Saturday, Oct. 21 7:00pm ET
Hokies convert key turnovers for win


SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- The Carrier Dome jinx is over for Virginia Tech. Barely.

Lee Suggs scored twice on short runs in the third quarter and Michael Vick raced 55 yards for another score with under two minutes remaining Saturday night as the second-ranked Hokies (7-0, 5-0 Big East) held off Syracuse 22-14 to remain in the hunt for the national championship.

Dee Brown
Dee Brown got Syracuse on the board in the first quarter, but the Hokies would get the win.

Even with Vick rendered simply ordinary by the fired-up Syracuse defense -- he finished the game 6-for-11 for 75 yards passing and gained just 9 net yards rushing on 16 carries -- Tech found a way to win after losing five straight in what had become a house of horrors.

And they did it with defense, intercepting four passes and making the Orangemen (3-4, 1-2 Big East) pay for their mistakes. Syracuse gained a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and never scored again. Tech has 18 interceptions on the season.

"I'm not particularly interested in style points," Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "I'm just glad to get out of here and get that streak over."

The game turned in the third quarter with the Hokies trailing 14-3. After a punt pinned the Orangemen inside the 5, quarterback Troy Nunes slipped on a third-down snap and fell backward across the goal line. Instead of taking the safety, though, he threw the ball down the middle of the field and Willie Pile easily intercepted it at the 15 and returned it to the 5. It was the first of three interceptions by the Tech safety.

"It's a bang-bang play," said Nunes, who threw four interceptions last week in a 20-13 loss at Boston College. "I'm falling down and just trying to get rid of the ball. Obviously, two points is better than six at that point."

Suggs scored his 13th rushing touchdown of the season two plays later and the Hokies trailed 14-9 with 6:24 remaining when Vick's two-point conversion pass was dropped by Emmett Johnson.

Maurice Jackson then went from hero to goat when Syracuse got the ball back. After catching a 19-yard pass from Nunes, he fumbled while struggling for extra yards and Tech's Jake Houseright recovered and returned it 11 yards to the Syracuse 21.

Suggs gave the Hokies the lead for good on a 1-yard run with 2:49 left in the period, but Syracuse trailed 15-14 when Vick's conversion pass fell incomplete.

Syracuse drove to the Tech 35 with just over three minutes left in the game, but Nunes' fourth-down pass fell incomplete and Vick then scampered around the left side for one of his signature touchdowns.

"We ended up making enough plays to win the game," Beamer said. "Michael's touchdown run on the bootleg at the end was big -- real big."

So, too, was the disappointment of the Orangemen. A year after suffering a humiliating 62-0 loss at Virginia Tech, the worst shutout defeat by a ranked team in the 64-year history of the AP poll, they were determined to return the favor. That they lost after sacking Vick eight times was difficult to accept.

"This probably hurts a little bit more (than the 62-0 loss last year), knowing that we had it right in our grasp," said defensive end Dwight Freeney, who had 4.5 sacks and was all over Vick all night. "There were a lot of opportunities blown."

Still, the Orangemen nearly pulled off the upset, thanks to the speedy Jackson.

On Syracuse's first possession of the game, he caught a 54-yard pass from Nunes on a third-and-15 play to set up Dee Brown's 9-yard touchdown run.

The Orangemen had overcome four penalties and driven 93 yards to forge a 7-0 lead. Everything was going their way when Jackson, who runs a 4.18-second 40, beat Ronyell Whitaker for a 78-yard touchdown catch on a third-and-18 play for a 14-0 lead with 2:21 left in the period.

"The opportunity was there tonight," said Duke Pettijohn, Freeney's partner on the defensive line. "We played with confidence and we took advantage of that tonight. We wanted to take Michael Vick out of the game. We made a statement tonight that we can play with anybody."

The Hokies, who entered the game ranked seventh in total offense at 458 yards a game, managed just 78 in the first half. They finished with 240 to Syracuse's 328.

Carter Warley finally broke the ice for Tech with a career-best 47-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.

The Hokies, who had only trailed once before this season, 14-7 at halftime 10 days earlier against West Virginia, suddenly found themselves down 14-0. The 14 points were more than they had allowed in the first quarter in the previous six games combined.

But as they proved in their last game, the Hokies love the second half. They ran up 355 of their 504 total yards in the final two quarters to erase the halftime deficit against the Mountaineers, winning 48-20.

Suggs had 21 carries for 91 yards. Andre Davis, who scored three times in just over six minutes in the third quarter against West Virginia, caught two passes for 21 yards before aggravating an Achilles heel injury in the second half.

Nunes was 13-for-25 for 217 yards. Brown led Syracuse with 71 yards rushing on 19 carries, while James Mungro had his streak of four 100-yard games stopped. Mungro, who was averaging over eight yards a carry, lost three yards on five carries.

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