Virginia Tech 38, Alabama 7

Thursday, December 31, 1998

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) -- Virginia Tech is sometimes considered the Rodney Dangerfield of college football. The Hokies may have an impressive defense and been a solid bowl team for years. But for some reason, they just can't get any respect.

So playing a team with as storied a tradition as Alabama would do wonders for the program. So what if the Crimson Tide was just 7-4 and one year removed from a losing season.

The Hokies took matters into their own hands and used stellar defense and special teams, stalwarts of coach Frank Beamer's regime, to stifle Alabama 38-7 in the Music City Bowl.

Virginia Tech ended a 10-game losing streak to Alabama by intercepting three passes, blocking two punts and recovering a muffed punt.

"I'm proud to beat a class program with the tradition and the players that Alabama has had," said Hokies coach Frank Beamer, who made up for a 1968 loss to the Tide as a player by winning in his first chance as a coach.

"They've beaten us 10 straight times. I would like to think that this is the start of a new day at Virginia Tech."

The victory ended a two-game losing streak in bowls for Virginia Tech (9-3), one of only 10 teams to go to a bowl in each of the last six years. The Hokies also picked up their first-ever victory over a Southeastern Conference team.

For Alabama (7-5), second-year coach Mike DuBose has the distinction of ending a five-bowl winning streak in his first bowl appearance. It was the Crimson Tide's worst bowl defeat since losing to national champion Nebraska 38-6 in the 1972 Orange Bowl.

DuBose called it a very disappointing loss for a program trying to revive its proud tradition after a 4-7 record last year. Alabama controlled the clock for more than 36 minutes but couldn't hold onto the ball enough.

"It was obvious tonight that we still need to take another step because we're not there," he said.

Virginia Tech ended its string of futility against Alabama by forcing mistakes. Daniel Pope hadn't had a punt blocked all season until Tuesday, and Andrew Zow hadn't had more than two passes intercepted in a game and had only two over his previous four games.

"We've been winning with special teams all year long," said end Corey Moore, who blocked the second punt. "They hadn't had a punt blocked all year long, and we wanted to show them what it felt like."

Alabama senior John David Phillips said the Hokies simply were too quick.

"They knew when we were snapping the ball before we snapped it. They were right there on it before the ball even got close to Pope," he said.

The Hokies ranked second in the country with 23 interceptions and had blocked 10 kicks this season. They set the tone when Keion Carpenter got to Pope on his first punt of the game, and Ryan Smith intercepted Zow's pass on Alabama's second possession.

Virginia Tech led 10-7 at halftime and then put the game away with 28 unanswered points.

Zow was throwing from his own end zone when Phillip Summers picked off his pass and returned it to the Alabama 2. Lamont Pegues scored from a yard out two plays later for a 17-7 lead.

Moore got his hand on Pope's punt on Alabama's next possession, and Summers recovered at the Alabama 29. Shyrone Stith ran in from 4 yards out a minute later for a 24-7 lead.

Jimmy Kibble got into the act with a 49-yard punt that backed up Alabama's Arvin Richards, who had the ball bounce off him into the arms of Tech's Cory Bird. That set up Pegues' second TD run of the game for a 31-7 lead with 13:31 left.

Anthony Midget ended the scoring by stepping in front of Zow's pass and returning it 27 yards for a TD midway through the final quarter.

Virginia Tech had chances to put Alabama away even earlier.

Al Clark gave the Hokies a 7-0 lead by scrambling 43 yards on the opening possession, and the Hokies ended Alabama's first two possessions with a blocked punt and an interception. The Hokies, however, turned the ball over after the blocked kick and then missed a field goal attempt after the interception.

Zow managed to keep Alabama close with an 18-play, 75-yard drive that used up nearly 10 minutes in the first half. He capped the drive by finding Michael Vaughn in the back of the end zone with a 5-yard TD pass to tie the game 7-7.

Shayne Graham put Virginia Tech ahead to stay with a 44-yard field goal with 6:41 left in the second quarter.