Sept. 23, 1999
By HANK KURZ Jr. AP Sports Writer
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) – Even without big plays, 57 minutes of brilliant defense might have been enough to carry Virginia Tech past Clemson.
Thirty-eight seconds of fury erased any doubt.
Defensive touchdowns by Ike Charlton and Corey Moore in the final minutes turned a 17-11 cliffhanger into a 31-11 victory Thursday night for the eighth-ranked Hokies and gave the nation’s top-ranked defense something to crow about.
“I just felt like we got stronger in the fourth quarter,” said Moore, whose sack and 32-yard fumble return with 2:31 left closed the Tigers out. “With the offense they run, one play can kill you. We just stayed poised, like always.”
Leading by six after Shayne Graham’s 47-yard field goal with five minutes left, the Hokies (3-0) faced either making a play or risking having Brandon Streeter’s safe but effective passing attack knock them from the unbeaten ranks.
The first break came with 3:09 left, when Streeter threw toward Rob Gardner on the right side on a 2nd-and-14 from the Tigers 27. Gardner already had eight catches, but this time Streeter’s pass hit Charlton, and he was gone.
“I just threw it out in front of Rod a little too far,” Streeter said. “I should have let him clear that linebacker a little more before I threw it.”
The Hokies had breathing room, but they weren’t finished.
Four plays later, on first-and-10 from the Clemson 47, Streeter dropped back and Moore was one him, slapping the ball free, scooping it up and running.
Moore said the final score gave a false impression of how the game went.
“We played a great game tonight and they played a great game, too,” he said. “I think the score is not indicative of how the game was. It was a battle.”
Streeter kept Clemson in it, completing 27 of 43 passes, but said there was no solace in bouncing back against a team that embarrassed him at home last year. Clemson lost 37-0 to the Hokies in 1998, and Streeter threw four interceptions.
“We played out guts out and we just didn’t execute the offensee the way we should have at times,” he said. “There’s no satisfaction when you lose.”
First-year coach Tommy Bowden said he was pleased that his team had a chance to win with five minutes left. “We didn’t do it, but the next time we’re in the position, I think we’ll react more favorably,” he said.
The game marked the return of freshman sensation Michael Vick to the Hokies’ lineup. But unlike Tech’s season opener, when he was spectacular, Vick showed his inexperience by throwing three interceptions and trying to force the action.
“I just tried to make too many things happen tonight,” the redshirt freshman said after going 7-for-17 for 88 yards. He also rushed for 41 yards, including a 31-yarder to set up a TD. “I have to realize that I can’t do it all myself.”
The Hokies led 14-3 entering the fourth quarter and appeared to have stalled a Streeter drive by forcing a 4th-and-4 from the Virginia Tech 9. Clemson lined up for a field goal, but placekicker Tony Lazarra took the snap and passed to running back Vince Ciurciu alone in the end zone. Streeter’s 2-point conversion pass to Jason LeMay made it 14-11 with plenty of time left.
In the first half, Shyrone Stith, who had 111 yards by intermission, scored Tech’s first touchdown on a 3-yard run with 1:12 left in the opening quarter, capping an 11-play, 80-yard drive.
After the Hokies pinned Clemson at its 4, they again took over on their 45 and needed just two plays. Vick ran 31 yards on the first, running left on the option and cutting back, and Andre Kendrick went the last 24 to make it 14-0.
The short drive was largely set up by Moore, who threw Brian Wofford for an 11-yard loss on first down from the Tigers 18, then met tailback Travis Zachery in the backfield, throwing him for a 2-yard loss on third-and-21 from the 7.
Clemson made it 14-3 when Chris Campbell capped a 13-play drive with a 27-yard field goal. It was the first of his career. He missed earlier from 37.
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