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UM leaves impression on Hokies

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer left Saturday's Big East game in the Orange Bowl impressed. The Miami Hurricanes were not.

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis (17 tackles) and the UM defense woke Virginia Tech from its conference-title dreams, then knocked out the Hokies 24-3.

"Their defense is super; they may be the best in the country," said Beamer. "Ray Lewis may be the best I've ever seen. He's great."

It was a reality check for both teams. The No. 13 Hokies (7-2, 4-2 in Big East) were denied their best start in 40 years. Sixth-ranked UM (6-1, 3-0) cleared the last hurdle before next week's game with No. 14 Syracuse (6-1, 4-0) at the Carrier Dome for the conference title.

"We took care of our business," said UM safety Malcolm Pearson. "We're where we need to be now."

For the Hokies it was too much UM, too much defense and too much Lewis.

"They're a great team. We felt we could win coming in here, but things didn't go well for us," said Tech tailback Dwayne Thomas, who was held to 29 yards rushing _ 57 below his average. "We made mistakes, and you can't do that against a team like them. They're all over you."

UM trailed 3-0 despite dominating on defense from the start. Dane Prewitt, subbing for an injured Mike Crissy, had his punt blocked, setting up a 38-yard field goal by Ryan Williams late in the first quarter.

But that glimpse of light was blotted out quickly by Lewis and the defense. Tech lost 17 yards in the second quarter to finish with 23 yards total offense in the first half.

Lewis had 12 tackles in the half. He finished with 17 tackles, 1{ for losses, half a sack, four passes broken up and one interception.

"Ray Lewis is all over the field on every play," UM defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "He tries to get in on every play, and he's so quick he can do it. You wind up just trying to scrape up an assist or two when he's on like that."

Lewis was on. And the defense was on. The Hurricanes held the Hokies' offense, led by All-Big East quarterback Maurice DeShazo, to 157 yards. Tech finished with minus-14 yards rushing.

"We knew we had them because they broke tendency," Sapp said. "They didn't run the pass plays we saw on film; they didn't run the pitch plays they run well."

Safety C. J. Richardson was candid about Tech's offense.

"We knew they had a good defense, but their offense couldn't do anything early. And then they tried to run the ball like they were running out the clock," Richardson said. "They played scared, and when a team plays scared they get beat. We smell fear and we turn it up. That's what happened."

The Hurricanes' offense wasn't on. But it mattered little.

UM's first four drives resulted in two punts, a blocked punt and an interception.

The first sign of offensive life came when Tech safety Torrian Gray was flagged for pass interference, giving UM a second chance on third and 21. Five plays later, Larry Jones went over the left side for a 4-yard TD and a 7-3 lead at 8:51 of the second quarter.

Defense set up UM's second score. End Kenny Holmes stripped DeShazo of the ball and Baraka Short recovered at the Tech 13.

Ryan Collins replaced Costa but couldn't move the offense. Prewitt kicked a 33-yard field goal with 1:16 left in the first half.

Costa, who completed 12 of 25 passes for 147 yards and an interception, found the end zone on the final play of the first half when Yatil Green out-jumped Tech defenders for a 25-yard scoring pass and a 17-3 halftime lead.

"After we got up two TDs we knew this game was over," Lewis said. "We just had to go out and complete the job."

The defense continued to ground Tech's offense. And the Hurricanes found their own running game. After just 2 yards rushing in the first half, UM gained 195 in the second half.