Hokies looked like they were in trouble, even after taking a 27-20 lead on Jarrett Ferguson's 6-yard run in the third quarter.
The Panthers promptly matched the drive, getting a 2-yard run from Kevan Barlow to tie it with 29 seconds left in the quarter.
When Ryan Gonsales recovered a fumbled snap by Meyer two plays later at the Hokies' 29, Turman hit Bryant between defenders in the right corner of the end zone on the first play, giving the Panthers a 34-27 lead.
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