Virginia Tech 35, Texas A&M 19
September 18, 2003
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com
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Blacksburg, VA - Behind strong offensive performances from QB Bryan Randall and tailback Kevin Jones, plus a stingy second-half defense, 8th-ranked Virginia Tech scored the last 14 points of the game to put away 20th-ranked Texas A&M 35-19 in rain-soaked Blacksburg.
Going into the game, the story was Hurricane Isabel, which was expected to hit Blacksburg with two inches of rain and winds up to 40 miles an hour. Coming out of the game, the story was a career-high 188 yards rushing by Jones on 30 carries, and multiple clutch plays by Randall, who converted key third and fourth downs against the wind in the fourth quarter.
Though it rained for most of the game, heavy at times, the weather wasn't much of a factor. A bigger factor was the play of Jones and Randall, who went 9-of-13 for 63 yards, with one interception and a 10-yard TD pass to Jeff King. Randall shined in the fourth quarter in particular, leading the Hokies on an 11-play, 80-yard drive for a TD that extended a small 21-19 VT lead to a 28-19 cushion.
That score came with 8:20 to go in the game, and the Aggies muffed a pooch kick on the ensuing kickoff, which the Hokies recovered on the Texas A&M 33-yard line. Tech scored in six plays from there to go up 35-19, the final margin.
The game was a seesaw battle in the first half, which ended with the Hokies leading 14-12. Every time Tech took a lead, going up 7-0 and 14-3, the Aggies responded. Tech drew first blood on a short 28-yard drive that ended in a 1-yard TD run by Jones. The drive featured an 18-yard gain by Jones on a fourth and one.
A&M responded with a 13-play, 62-yard drive in which the Hokies stiffened at the end and held the Aggies to a 22-yard field goal. That made it 7-3, and the Hokies came right back with a 10-play, 70-yard drive that culminated in a 10-yard pass from Randall to a wide-open King to put the Hokies up 14-3 early in the second quarter.
Texas A&M dominated the remainder of the second quarter, outgaining the Hokies 149-11 from the King TD to half time. The Aggies sandwiched two 12-play scoring drives around a three-and-out by the Hokies. First A&M drove 51 yards for a 20-yard field goal that made it 14-6. Then, after a 47-yard Vinnie Burns punt pinned the Aggies at their 2-yard line, they put together their best drive of the game, a 12-play, 98-yard affair that led to a 2-yard run by Courtney Lewis with 1:15 to go in the first half. After a failed two-point conversion, the Hokies ran out the clock and took a 14-12 lead into half time.
Half time was good for Tech, as the Hokies made adjustments both offensively and defensively that enabled them to dominate the second half. The Hokies opened the second half with a six-play, 76-yard drive, all on the ground, and Jones scored from two yards out to put Tech up 21-12. Texas A&M was whistled for two straight pass interference penalties to help the Hokies score.
While the Hokie defense held A&M, Tech turned the ball over twice in the third quarter, the second of which led to an Aggie score. VT's first turnover came when Randall threw an interception, his first of the year, in A&M territory, and when the Aggies punted on the ensuing drive, DeAngelo Hall muffed it, giving A&M possession on the Hokie 24-yard line. From there, A&M scored in just three plays, with QB Reggie McNeal executing a beautiful fake handoff and hitting wideout Tim Van Zant with a 15-yard TD pass just behind Tech free safety Jimmy Williams.
That made the score 21-19, Hokies, early in the fourth quarter, and Virginia Tech put together a masterpiece of a drive. Working against a hard wind, the Hokies drove 80 yards in 11 plays, with the key play being a 13-yard scramble by Randall on third and 6. Randall finished off the drive with a 12-yard option keeper, scoring untouched.
The Hokies tried a pooch kick on the kickoff, and the ploy worked perfectly, as A&M return man Byron Jones was unable to reach the ball and field it cleanly. It bounced off of Jones and rolled to the sideline, where the Hokies recovered on the Aggie 33-yard line.
Tech scored in six plays, with the highlight being an 11-yard slant pass to Ernest Wilford on fourth and 2. Jones scored from 11 yards out on a nicely blocked off-tackle run, his third TD of the day, and the Hokies had a 35-19 lead with 5:33 to go. Between the two drives, Tech had possession of the ball for almost nine straight minutes in the fourth quarter.
If there was any doubt left in the game, Garnell Wilds removed it by picking off a deep pass by McNeal that sailed well over the intended receiver's head. It was the 12th straight game with an interception by the Hokies.
RUSHING-Virginia Tech, Jones 30-188, Randall 9-59, Humes 6-33, Easlick 1-2, Vick 1-(-9). TAMU, McNeal 12-47, Lewis 11-31, Joseph 5-22, Scates 1-15, Farmer 8-8, Long 2-(-21).
PASSING-Virginia Tech, Randall 9-13-1-63. TAMU, McNeal 11-21-1-133, Long 3-4-0-37, Team 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING-Virginia Tech, Johnson 3-13, Easlick 2-18, Wilford 1-11, King
1-10, Jones 1-6, Shreve 1-5. TAMU, Van Zant 7-102, Murphy 4-48, Riley 1-13, Carter 1-9, Farmer 1-(-2).