Virginia Tech just too tough

Sean Ammerman

Football fails to beat 20th-placed team

The defense stood its ground in front of the 66,000 screaming fans of Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., on Saturday.

But the offense struggled to match its intensity.

Consequently, the Kent State (5-5, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) football team had to bear its third-straight loss and second shut-out of the year in a 23-0 defeat to national powerhouse, No. 20 Virginia Tech (8-2).

The Flashes’ defense, led by senior defensive end Daniel Muir and senior defensive backs Andre Kirkland and Usama Young, succeeded in halting one Hokie drive after another in the first half. They limited Virginia Tech to two field goals with only four successful third-down conversions on 11 attempts in the first two quarters.

Virginia Tech kicker Brandon Pace added a third field goal in the fourth quarter to extend his school record of 19 straight successful kicks.

The Hokies defense, however, was more successful at stopping the Flashes.

In a change from the hurry-up offense Kent State coach Doug Martin employed in past games, the team used as much time off the clock as possible in between plays.

But there was little success for the Flashes in an afternoon that netted only nine first downs and 182 total yards.

“The Virginia Tech deal is, we are not going to go there and beat them by 30 points,” Martin said to the Ravenna Record-Courier. “That’s not going to happen. For us to win that game, it has to go late into the fourth quarter with us still hanging around with a chance to win.”

Early in the third quarter, the Hokies scored their only offensive touchdown of the game off a 6-yard run from running back Brandon Ore.

Ore, who came into the game as the nation’s 11th leading rusher, finished with a game-high 78 yards on 25 carries.

Two possessions after his score, it looked like Virginia Tech would return a punt for another six points. But just before returner Eddie Royal crossed the goal line, Kirkland stripped the ball away from him and recovered the fumble.

The ensuing drive, which was kept alive by a 49-yard third-down reception by senior wide receiver Najah Pruden, went 11 plays for 74 yards and was the closest the Flashes came to scoring.

On third-and-goal, Kent State senior quarterback Michael Machen dropped back to pass but was sacked by defensive tackle Carlton Powell for a loss of 9 yards.

The Flashes’ kicking woes continued on the following play, as Nate Reed missed a chip shot from 32 yards.

“Not everything was pretty out there,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer told “I think we could’ve got things a little bit better had we not fumbled on the punt return and given up the long pass on third down – those were two gigantic plays there close together. But we just have to keep plugging along.”

The Hokies scored the final touchdown of the game when defensive end Noland Burchette returned a fumble by Machen in the fourth quarter.

“Right place, right time,” Burchette told “Coach is always saying if you play hard and go to the ball, good things will happen.”

Filling in for an injured Julian Edelman, Machen finished his first start of the season with six completions on 16 attempts with 98 yards and one interception. However, he also had three fumbles, one of which he recovered.

“(Virginia Tech is) one of the best-coached programs in the country in my opinion,” Martin said to the Ravenna Record-Courier. “They must have the best strength and conditioning programs in the nation. That’s what they do. Obviously they have a lot of continuity. All of those coaches have been there forever, and they have built themselves a solid program.”

Kent State will return to Dix Stadium Nov. 17 for its final home game of the season to face MAC opponent Eastern Michigan.

Contact assistant sports editor Sean Ammerman at [email protected].