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NCAA Football Recap (Virginia Tech-Syracuse)
Posted: Sun November 15, 1998 at 2:44 a.m ESTSYRACUSE, New York (Ticker) -- Donovan McNabb's miraculous 13-yard touchdown pass to leaping tight end Stephen Brominski on the final play of the game lifted Syracuse to a dramatic 28-26 victory over Virginia Tech in a Big East Conference battle. Syracuse (6-3, 4-1 Big East) lined up on 3rd-and-goal from the 13-yard line with five seconds left after Hokies defensive end Corey Moore had sacked McNabb for a 12-yard loss. McNabb took the snap and rolled right before floating a pass into the left corner of the end zone, where Brominski out-leaped linebacker Michael Hawkes to haul in the winning score. "I'll tell you what, we came out with a lot of heart and we weren't going to lose this game," said McNabb, who accounted for 289 yards of total offense. "I wasn't going to let us lose. You just saw a Syracuse team with a lot of heart and determination. I wanted to win this game for the players, the coaches and the Syracuse fans." The Carrier Dome faithful stormed the field to celebrate Syracuse's most stirring home win in recent memory just moments after seeing flashbacks to perhaps the school's toughest loss of the decade. As McNabb led the final drive, he began to vomit on the field, evoking memories of a similar experience by Marvin Graves as he led the game-ending drive in an eventual 16-10 loss to Miami six years ago. But that contest ended when tight end Chris Gedney was tackled on the 3-yard line after hauling in a pass from Graves. "It was a great, great, great performance, a great demonstration of intestinal fortitude," said Orangemen coach Paul Pasqualoni. "Donovan McNabb had the courage of a lion. He was really winded at the end and he may have thrown up, but this was a tremendous example of courage." The victory moved Syracuse within two wins of their second straight outright conference title and a trip to one of the four major bowls that comprise the Bowl Championship Series. The Orangemen travel to Temple next weekend before hosting rival Miami in a game that will likely decide the conference crown. Virginia Tech (7-2, 4-2), which would have claimed the league title wins over Syracuse and next weekend's opponent, Rutgers, lost despite returing a punt for a touchdown, a fumble for a score and a defensive conversion for two points. "I think you have to give Syracuse credit," said Hokies coach Frank Beamer, who led his team to conference titles in 1995 and 1996. "They have a great player who made some great plays. It was an unbelievable game, but Syracuse just kept hanging in there and made some plays." After Shayne Graham's 49-yard field goal gave Virginia Tech a 26-22 lead with 4:42 left, the Orangemen took control on their own 17. They moved to the 44 but were faced with a 4th-and-7 when Pasqualoni called for a draw play. McNabb burst straight up the middle and went 41 yards to the Hokies 15. After an incomplete pass, McNabb connected on a 14-yard strike to Maurice Jackson. "The scramble on fourth down was one by a great player," added Beamer. But Syracuse appeared to self-destruct, unable to get into the end zone on the next two plays and losing 12 yards on the sack by Moore. But McNabb, who is three games from completing one of the great careers in school history, had one final miracle for his team. "It was supposed to be just a three- to five-yard rout, but I told McNabb that if he needed to come back to me, I'd be in the end zone," said Brominski. "They didn't bite on the role out like they normally do. I was aware of him (Hawkes) being there, but I just knew that I had to go up and catch it." Syracuse's senior quarterback completed 15-of-32 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns while carrying 21 times for a game-high 57 yards. Kevin Johnson caught seven passes for 118 yards for the Orangemen, who racked up 420 yards of offense. Virginia Tech got half of its 152 yards of total offense on one play, a 76-yard run by Jarrett Ferguson on the last play of the first quarter. Al Clark, playing his second game after returning from a foot injury, was 4-of-12 for just 35 yards. "This was definitely our toughest loss ever," sad Hokies safety Pierson Prioleau. "You've got to play until the last play. You can never underestimate Donovan McNabb. We thought we had it with five seconds left. We hounded Donovan McNabb and hit him probably like no one ever has." Syracuse's scoring consisted of just two field goals in the first half as Nathan Trout connected from 43 yards in the first quarter and hit from 36 yards on the final play of the half. Virginia Tech got Ferguson's 76-yard TD scamper, a blocked punt recovery in the end zone by wide receiver Ricky Hall and a 74-yard fumble return by cornerback Loren Johnson returned in between Trout's two field goals. Anthony Midget's block, which led to Hall's score, marked the 10th time this season and the 59th this decade that the Hokies have blocked a kick. Syracuse immediately began to fight back in the second half. McNabb hit Brominski on a one-yard TD midway through the third quarter and Trout's 30-yarder nearly seven minutes later brought Syracuse within 21-16 and set the stage for the game's strangest play. Rob Konrad's one-yard scoring run had given Syracuse a one-point lead and the Orangemen went for two in an effort to take a three-point lead. McNabb's pass into the corner of the end zone was intercepted by Loren Johnson, who sprinted down the right sideline and before being caught from behind at the 10-yard line by McNabb. But Johnson fumbled the ball forward into the end zone, where it was recovered by linebacker Jamel Smith to give the Hokies a 23-22 lead. Syracuse argued vehemently that Johnson had illegally thrown the ball forward, and had done it after his knee hit the ground. "That was the longest I've ever run," said McNabb. "The official got in my way and I pushed him aside. I dove for him and tackled him. He was definitely down when he threw the ball up."
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