|Wednesday, November 1|
Soft-spoken Suggs stars in high volume game
By Bill Doherty
Special to ESPN.com
| This time last week, Dave Meyer was just another married, 23-year-old grad student at Virginia Tech. And Tech's redshirt sophomore tailback Lee Suggs was one of many supporting actors in the "Michael Vick Show."
Now with Virginia Tech's human-highlight film Vick possibly on the sidelines with a severely sprained ankle, Meyer -- a career backup in Blacksburg -- might be thrust on to center stage against Miami this Saturday in a battle of top-five teams.
If called upon, Meyer, the man his Hokies' teammates refer to as "Deep Ball Dave," will need lots of help in order to win in a hostile environment like the Orange Bowl in a game with major national title implications.
And even if Vick is deemed healthy enough to play by game time, college football's version of Houdini in a Helmet will need help too. The man that either Meyer or Vick will turn to will be Suggs, who has thrived behind Tech's veteran offensive line.
"Whether Vick's the quarterback or Meyer is their quarterback, they are going to look to run the football," said Miami linebacker Dan Morgan. "They lost Shyrone Stith to the pros from last year's team. But that new guy they plugged in for him, Lee Suggs, looks as good, if not better than Stith on film."
Simply put, the power-running Suggs might be the key to Tech's chances of beating Miami for a sixth straight time. It's kind of ironic, actually. The reason? Like most big games, the hours leading up to this matchup have already featured more back-and-forth dialogue than a Woody Allen flick. But, in the end, Tech's chances should ultimately on the shoulders of one of its soft-spoken players, the redshirt sophomore Suggs (the son of a minister, Lee Sr.).
Boston College (5-3, 2-3 Big East) plays its final home game of the season Saturday at noon against much improved Temple (4-4, 1-3). Boston College has dominated the all-time series with Temple, particularly at Alumni Stadium (12-1 record). ... Sophomore tailback William Green is the leading rusher in the Big East with 914 yards on 133 carries with 12 touchdowns. Last Saturday against Rutgers, Green ran for 223 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. ... Senior free safety RaMon Johnson is BC's leading tackler (63 tackles), while junior defensive end Sean Guthrie leads the way with six sacks. Guthrie is coming off a career game last week against Rutgers, in which he recorded 12 tackles and three sacks. ... With this being the final home game of the season and with a chance to get bowl eligible, O'Brien expects his seniors to be emotional. "Well, I hope it will be a very emotional game for our football team. We talked a lot about it last year. Some of those kids that hung in there and had to go through the gambling situation after that Thursday night game, but even worse is the thought of Tim Hasselbeck, Ryan Burch and RaMon Johnson and all those kids sitting in a meeting -- and here they are redshirting, they're not even playing - and think what's going on here," O'Brien said. "But they all hung in there. They stuck with the program. They helped build this thing back to where they went to a bowl last year. They have the opportunity to have a winning season. At the same time, you have guys like Paul Zukauskas who have come to school as part of our first recruiting class and who easily could have gone somewhere else with all the stigma that went with the gambling problems here, so I think that if there's going to be a special moment for those guys." Miami
The Big East's Game of the Year, of course, will be at the Orange Bowl, where No. 2 Virginia Tech (8-0) and No. 3 Miami (6-1) will meet in the first-ever Big East matchup of Top 5 teams. Both have been staggered by serious injuries to marquee players, however. Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick (sprained right ankle) and wide receiver Andre Davis (bursitis in left foot) are two huge question marks for the Hokies' offense, while senior middle linebacker Dan Morgan (sprained right ankle), fullback D.J. Williams (separated shoulder), center Brett Romberg (broken pinkie) and Al Blades (bruised biceps) were all sidelined against Louisiana Tech. All four of the Miami players were in pads by Tuesday and will be ready to go against Tech.... While many guys are banged up, Miami tailback Clinton Portis played for the first time in a month against Louisiana Tech and showed few, if any, lingering effects of the foot injury that sidelined him three games. Portis gained 86 