HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer
HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) - The 11th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies defeated Akron, 52-23, on Sept. 2 in Blacksburg, Va. Quarterback Butchie Washington led the Zips with 248 yards passing and a touchdown.
Virginia Tech's redshirt sophomore quarterback, Michael Vick, ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more, to lead the Hokies to the 52-23 victory.
``Where's that storm we were supposed to get?'' Akron coach Lee Owens said. ``I think that's the only chance we had to slow them down.''
Especially Vick, whose spectacular freshman season ended with a gripping performance in the national championship game. In his encore, he ran 16 and 63 yards for
touchdowns and threw 59- and 34-yard TD passes.
In three quarters, Vick completed 7 of 11 passes for 186 yards and ran eight times for 102 yards before watching the finish from the sideline.
``I don't think we did anything to hurt Michael Vick's chances out there either,'' Owens said. ``If he's not the greatest football player in college today, I don't want to go
against the guy who is.''
Vick also got plenty of help as Lee Suggs rushed for 90 yards and two touchdowns in his debut as the tailback, and new kicker Carter Warley was good on all seven
extra points and added a 32-yard field goal.
``I knew I had to get my teammates involved,'' Vick said. ``I've got 11 other players around me and need to let them play the game, too.''
They did, piling up 549 yards of offense to keep the Zips from getting closer than 28-17 just before halftime. But the defense, once a Hokies hallmark, allowed 410 yards
and left rover Cory Bird feeling lucky.
``If something goes wrong, we have Mike and he has the capability of bailing us out,'' Bird said of Vick. ``He made a lot of plays early.''
Akron, which nearly stunned the Hokies in a 21-18 loss in Ohio in the 1996 opener, hung tough throughout the first half, trailing by just 28-17 with three minutes left.
That's when Vick's arm started getting warm.
Taking over at the Hokies 24 with 1:40 left, Vick hit Shawn Witten for 10 yards, Andre Davis for 7 yards and a wide-open Emmett Johnson for 59 yards down the right
sideline for his first TD pass of the season.
Johnson had to stop and wait for the ball, but still scored easily.
``I just made the throw to make sure I wasn't going to overthrow him,'' Vick said, somewhat sheepishly. ``That would have been embarassing.''
Earlier, the left-hander had Davis open nearly 70 yards away, but the Zips' Dwight Smith made a leaping, diving interception inside the 10.
Johnson's TD gave the Hokies a 35-17 lead at the half, and the rest of the game was essentially a race against an approaching thunderstorm.
On Aug. 27, the Hokies' season-opener against Georgia Tech was canceled by thunderstorms and lightning that arrived at kickoff.
At halftime, after criticism this week that the stadium evacuation was chaotic last week, athletic director Jim Weaver used the public address system to detail an
evacuation plan for fans in the event of a storm.
Weaver returned to the P.A. early in the third quarter and asked senior citizens and small children to begin moving for the exits because the storm appeared closer, but
many in the crowd of about 50,000 booed lustily and few seemed inclined to leave despite the lopsided score.
It eventually rained steadily, but without any lightning.
Shortly after Weaver's announcement, Vick hit Davis streaking toward the goal posts for a 34-yard touchdown pass, making it 42-17.
Suggs scored on runs of 1 and 13 yards to lead the ground game that totaled 335 yards. Vick had 102, and Andre Kendrick added 51 yards.
The Zips, expected to contend for the Mid-American Conference title, had a field goal blocked, an interception returned 11 yards for a TD by Willie Pile, and a fumble
recovered by Pile in the Hokies' end zone.
Quarterback Butchie Washington, who needed 130 yards of offense to become the Zips' career leader, got there during a 72-yard, nine-play drive in the second quarter.
He was 14-for-28 for 248 yards on the day, including a 37-yard scoring pass to Lavel Bailey that made it 28-17.
Jimmie Gray led the Zips ground game with 80 yards in 12 tries, and Brandon Payne ran for 38 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown.
The Zips also got a gift touchdown late when Corvin Amos picked up a fumbled punt return by Ronyell Whitaker and took it in from 16 yards.