20-Year CFB Anniversary: McGahee Rushes for Six TDs as Miami Tops Virginia Tech in Shootout to Complete Perfect Regular Season, 56-45

Oklahoma’s record of 47 straight wins from 1953 to 1957 remains intact.

Toledo won 35 straight games from 1969 to 1971. Since then, no team has won more than 34 straight games. That marks belongs to Miami.

The final one of those victories for the Hurricanes came on this day 20 years ago. Willis McGahee rushed for six touchdowns as Miami topped Virginia Tech in a top-20 shootout, 56-45.

Setting the Stage

The reigning national champion, Miami was 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country as it arrived at the Orange Bowl on Dec. 7, 2002. The Hurricanes had gone a perfect 12-0 the year prior. Their closest game was a 2-point win at Virginia Tech.

Once ranked No. 3, Virginia Tech had limped into South Florida. The Hokies were coming off a 21-9 win over Virginia, but had lost their prior games — all by one score — following an 8-0 start. No. 18 Virginia Tech put on a show, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.

McGahee Keeps ‘Canes Perfect

Early on, it looked as though Miami may roll past Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes raced to a 14-0 lead, led by 21 points on two separate occasions in the second quarter and extended that to 49-21 in the third.

Virginia Tech, however, refused to roll over. Willie Pile’s 96-yard interception return for a touchdown sparked a string of 16 straight points for Virginia Tech. Lee Suggs also found the end zone during the stretch, following a 71-yard punt return from DeAngelo Hall.

Entering the final quarter, the Miami lead was down to 49-37. Miami turned to McGahee.

McGahee, who finished with 39 carries for 205 yards and a school-record six touchdowns, carried nine times on the ensuing drive. Ken Dorsey ultimately found Kellen Winslow for the 11-yard touchdown with 10:06 to play to ease any concerns the Orange Bowl crowd may have had. Virginia Tech didn’t score again until the final two minutes.

Aside from McGahee’s six touchdown runs and Winslow’s touchdown catch, Andre Johnson also hauled in a touchdown. It came from 68 yards out on the first play of the third quarter. Dorsey passed for 300 yards to move to 38-1 as a starter.

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In Hindsight

Despite losing four of five to close the regular season, Virginia Tech ended 2002 on a high note. The Hokies beat Air Force in the San Francisco Bowl to finish with 10 wins for the fifth time in eight years.

In a contest marred by a controversial pass interference call in overtime, Miami’s winning streak and McGahee would go down in the Fiesta Bowl. The Hurricanes fell to Ohio State in double-overtime, 31-24.

Since the Miami 34-game winning streak, no team has won more than 29 straight games. Win No. 34 came behind a career-day from McGahee, who topped a nearly 70-year-old single-game touchdown record. It also came on this day two decades ago.

Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.