Auburn Meets Virginia Tech in 71st Nokia Sugar Bowl Classic park
NEW ORLEANS – Southeastern Conference Champion and undefeated Auburn University will face Atlantic Coast Conference Champions the Virginia Tech Hokies in the 71st Nokia Sugar Bowl Classic January 3, 2005 at 7 p.m. in the Louisiana Superdome.
Nokia Sugar Bowl president William J. "Bill" Kearney III made the announcement today along with Auburn athletic director David Housel and Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver. Formally accepting invitations were the presidents of the two institutions, Dr. Edward R. Richardson of Auburn and Dr. Charles W. Steiger of Virginia Tech.
"We're proud to be able to celebrate another wonderful college football season by hosting teams of the caliber and tradition of Auburn and Virginia Tech," said Kearney. "Both institutions have represented themselves impeccably throughout the year and it is our good fortune to be able to welcome them to New Orleans and the Nokia Sugar Bowl later this month."
"The Sugar Bowl is again proud to be the site for a game of champions – Auburn as the SEC winner and Virginia Tech as the ACC winner," said Bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan. "Both programs played at the highest level throughout the season, and the players and coaches from Auburn and Virginia Tech are to be congratulated for what they have accomplished. We look forward to hosting the staff, players, alumni and fans from both schools for what promises to be another outstanding Nokia Sugar Bowl for all involved."
Auburn (12-0, 8-0 SEC) is 12-0 for the first time in school history and ranks No. 3 in the BCS rankings and No. 3 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/Coaches polls. The Tigers beat then No. 15 ranked Tennessee, 38-28, in the SEC Championship game on Saturday for the automatic BCS conference bid. Auburn has reeled off 14 straight wins with its last loss coming at the hands of the University of Georgia, 26-7, in November 2003.
Virginia Tech (10-2, 7-1 ACC) has won eight straight and is ranked No. 8 in the BCS rankings and No. 9 in the AP and ESPN/Coaches polls. The Hokies, automatic BCS qualifiers as ACC Champions, concluded their regular season facing former Big East Conference rival and fellow ACC newcomer Miami, 16-10, on Saturday.
Auburn and Virginia Tech have never faced each other in the Sugar Bowl. Auburn is 1-2-1 in previous Sugar Bowl appearances. This will mark the Tigers first trip to the Crescent City in 16 years since the team lost to Florida State University 13-7 in 1989. Virginia Tech, 1-1, in the Sugar Bowl, last played here in 2000 for the national championship against FSU, but lost 49-26 to the Seminoles in the BCS title game. Auburn holds a 2-1-1 edge over Tech in four previous meetings. The Tigers beat the Hokies 18-7 in a 1978 game in Blacksburg.
This year's game will have two of the top head coaches in college football. Coach Tommy Tuberville heads the Auburn Tigers. He holds a 50-24 mark in six years at Auburn and a 75-44 overall record in 10 years of coaching. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has coached for 23 years, 17 at Tech, and holds a 135-76-2 mark with the Hokies and is 177-99-4 overall. This is Tuberville's first Sugar Bowl appearance as a head coach; he did make two trips to the Big Easy as an assistant on the Miami Hurricane coaching staff in 1990 and 1993. Beamer is making his third trip to New Orleans and is 1-1 in two previous trips. Tech beat Texas in the December 31, 1995 Sugar Bowl, but fell to FSU in the title game in 2000.
Both the Tigers and Hokies are led by senior signal-callers. Jason Campbell is 30-9 as a starter and has passed for 2,511 yards and 19 touchdowns. He is the fourth quarterback in school history to pass for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. Campbell leads the SEC and is among the nation's top five in passing efficiency (172.69). He is a finalist and semifinalist for numerous outstanding quarterback awards including the Heisman, Unitas, O'Brien and Manning awards. Hokie quarterback Bryan Randall holds the school record for starts with 37. He is also the school's all-time career passing leader with 6,209 yards and ranks second on the career list in touchdowns with 46. This year he notched 1,965 passing yards with 149 completions and 19 TDs. He also rushed for three scores.
Called the "no name defense," Auburn's defensive prowess is a team effort. A total of 23 players have contributed a tackle for loss, 13 have recorded a sack and eight have forced a fumble. Twenty-four players have 10 or more tackles on the season, including 15 with 20-plus stops. Auburn's leading tackler is junior linebacker Travis Williams, who has 76 stops, 55 solo and nine for loss with two sacks. The Tigers defense allows only 269.5 yards a contest. Leading the Tech defense are linebackers Vince Hall and Mikal Baaqee who are at the top in total tackles department with 62 each and both have three tackles for loss. Defensive end Darryl Tapp, who ranks third on the team in tackles, has made the most of his offensive stops with 16 tackles for loss and a team-leading eight sacks.
Auburn's explosive offense is led by senior running backs Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams and receivers Courtney Taylor and Ben Obomanu. Williams, a Maxwell Award and Doak Walker Award semifinalist which are given to the nation's most outstanding player and top back, respectively, has garnered an SEC-record nine SEC Player of the Week honors. He averages 5.0 yards a carry and has totaled 12 touchdowns and 1,172 yards rushing this year. He has 15 100-yard games in his Auburn career, which ranks second all-time. Brown has rushed for 845 yards on 139 carries and eight touchdowns. He also has caught 34 passes for 313 yards and a score. Brown is also a Walker and Maxwell award semifinalist. The receiving corps tandem of Taylor and Obomanu combined for 13 touchdowns between them with Obomanu leading the team with seven.
Virginia Tech's top offensive players include tailbacks Mike Imoh and Cedric Humes and freshman receivers Eddie Royal and Josh Hyman. Imoh leads the team in rushing with 704 yards and six touchdowns despite only playing nine games. His counterpart, Humes, has played in all 12 games and has scored five touchdowns and averages 4.8 yards per carry. Royal grabbed 25 passes on the year for 433 yards and three scores, while Hyman caught 22 for 420 yards and a team-leading five touchdowns.