The date: November 13, 1999
The matchup: No. 19 Miami (5-3) at No. 2 Virginia Tech (8-0)
The stakes: Virginia Tech is three games away from an 11-0 season and a potential BCS title game bid. But next on the docket is both a physical and symbolic test. Butch Davis’ improving (but not yet all the way back) Hurricanes are on their way to Blacksburg.
The back story: Frank Beamer's bona fides as a program builder had already been proven by 1999. After finishing ranked just twice in program history before Beamer, Virginia Tech had done so four times in six years, peaking with major bowl bids in 1995 (Sugar Bowl) and 1996 (Orange Bowl).
1999 changed the scope of everything. Freshman quarterback Michael Vick combined damn-near track-star level speed with a cannon for a left arm, and an 8-0 start with wins over No. 24 Virginia (24-7) and No. 16 Syracuse (62-0 with ESPN College Gameday in attendance) had captured the nation's attention.
Miami, meanwhile, was beginning to reap the rewards of Butch Davis' slow but steady rebuilding process. After winning just 22 games over his first three years, the Canes went 9-3 in 1998 and had shown promise in a win over No. 9 Ohio State and competitive losses to No. 3 Penn State and No. 1 Florida State. (They also lost at ECU, but we'll gloss over that.)
After this game, Miami would proceed to win 39 of its next 40 contests. But there was no getting in the way of Virginia Tech in 1999, at least not unless your name was Florida State.
The game: From the Newport News Daily Press:
Precocious quarterback Michael Vick had received most of the publicity for Virginia Tech in recent weeks. But in their biggest test of the season, the Hokies turned to their strengths -- defense and special teams -- to continue their remarkable run.
The second-ranked Hokies absorbed Miami's best shot early, then wore down the 19th-ranked Hurricanes 43-10 Saturday in front of 53,130 at Lane Stadium. [...]
The Hokies' previous four victories in the series came down to the wire, and Saturday's appeared as if it would follow a similar script. But the Tech defense came up with six Miami turnovers, shut down the Hurricanes in the second half and forced Miami quarterback Kenny Kelly out of the game with an injured shoulder.
Defensive back Anthony Midget intercepted three passes, and cornerback Ike Charlton returned a fumble 51 yards for a touchdown.
Miami bolted to a 10-0 lead in the game's first 11 minutes, but Tech had eased to a 20-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Then the floodgates opened. Ricky Hall returned a punt 64 yards for a score; 24 seconds left, Charlton scored on a fumble recovery. Another short field set up Shayne Graham's third field goal of the day, and Andre Davis recovered a Tech fumble at the end of a 58-yard Andre Kendrick run to finish off a 23-0 burst. A tight game had turned into a 33-point laugher.
The box score: From Newspapers.com:
Miami’s Clinton Portis had a big day, rushing for 139 yards, but this was an old-school Tech win, powered by disruptive defense and a special teams score. Kelly and Miami backup Ken Dorsey combined to complete just 14 of 34 passes with three interceptions, and Virginia Tech advanced. The Hokies would beat Temple and No. 22 Boston College by a combined 100-21 and indeed advance to the national title game. There, it was Florida State putting together the late surge; the Seminoles won, 46-29.
This Tech team, which combined the incredible Vick with a propensity for defensive and special teams explosions, captured the nation’s imagination. It won the supporter vote as the 50th team included in The 50 Best* College Football Teams of All Time, and you can read the entire 1999 chapter here.