2003 Insight Bowl:
California 52, Virginia Tech 49
December 26, 2003
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com
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Phoenix, AZ - California kicker Tyler Frederickson ended a wild shootout with a 35-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Golden Bears a 52-49 win over the Hokies in the 2003 Insight Bowl. Frederickson's kick ended a Tech comeback that saw the Hokies score two straight touchdowns to erase a 49-35 deficit and tie the game with 3:11 to go on a 52-yard punt return by DeAngelo Hall.
The Hokies kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds for the third time in the game, giving Cal great field position at their own 35-yard line. The Bears drove 47 yards in 7 plays, and Frederickson, who was just 14-of-29 on field goals and had missed his last five coming into the game, calmly drilled the game-winner down the middle as the clock ran out.
It was a game that saw the Hokies rack up a season-high 551 yards of total offense, but unfortunately, they gave up a season-high 530 yards defensively, including 394 yards on 27-of-35 passing by Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Tech QB Bryan Randall matched Rodgers, going 24-of-34 for 398 yards and 4 touchdowns with no interceptions. Kevin Jones added 153 yards rushing on just 16 carries in his final college game, but both efforts were wasted in the loss.
The Hokies were undone by poor defensive performance, with Cal at one point scoring touchdowns on six straight possessions and converting 13-of-17 third-down conversions. Special teams failures in the kicking game also haunted Tech. Carter Warley missed field goals of 40, 45, and 28 yards and kicked two kickoffs out of bounds before giving way to Brandon Pace, who also kicked a kickoff out of bounds.
Cal scored on their first possession, driving 79 yards in nine plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard run by Rodgers. Tech then proceeded to dominate the rest of the first quarter, holding Cal to three straight three-and-out possessions and scoring three straight touchdowns of their own.
VT flashed a varied and potent offense during that first quarter, which ended with the Hokies up 21-7. First Randall scored on a two-yard keeper, then he hit tight end Keith Willis for a 3-yard touchdown, Willis' first TD catch of the year. Tech's third TD came when Randall threw a perfect 36-yard bomb to Marcus Vick, who lined up at the wide receiver position frequently in the game and caught four passes for 82 yards and the TD.
But things came unraveled for Tech in the second and third quarters. California went on a 35-7 run in those two quarters, taking a 42-28 lead as the fourth quarter opened. During those second and third quarters, Cal had over 350 yards of offense, and while the Hokies moved the ball well and scored a touchdown on an 11-yard run by Jones, Tech missed three field goals in a four-possession span. Warley attempted field goals of 40, 45, and 28 yards, yanking all three field goals badly to the left.
As the fourth quarter opened, the Hokies put the finishing touches on an 8-play, 80-yard drive that took just 2:13 and culminated in a 22-yard pass from Randall to a wide-open Willis, making it 42-35, Cal, with 13:35 to go.
But the Bears responded with the longest drive of the game by either team, in terms of the number of plays and the time consumed, going 65 yards in 13 plays and taking 7:09 off the clock. The last five plays of the drive were runs, finishing in a 13-yard end-around for a touchdown by Cal's tiny (5-8, 150 pounds) wideout, Vincent Strang.
That made it 49-35 with 6:26 to go. The Hokies struck back quickly, going 80 plays in 7 yards and scoring on a 28-yard pass from Randall to Chris Shreve, who had 3 catches for 93 yards, his first receptions since the Rutgers game back on October 19th. Shreve's touchdown, his third of the year, made it 49-42, California, with 4:28 to go.
The Hokies stopped Cal kick returner James Bethea on the Cal 11-yard line on the ensuing kickoff, and the Tech defense, aided by a Cal false start, turned in its first three-and-out series since the first quarter. The Hokies forced a Cal punt, and DeAngelo Hall rewarded the defense with a 52-yard punt return that tied the game with 3:11 left. Hall, who officially declared his intentions to enter the NFL draft after the game, fielded Tyler Frederickson's punt near the right sideline, escaped three Bears in the immediate area, crossed over to the left side of the field, and raced up the sideline, escaping a shoestring tackle attempt by Frederickson on the 15-yard line.
Tech's celebration was short-lived, though, as Brandon Pace kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds at the one-yard line, giving Cal possession on their 35. Just the same, the Hokies almost ended the Cal drive on first down, when defensive tackle Kevin Lewis pressured Rodgers and knocked the ball from his hand in the pocket. Defensive end Cols Colas went to the ground for the recovery along with Cal offensive tackle Chris Murphy, and Murphy beat Colas to the ball, recovering it for the Bears.
Rodgers then threw three straight completions for 51 yards, moving the ball to the Tech 20 yard line. After a J.J. Arrington rush to the Tech 15, Rodgers moved the ball to the middle of the field with a QB keeper that lost 3 yards, setting up Frederickson for the game-winning 35-yard field goal.
The Hokies finish 8-5, only their second five-loss season since the 2-8-1 debacle of 1992. The game marks the end of Tech's football membership in the Big East, and they move on to the ACC next season.
RUSHING-Virginia Tech, Jones 16-153, Vick 3-5, Humes 1-3, Randall 6-(-8). CAL, Arrington, 11-37, Echemandu 13-34, Rodgers 10-30, Strang 4-24, Manderino 3-11.
PASSING-Virginia Tech, Randall 24-36-0-398, R. Johnson 0-1-0-0, Vick 0-1-0-0. CAL, Rodgers 27-35-0-394.
RECEIVING-Virginia Tech, Wilford 8-110, Shreve 3-93, Vick 4-82, R. Johnson
2-55, Willis 2-25, Jones 4-25, Imoh 1-8. CAL, Lyman 5-149, Toler 6-84, Hall 3-62, Arrington 5-38, Echemandu 3-28,
Manderino 3-23, Rust 1-7, Gray 1-3.