One goal-line stand hurt. Two proved fatal for West Virginia.
Ike Charlton intercepted three passes, including one in the end zone, and No. 20 Virginia Tech defeated No. 21 West Virginia 27-13 on Saturday.
Virginia Tech's defense, ranked second nationally in scoring and third overall, put the first points on the board by returning a blocked punt for a touchdown and blocking an extra point by a kicker who had made 96 consecutive PAT.
The Hokies also had four interceptions and four sacks and stopped the Mountaineers on two goal-line stands in a two-minute span in the third quarter as Virginia Tech was clinging to a 17-13 lead.
"They figured they would come in and make a quick touchdown and get back into the game," Charlton said of the goal-line stands. "That took a lot out of their hearts. They no longer had a glimmer in their eyes."
West Virginia coach Don Nehlen agreed.
"When we had the ball down there on the 10-yard line and we didn't get in, and then intercepted it and did not get in again, that's when we lost the ball game," he said. "The other stuff did not really matter that much."
Virginia Tech (7-1, 4-1 Big East) needs only to beat No. 17 Syracuse and Rutgers to win the conference title, while West Virginia (4-3, 1-2) might be out of the running.
West Virginia failed to score the go-ahead touchdown on four plays when it had first down on the 4, but the Mountaineers were back again after intercepting Al Clark's pass on the next play and taking it to the 7.
"I thought, 'Oh man, we've got to go back in there again,"' Charlton said. But defensive end orey Moore said, "We were just as determined as we were the first time."
| Marcus Gildersleeve helped put Virginia Tech on the board by blocking Jay Taylor's first-quarter punt. (AP) |
The second threat passed when Marc Bulger was pressured and his throw into the end zone was intercepted by Charlton.
"He didn't see me," Charlton said.
"I don't think I've ever been with a defense that had the ball first-and-goal in three games and stopped them," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "I thought that was tremendous. And then to come back and give it to them at the 7 and stop them ... Our defense just played really great against a very, very good offense."
Inspired by the defensive effort against the nation's 17th-best offense, the Hokies drove downfield. Clark's 36-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Hall made it 24-13 with 1:26 left in the third quarter.
Bulger, who came in averaging 295 yards passing, brought West Virginia into scoring position on the next possession, but the drive was stopped by Charlton's third interception, which set up a 41-yard field goal by Shayne Graham to put Virginia Tech ahead 27-13.
Virginia Tech scored first with 8:43 left in the first quarter after West Virginia punter Jay Taylor dropped a low snap. Marcus Gildersleeve blocked the hurried punt, and Ricky Hall picked it up at the 17 and ran in for a touchdown.
West Virginia took a 13-10 lead after touchdowns on a 2-yard pass from Bulger to Anthony Becht and a 7-yard run by Amos Zereoue.
Clark, who was out six weeks with a foot injury, turned the ball over on Tech's first possession by fumbling the snap. He nearly lost another fumble and threw two interceptions.
But the senior recovered to pass for 162 yards, including a 40-yard TD pass to Angelo Harrison in the second quarter that put the Hokies back ahead 17-13.
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