BLACKSBURG, Va. — Bryan Randall ran 12 yards for an insurance touchdown in the fourth quarter and No. 8 Virginia Tech overcame Hurricane Isabel and Texas A&M on Thursday night, beating the Aggies 35-19.
The game, played on the other side of the state from where Isabel had knocked out power to nearly 1.5 million people, was as bizarre as the weather, featuring a series of unusual plays and freakish circumstances.
The Hokies (3-0) didn't get command until the end, when Randall capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive with his run that made it 28-19 with 8:20 left.
The Aggies (2-1) mishandled the ensuing kickoff and the Hokies recovered. Kevin Jones' third touchdown, with 5:33 to play, sealed the Hokies' 27th consecutive victory in games played before October.
But the Aggies, seeking their first road victory against a top 10 team since 1979, put more of a scare into the home team than the storm that sometimes had the rain coming down sideways with 40 mph wind gusts.
With Reggie McNeal completing key passes and at other times leaving Tech defenders grasping at air as he ran for crucial yardage, the Hokies led only 21-19 with 14:24 left after McNeal's 15-yard TD pass to Tim Van Zant.
The Hokies also were making uncharacteristic mistakes.
They twice swarmed Aggies punter Cody Scates, once allowing him to escape for a 15-yard run and a first down, the next time getting called for an offsides penalty that negated a sack by James Anderson.
Pressure also caused Scates to twice get off poor punts, one setting up a short Virginia Tech TD drive, the other being misjudged by DeAngelo Hall, recovered by the Aggies and turned into a 24-yard scoring drive.
But the Hokies came right back after the Aggies got close, getting a 27-yard burst from Jones to start the clinching drive and a 12-yard option run by Randall to end it. Randall also scrambled 13 yards on third-and-6 from the Aggies 26, keeping the all-ground march alive.
Jones finished with 188 yards on 30 carries, by far his best game of the season despite a steady rain. He scored from 1, 2 and 11 yards.
Randall was 9-for-13 for just 63 yards and one touchdown.
McNeal was 11-for-21 for 133 yards with the touchdown and one interception. He also ran 12 times for 47 yards and directed three scoring drives of 12 plays or more before halftime, the last one the sweetest.
The Hokies seemed to have the Aggies right where they wanted them with about seven minutes left in the half. Leading 14-6, the Hokies looked for a big play after downing Vinnie Burns' punt at the Texas A&M 2.
Instead, it was McNeal and the Aggies that made the plays.
A pass interference penalty against Jimmy Williams on an incomplete pass on third-and-7 gave the Aggies a first down on their 20. McNeal hit Van Zant for 13 and 8 yards, the second on a third-and-4 when McNeal foiled Hall's interception hopes with an on-target laser.
McNeal added a 16-yard run after being flushed from the pocket and Courtney Lewis carried four times for 20 yards, the last 2 with 1:15 left making it 14-12 and quieting a sellout crowd looking to celebrate.
The Aggies went for the tie, but McNeal's pass for 2 points came up short.