JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Virginia Tech Hokies twice rallied from 11-point deficits, and scored 22 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to knock off Louisville 35-24 in the Gator Bowl played at Alltel Stadium on Monday afternoon in Jacksonville, Fla.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak in bowl games for the Hokies and enabled Tech to finish the 2005 season with an 11-2 overall record. Tech recorded 11 wins for just the third time in the program's history.
"I'd say first of all congratulations to Louisville and we were lucky to win that one," said Tech head coach Frank Beamer, who improved to 6-7 overall in bowl games. "At the same time, I'm proud of our football team. We got back to Virginia Tech football in the second half. We knocked off the penalties and played good, tough good football. I was proud of that. I was proud that we ended up the day playing the way Virginia Tech is supposed to play. I thought our kids gave great effort and kept battling, and I'm proud of that.
There were some great things that happened out there in the second half. I want to remember the second half. I don't want to remember the first half."
The Hokies trailed 14-3 in the first half, and 17-10 at halftime, primarily because of 75 yards in penalties, all of the 15-yard variety. And in the second half, they found themselves down 24-13 after Louisville quarterback Hunter Cantwell hit Gary Barnidge on a 29-yard touchdown pass with less than 14 minutes left in the game.
After that score, the Hokies got things going. Tech answered by marching 78 yards in just two plays. Tech got a big play from quarterback Marcus Vick, who hit receiver David Clowney for a 54-yard gain to the Louisville 24. On the next play, Cedric Humes rumbled in from 24 yards out, and the Hokies connected on the two-point conversion when Vick hit Josh Morgan. That made the score 24-21 with just over 13 minutes to go.
Tech's Chris Ellis then gave Tech's offense a golden opportunity when he drilled Cantwell on the ensuing possession and forced the Louisville signal-caller to fumble. James Anderson recovered for the Hokies, giving Tech the ball at its own 47. The Hokies capitalized when Vick found tight end Jeff King in the back of the end zone on a 5-yard touchdown pass that gave the Hokies a 28-24 lead with 6:09 left in the game.
Tech then put the game away a minute later. Anderson, a redshirt senior from Chesapeake, Va., who enjoyed a huge game, intercepted a Cantwell pass and returned it for a touchdown that made the score 35-24. Louisville had two opportunities to cut into the lead, but lost the ball on downs on one occasion and Brandon Flowers intercepted a pass on the Cardinals' final possession of the game.
"We got back to what I think is Virginia Tech football," Beamer said. "I don't know where we've been for a while. Personal fouls, penalties and sloppy play, that's not us. We haven't won all these ball games by being like that. I'm just glad our football team came back and played the way they did the second half. I thought they played great."
Humes, a redshirt senior from Virginia Beach, Va., took home the game's MVP honors for Tech after rushing for 113 yards and the one touchdown in his final collegiate game. His effort enabled the Hokies to rush for 187 yards, pacing a balanced Tech attack.
Vick completed 11-of-21 for 203 yards and two scores.
Tech's defense slammed the door on the Cardinals in the second half, allowing just seven first downs and 119 yards. Cantwell threw three touchdowns, but also threw three interceptions.
The Gator Bowl concluded the season for the Hokies. Tech will hold its annual spring game at some point in April.