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Oct. 1, 1999

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) – A pair of Top 25 teams will rely on a pair of tailbacks when No. 8 Virginia Tech travels to Charlottesville thisweekend.

The Hokies’ Shyrone Stith will be featured along with Thomas Jones of No. 24 Virginia on Saturday.

“It’s going to be me against his defense and him against ourdefense,” Stith said. “No doubt, we’re both going to play a huge part in the gamefor our offenses. So, yeah, I guess there’s going to be a little battlethere.”

Jones, with 2,820 career rushing yards, is the better known of the two, but Stith shouldn’t be overlooked. The powerful 5-foot-8, 203-pound junior hasrun for 100 or more yards in each of Virginia Tech’s first three games. Heleads the Big East with 408 yards rushing and ranks 10th nationally.

Jones ranks fifth nationally with 155 yards per game.

“Certainly Thomas Jones is having a great year,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said, “but people are going to see two great backs Saturday. Welike our guy. Shyrone Stith, in my opinion, doesn’t take a back seat toanybody.”

Stith broke eight tackles and amassed a career-high 162 yards in the Hokies’ 31-11 victory over Clemson on Sept. 23.

“He can do it all,” Beamer said. “He can run, block and catch theball. What amazes me is how many yards he gets after he gets hit. He picks up alot of yards after that first contact, and I think that’s what you look for ina good back.”

Stith is on pace to become the Hokies’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Dwayne Thomas ran for 1,130 yards in 1993.

Virginia (3-1) has taken the Commonwealth Cup the past two seasons, narrowly defeating Virginia Tech (3-0) each time.

The Hokies so far this season have relied heavily on their stout defense as the young offensive line matures behind redshirt freshman quarterbackMichael Vick.

Vick’s performance has been mediocre so far, but he has found a wayto get the Hokies into the end zone. He was intercepted three times last weekagainst Clemson, but rushed for 41 yards.

“I’m real pleased with how this offense is coming together,” Stithsaid. “Everything you see on TV or in the paper is usually about our defense.Well, we’ve got an offense, too.”

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