Final Thorn Removed

Ernest Wilford could not hold on to the ball. Edward Reed could, and top-ranked Miami is on the way to the Rose Bowl.

Wilford dropped a two-point conversion pass that would have tied the score and Reed intercepted a pass minutes later to seal the victory as the Hurricanes held on for a 26-24 decsion over No. 13 Virginia Tech.

The top-ranked Hurricanes (11-0, 7-0 Big East), already first in the Bowl Championship Series ratings, locked up a berth in college football's national title game in Pasadena on January 3. The berth will become official when the final BCS ratings are released on December 9.

The Hurricanes extended the nation's longest winning streak to 21 games, but they nearly squandered a big fourth-quarter lead and again sweated out a road victory over a Big East conference opponent.

Trailing by 16 points early in the fourth quarter, Virginia Tech refused to fold, cutting the lead in half on a one-yard touchdown run by Jarrett Ferguson and a two-point conversion pass by Grant Noel.

Virginia Tech has among the nation's best special teams units and showed it again when Eric Green blocked a punt by Freddie Capshaw that was returned 22 yards for a score by Brandon Manning with 6:03 left, slicing the lead to 26-24.

Wilford, a 6-5 sophmore, stepped on front of a defender on a two-point conversion try, but let the pass by Noel slip through his hands.

The Hokies had one more chance when they took possession near midfield two minutes later, but star safety Reed made a diving interception of Noel, killing Virginia Tech's threat.

Three weeks ago, it was Reed who scored on a bizarre interception return that secured an 18-7 win at Boston College, the only other serious threat to Miami's undefeated season.

Virginia Tech (8-3, 4-3), which is headed the Gator Bowl against Florida State, was unable to overcome four interceptions and a fumble by Reed.

Miami's Ken Dorsey was efficient but not spectacular in his final opportunity to impress Heisman Trophy voters. He completed 21-of-44 passes for 235 yards, including a 14-yard TD pass to Jeremy Shockey in the second quarter. Dorsey was not intercepted.

Clinton Portis of Miami carried 34 times for 124 yards, highlighted by a seven-yard TD run in the second quarter that gave the Hurricanes a 14-3 lead.

Miami overcame a huge game by Hokies freshman Kevin Jones, who carried 24 times for 160 yards. His 56-yard run in the third quarter was the longest allowed by Miami this season.

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