62nd Annual Sugar Bowl Classic ~ December 31, 1995
#13 Virginia Tech 28 (Final: 10-2, #10)
#9 Texas 10 (Final: 10-2-1, #14)
How Virginia Tech and Texas Met in the 1995 Sugar Bowl
Ron Weaver/Joel Ron Weaver was long gone when Texas and Virginia Tech kicked off – and the Longhorns could have used him. Texas needed every available hand, and even a largely inconsequential defensive back just might have slowed the Hokies’ Bryan Still.
Still was the fuse to Virginia Tech’s greatest football moment up ‘till then, with 179 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. In comparison, gathering momentum as the game progressed, the Tech defense intercepted Texas quarterback James Brown three times, sacked him five times and limited the ‘Horns to a mere 78 yards rushing.
“When you write about Virginia Tech, write about how well they played,” Texas offensive tackle John Elmore said in a daze afterward. “We never could plug all the holes against them. There were three holes and we only had two fingers.”
The Longhorns jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and had an opportunity to give themselves a comfortable cushion, intercepting Tech quarterback Jim Druckenmiller at the Hokies’ 31 in the opening moments of the second quarter. But the Tech defense pushed Texas back two yards and the Longhorns settled for a 52-yard field goal by Phil Dawson to make it 10-0 with 13:19 to go to the half.
That, as it turned out, was the high point of Texas’ night. The beginning of the Longhorn’s end came a few moments later when they kicked from their 15. Still, who led the Big East in punt returns the season before but whose return duties in ’95 were curtailed by his value to the offensive unit, took the kick at his 40, sprinted through a crease in the middle and broke to the right sideline, running untouched into the end zone.
“The punt return in the first half was a big play that gave them a shot of confidence,” Texas coach John Mackovic said. “We had control of the game at 10-0. That gave them a lift.”
Actually, history seemed to still favor the Longhorns when the teams broke at intermission with Texas ahead 10-7. Texas was 21-0-1 when leading at the half since Mackovic’s arrival in 1992.
But Still, on offense, and the Tech defense took complete control from that point. First, Still made a 27-yard catch to reach the Texas 2, from which point fullback Marcus Parker scored to put the Hokies ahead 14-10 in the third quarter. Then he raced beyond the Longhorn secondary and hooked up on a 54-yard scoring rainbow to make it 21-10 in the fourth period.
“Bryan ran right by all the defensive backs, and I just lofted it right up there for him,” Druckenmiller said.
That was more than enough for the Hokies’ dominating defense. Gradually, and with emphasis, Tech’s defense began turning the screws. With well-timed blitzes and with speed up and down the line, the Hokies penned up the reeling Longhorns. On three straight possessions they picked off errant throws by Brown. Finally, with issue settled, Brown was sacked, the ball squirted out, and the Hokies administered the knockout blow with a 20-yard fumble return by tackle Jim Baron to close the scoring with 5:06 to go.
Almost unbelievably, that was the seventh touchdown scored by the Hokies’ defense in their last six games.
“All the talk was that we didn’t belong here,” Still said with satisfaction afterward. “We showed we do belong with the great teams of college football.”
“In big games, players who have big hearts rise to the occasion,’’ Beamer said of Still. “We want this guy to touch the ball as many times as he can during the ball game.’’
Sitting next to his coach, Bryan Still smiled. “It’s just one of the best feelings of my life,’’ he said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.’’
Yes, indeed. Not only did Virginia Tech tatter the Texas defense for 371 yards, but ruled supreme defensively. The Longhorns, who averaged 433 yards per game during the regular season, had the ball seven times in the second half. On those possessions, Texas punted three times, threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.
Recap excerpted from the book “Sugar Bowl Classic: A History” by Marty Mulé, who covered the game and the organization for decades for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.