For the 17th consecutive time, Virginia Tech’s football team will end its season in a bowl game. For the second time in that run, it will play in the Chick-Fil A Bowl in Atlanta.
During this era of perennial consistency, Hokie fans have become accustomed to, and now demand, success in the form of bowl victories.
For 94 years, there was no postseason success to speak of in Blacksburg, until the Hokies played in the Peach Bowl (now the Chick-Fil A) in 1986 against North Carolina State.
Six years prior, the Hokies had lost to future conference mate Miami 20-10 in the same bowl game. The NC State game was only the second postseason appearance in 18 years for the program.
Tech wasted no time finding the scoreboard in that game. After a 77-yard run to the 1-yard line by Maurice Williams on its first offensive possession, Eddie Hunter rumbled in two plays later to put the Hokies up 7-0.
NC State would respond shortly after. Keep in mind this game was pre-Frank Beamer era at Tech, so the Hokies’ special teams were not the juggernaut they are today. The Wolfpack blocked a Tony Romero punt, which was recovered in the end zone to tie the game at seven.
The ‘Pack would score twice more before the half, and led 21-10 at intermission.
The second half saw a comeback for the ages by the Hokies. Williams short touchdown run brought Tech within five points as the third quarter drew to an end.
Early in the final quarter, Tech scored again to take its first lead since early in the game at 22-21.
NC State’s Mike Cofer put his team ahead with a 33-yard field goal midway through the quarter, and Tech was faced with a 24-22 deficit.
The Hokies’ offense failed to produce on the following drive, and was forced to give the ball back to the Wolfpack with the clock drawing closer to zero.
The outlook was grim when on the first play of the NC State possession went 40 yards thanks to a Mal Crite run. After that, however, the ‘Pack sputtered, and gave the Hokies one more chance, punting the ball with 3:14 remaining in the game. . .
Or so everyone thought.
Instead of punting, NC State ran a fake and made the first down. The Tech faithful were deflated, and it looked like the first bowl win in school history would have to wait even longer.
Tech’s defense was able to hold the Wolfpack’s offense on three downs this time, and with 2:01 left, NC State did indeed punt the ball, landing in the end zone for a touchback.
With 11 seconds remaining, the Hokies had driven to the 39-yard line, just outside of kicker Chris Kinzer’s range for game-winning field goal. Head coach Bill Dooley decided to take a shot at the end zone.
Wingback David Everett blew by the secondary down the middle of the field, and quarterback Erik Chapman launched the ball Everett’s way with the clock ticking down.
Wolfpack safety Brian Gay was able to recover enough ground while the ball was in midair to bring Everett down to the turf, drawing an easy pass interference call; 15 yard penalty, first down for Tech.
Though the penalty moved the ball into Kinzer’s range, the play made by Gay was still the right one; had he not knocked Everett down, he would have caught the pass and won the game with a touchdown.
This is when Kinzer, a native of Dublin, VA just 30 miles from the Tech campus, stepped into the spotlight. NC State called its final timeout to “ice” Kinzer, making him wait a little longer before the pressure-packed boot.
Nothing could faze Kinzer that day, though. He coolly stepped through the kick and sent the ball squarely through the uprights as time expired.
Heart attack, check.
Lucky penalty call, check.
First ever bowl win, check.
Although many Hokie fans associate the Frank Beamer era with the glory days of Tech football, 1986 was made by Kinzer a year to remember (though, if you’d like to split hairs, Beamer had already been hired as the departing Dooley’s successor nine days prior to the game).
Simply known as “The Kick” to Tech loyalists, the Peach Bowl has brought some good memories to the Fighting Gobblers.