yards on 14 carries Saturday against Louisiana Tech, picking up where he left off before the injury. He had 253 yards rushing in the first three games, but broke three toes on his right foot Sept. 26 in practice. The sophomore is averaging nearly 10 yards per carry despite playing behind starter James Jackson and Najeh Davenport. ... Despite the fact that they beat Florida State earlier this season, Miami is fifth in the most recent BCS polls, two spots behind the Seminoles. "Regardless of our standing in any of the rankings, we just need to remain focused on winning games," Miami coach Butch Davis said. "To enter into any kind of long discussion about the BCS really serves no purpose, as I see it." Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh (5-2, 2-2 Big East) will try to put last week's heart-wrenching 37-34 loss to No.2 Virginia Tech in the rearview mirror. It won't be easy. "Our team took the loss hard," said Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris. "They should. It was a tremendous effort. We were hurt. We were really hurt. But we also have goals. We have a lot of good football left. We have a chance to get six wins and give us a winning season and possible a 12th game (in a bowl)." ... To become bowl eligible, the Panthers must knock yet another team with a mobile quarterback in North Carolina's Ronald Curry. Curry, of course, grew up in the same fertile Hampton Roads, Virginia area which produced Virginia Tech's Michael Vick. ... True freshman Andy Lee has emerged as the team's new No. 1 punter. Jay Junko, a redshirt sophomore, had handled most of the punting going into the Virginia Tech game. He had punted 19 times, while Lee had just two. But in the second half against the Hokies, Pittsburgh coaches decided to go with Lee instead of Junko, whose four-yard punt set up a Hokies' score. Lee averaged 37.3 yards on four punts, but one of his attempts was a pooch punt. It went for just 24 yards and was downed at the Virginia Tech 15 as the Panthers attempted to pin the Hokies late in the fourth quarter. Lee averaged 41.6 yards on his other three punts. Rutgers
Last week's 42-13 loss to Boston College all but sealed Terry Shea's fate and once again pointed out the problems facing the next Rutgers' head coach: The school's inability to keep New Jersey's blue-chip prep players from leaving the state to play college ball. That was once again illustrated last Saturday against BC, when the Scarlet Knights were done in by Boston College tailback William Green. A former high school All-American out of Atlantic City, Green got away from Rutgers, and plenty of other schools, in 1999 when he signed with Boston College. Green, a 6-1 sophomore, ran for 223 yards on 22 rushes with two touchdowns against Rutgers last weekend. Green piled up all of that yardage even though Boston College's offensive line was missing both of its starting guards. ... Word has it that Rutgers athletic director Robert Mulcahy has already started to compile a wish list of candidates to replace Shea. High on that list are reported to be current Miami defensive coordinator Greg Schiano (a New Jersey native who was a grad assistant at Rutgers back in 1989), current Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, Western Michigan head coach Gary Darnell and Toledo head coach Gary Pinkel. Syracuse
If Syracuse (3-4) loses at West Virginia (4-3) in a noon game Saturday, the Orangemen would have to go 3-0, including a victory over Miami, the rest of the way just to be bowl eligible. "Obviously, we have a big challenge," said Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni. "West Virginia is a very good football team and we have other challenges after that." ... Pasqualoni is facing constant questions about whether he will pull quarterback Troy Nunes (eight interceptions the last two games) from the starting lineup, but he isn't tipping his hand whether or not he will replace Nunes with highly-touted redshirt freshman R.J. Anderson. Nunes has completed 61.5% of his throws this season, but is throwing one interception every 11 pass attempts ... Syracuse has lost six consecutive regular season road games and is a disappointing 4-8 overall in its last 12 regular season games. With a loss to West Virginia, Syracuse would go two games under .500 in Big East play for only the second time since the formation of the league. ... Aside from the quarterback controversy, the other offensive mystery in Dome-land is what ever happened to super frosh Johnnie Morant? The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Morant, a 1999 Parade All-American who had his choice of colleges coming out of Parsippany Hills, N.J., has played just 10 snaps in two games. He hasn't caught a pass this season and hasn't played in the last four games, including the 42-14 blowout of Brigham Young. Temple
