Falcons Lose Inaugural San Francisco Bowl To Hokies
Jan 1, 2003
By GREG BEACHAM
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Lee Suggs rushed for two touchdowns, and Ronyell Whitaker forced a fumble near the goal line as time expired to lift No. 21 Virginia Tech to a 20-13 victory Tuesday night over Air Force in the inaugural San Francisco Bowl.
Suggs extended his NCAA record by scoring in his 27th straight game, and Bryan Randall was 18-of-23 for 177 yards as the Hokies (10-4) stuck to a deliberate game plan to grind out a victory over the Falcons (8-5).
Virginia Tech's swarming defense limited Air Force to three points after the game's first 7½ minutes. Chance Harridge completed just one of his first 13 passes, but he drove Air Force to the Virginia Tech 10 with 17 seconds left on a fourth-and-10 completion to J.P. Waller.
After two incomplete passes, Harridge scrambled for the end zone. He was met at the 4 by Whitaker, who forced a game-ending fumble.
The Hokies were ranked as high as No. 3 this season before losing four of their previous five, but coach Frank Beamer's team put a strong finish on the season with its fifth bowl victory during his tenure.
Anthony Butler rushed for 75 yards for Air Force, which finished the season with five losses in its last seven games despite leading the NCAA in rushing.
Harridge rushed for 70 yards in the Falcons' option offense while becoming the 16th player in college football history to run and pass for 1,000 yards apiece in the same season, but he was 4-for-19 through the air against the Hokies.
On the second play from scrimmage, however, Harridge threw a 47-yard pass to
Anthony Park, who had just 10 receptions all season - a total that made him the
third-leading receiver in Air Force's ground-bound option attack. Moments
later, Matt Ward scored on a 15-yard reverse.
That long pass was Harridge's only completion until the final 90 seconds of the game.
The officials ruled Suggs fumbled early in the Hokies' first possession, though the ball clearly came out well after Suggs was down. Joey Ashcroft kicked a 45-yard field goal, the longest of his career, to give Air Force a 10-0 lead.
But the Hokies rallied with Suggs' 16-yard scoring run, and both teams settled into deliberate offensive game plans. Virginia Tech took a 17-10 lead late in the third quarter on Suggs' 1-yard TD dive.
A bare-chested fan wearing orange body paint stood next to an Air Force cadet in the enthusiastic crowd of 25,966 at Pacific Bell Park.
The waterfront was warmer and less windy than it usually is for a San Francisco Giants night game, though the turf was soggy from days of rain. Both teams stood on the same sideline of the field, which stretched from the first-base dugout to the left-field wall.
The San Francisco Bowl is sponsored by Diamond Walnut.