Sports for November 7, 1999

Upset bid against Tech falls short

No. 3 Hokies use last-second field goal to down WVU, 22-20

by Chris Errington
Sports Writer
MORGANTOWN -- When Khori Ivy raced into the end zone with the 18-yard touchdown pass that gave West Virginia an improbable 20-19 lead with 1:15 remaining, Mountaineer Field erupted. All it gave defensive end Ryan Brady was a sick sense of deja vu.
Brady remembered past games seemingly won, only to be lost on last-second miracles.
Saturday against No. 3 Virginia Tech, it happened again.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Vick's key 26-yard scramble brought Virginia Tech (8-0, 4-0 Big East) into West Virginia territory and Shayne Graham kicked a game-winning 44-yard field goal as time expired as the Hokies survived a monumental upset 22-20 before a crowd of 56,906.
"I definitely thought there was too much time when we scored," Brady said. "I remember in '96 against Miami when someone said 'God it's nice to beat Miami' and he jinxed us. It's just a sick feeling right now."
To a man, West Virginia's players and coaches agreed that Vick's run on second-and-one from the 38 was the game's biggest play.
With the clock winding down, Vick rolled to his left, stopped and reversed his field. As the 6-foot-1, 212 pounder from Virginia Beach headed for the sideline, West Virginia players relaxed, assuming he would run out of bounds. Instead, Vick cut back upfield and wasn't run out until he reached the West Virginia 36.
Two plays later, Graham, four of six on field goals of 40 yards or longer coming in, blasted his kick through the middle of the uprights and the middle of West Virginia's hearts.
"For Shayne Graham and that field goal team to step up and knock it right down the middle ... some seasons it's like this when things happen right and players make it happen right. I was on the sidelines praying," VT coach Frank Beamer said.
The kick climaxed a second-straight heartbreaking defeat for the Mountaineers (3-6, 2-3), whose hopes for a fourth-straight bowl berth were dismissed. It also ended what was one of the greatest comebacks in school history.
Trailing 19-7 following Shyrone Stith's six-yard touchdown run with 4:59 remaining and without starting quarterback Marc Bulger, who injured his right thumb in the first half, West Virginia seemed dead.
But when backup Brad Lewis connnected with Jerry Porter on a 4-yard fade pass for a touchdown, the Mountaineers were right back in the game. The score was preceded by a kickoff return and penalty that put the ball on the Virginia Tech 24,
What happened next was nearly unbelievable.
Attempting to run out the clock, Stith fumbled and safety Boo Sensabaugh recovered on the Virginia Tech 32 with 1:44 remaining.
Four plays later, facing a third and 13 from the 18, Lewis found Ivy open on a slant pattern at the 5 and the senior wide receiver ran the rest of the way for the go-ahead score.
Virginia Tech "backed off and only rushed six and they gave me some things," Lewis, making his second relief appearance, said. "We just decided to go after them. I wasn't thinking about leaving too much time."
The loss also spoiled West Virginia's best defensive performance of the season. The Mountaineers' yielded 469 total yards, but held Virginia Tech to 5 of 15 on third downs. Vick was just 14 of 30 passing and was sacked once.
They also earned the praise of defensive coordinator Steve Dunlap.
"Running between the tackles is their bread and butter. They do it 60 percent of the time," Dunlap said. "We shut it down. We were just a play here or there short tonight."
Despite Bulger's injury that kept him from playing the second half and that he said he wasn't "optimistic about," West Virginia's offense moved the ball surprisingly well against the nation's No. 2 defense.
Avon Cobourne rushed for a game-high 133 yards, while the quarterbacks finished a combined 19 of 38 for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Seven of those passes went to Ivy, the game's leading receiver for the second-straight week, but most importantly, the Mountaineers didn't turn the ball over.
In the end, it still didn't matter.
"These last two games have been tough," West Virginia coach Don Nehlen said. "The last month this team has played very good football. The kids bled for this game. I just feel so bad for them."

Chris Errington on Sports

Mountaineers deserved better than final result

MORGANTOWN -- The scene sparked by Shayne Graham's 44-yard field goal as time expired more than told the story.
Graham's Virginia Tech Hokies converged at the 50-yard line, bounding up and down en masse to celebrate a still-breathing national title hunt.
West Virginia, as it had throughout an entertaining afternoon, exposed its collective emotion for the crowd of 56,906 to witness.
Motionless, defensive tackle Greg Robinette straddled the 30-yard line, near the line of scrimmage of the game's final, frenzied play.
Scooter Davis whirled around and around near the 10, seemingly unable to accept the Mountaineers' 22-20 loss to the nation's No. 3 team. Finally, the senior defensive back booted his helmet -- displaying less form but equal force to Graham's bomb.
The contradiction in reaction and obvious irony (West Virginia's perfect 1993 season was saved when a Hokie chip shot late sailed wide right) resulted in a lingering feeling foreign to the 1999 campaign.
West Virginia deserved better.
For much of the season, apathy has ruled court in Morgantown. The year was taking on the concept of Seinfeld, a season about nothing.
Apathy ruled court in Morgantown. Sure, East Carolina was close, but how do you explain Maryland?
Masters of their domain? Hardly. Coach Don Nehlen's 20th season at WVU still had life with the Navy-Rutgers-Temple home snack to devour. The Mountaineers limped away 2-1.
The results were less than inspiring and the perceived effort fell right in line. That was, of course, until Saturday.
West Virginia consistently stuffed Hokie tailback Shyrone Stith and Co. between the tackles.
On the flip side, West Virginia never abandoned the run, even when down 19-7. Nehlen's persistence paid off in 133 yards for Avon Cobourne. Tech's previous high for yards allowed by an opposing running back was 108 by James Madison's Curtis Keaton (sound familiar?).
The Mountaineer defense matched Tech's reputation for physical play and then some, providing all-world freshman Michael Vick with his toughest day at the office to date.
Vick misfired on nine of 11 first half passes, was sacked once and suffered numerous more knockdowns.
The Hokies, whose smallest margin of victory prior was last week's 30-17 win at Pittsburgh, hardly looked like a BSC contender in any phase.
The defense was unspectacular, special teams invisible and the suddenly potent offense consisted of the following: Plod, plod, plod ... big play.
Postgame speculation was that Minnesota's shocker over No. 2 Penn State minutes prior to kickoff might have distracted Frank Beamer's Hokies.
The coach disagreed without hesitation.
"It wasn't the Penn State loss," Beamer said. "It was West Virginia."
Indeed it was the suddenly gritty Mountaineers. And for the first time this season, they deserved better.

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