This week's Temple-Boston College tilt will feature the top two rushers in the Big East in BC sophomore William Green (114.25 yards per game, 15th in the nation) and Temple sophomore Tanardo Sharps (103.6 ypg, 20th nationally). ... Temple coach Bobby Wallace says that his Owls (4-4) head into the BC game as healthy as a team could expect to be after playing eight games. The bye week allowed the Owls to nurse defensive starters Dan Klecko (knee injury) and Lafton Thompson (strained knee) back to health. Wallace will need Klecko and Thompson in order to slow down BC's prolific ground attack which piled up 325 yards rushing last week vs. Rutgers. ... During last week's bye, Wallace and his staff were out on the road recruiting and were pleased with the reception that they received. Wallace attributes the positive reception to the Owls' .500 record (and the fact that they'll play meaningful games in November for the first time in recent memory), the school's new on-campus facilities and additional dorm space. "People nationwide are starting to notice the improvements that were making here at Temple and that includes high school coaches and prospective recruits," said Wallace. "They see the on-field improvements and on-campus improvements as well as the fact that we have only three seniors on our team. There are reasons to be excited about the future of Temple football." Virginia Tech
This Saturday's Virginia Tech-Miami war features not only two of the nation's best teams, but also two of its most prolific. Miami leads the nation in scoring (45 ppg), while Tech is fifth nationally at 42.0 ppg. ... Virginia Tech's all-everything quarterback Michael Vick still is listed as day to day with a sprained ankle. "My mind set right now is Dave Meyer will be our starting quarterback in the game against Miami," Tech coach Frank Beamer said. If Vick can not play (which seems highly unlikely in a game of this magnitude), then senior tailback Andre Kendrick will be the Hokies' emergency No. 3 quarterback, behind Dave Meyer and Grant Noel. ... As always, success comes with a price. There's still three games left in the regular season and already Beamer's name as well as that of defensive coordinator Bud Foster are coming up in connection with other head coaching jobs. Beamer's name, as well as those of Clemson's Tommy Bowden and Miami's Butch Davis, are being floated as possible replacements for Mike DuBose at Alabama. Meanwhile, Foster's name is already being rumored at Rutgers (where Terry Shea is all but out the door) and Virginia (where George Welsh might retire at season's end). West Virginia
This week's Big East Conference clash with Syracuse carries huge bowl implications for both teams. Syracuse is 3-4, but has probable wins vs. Temple and Rutgers on the schedule as well as a date with Miami. West Virginia sits at 4-3 and has Rutgers, East Carolina and Pittsburgh on the horizon. ... It appears that junior starting quarterback Brad Lewis might not be able to recover from his sprained left knee in time to start against the Orangemen, meaning that redshirt freshman Scott McBrien will probably be the man under center in WVU's most important game of the season. Lewis, of course, suffered the serious sprain when he was sacked in the second quarter of the Notre Dame game back on Oct. 21. ... WVU center Rick Gilliam is among 39 nominees for the 2000 Outland Trophy, the trophy which has been awarded each year since 1946 to the best lineman in college football. Over the next month, the list will be reduced to three finalists. ... West Virginia coach Don Nehlen has been frustrated by the number of mistakes that his team has made, particularly on special teams. "Hunting season is big here in the state of West Virginia," said Nehlen. "And it's obviously big with this football team too, because we keep shooting ourselves in the foot." Bill Doherty covers Big East football for ESPN.com.
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Santana Moss returns the punt 69 yards for the touchdown.
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James Jackson rushes in his second touchdown of the game.
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Santana Moss takes the fake 43 yards for the TD.
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