Recap and Analysis: Miami Falls to Virginia Tech in Thriller


Starting strong has been a problem for Miami. This afternoon was no different. The Hurricanes made up a first half deficit to take the game to the final minute, even pulling ahead with less than three minutes to go. After marching on the Canes defense, though, Virginia Tech dealt the final blow to capture their first ACC win and send the Canes to 0-2 in the conference.

After a strong opening drive that put Miami in Virginia Tech territory, the Hokies defense locked down to force a field goal attempt. The Hurricanes faked it for a two-yard loss and gave the Hokies the ball and the momentum.

I don’t agree with it, but I understand the call. Big games are won by playing aggressively. If that means running a fake field goal that leads to a touchdown and the early momentum while managing to quiet the crowd and take some pressure off of a defense that’s had its problems, then it’s a great call. The decision not to kick the field goal was the difference in the score (assuming Jake Wieclaw would have hit it), but it wasn’t the reason for the loss.

Quarterback Logan Thomas and the Hokies ripped off a 12-play scoring drive after failed fake field goal. Thomas was 5/6 on the opening drive and didn’t miss on a pass attempt the rest of the half, going 15/16 for 191 yards with two touchdown passes and the seven-yard quarterback draw that went for the touchdown on the opening drive.

Miami’s aggressiveness on offense didn’t disappear after the failed fake field goal. Down two scores and with the running game not yet fully in gear, Miami aired it out as Jacory Harris found Allen Hurns for 41 yards to the Hokies 15-yard line. Harris called an audible on the next play to find Hurns in the end zone for the score. Again down two scores, Miami opened the second half with a stop on defense and a 78-yard touchdown pass from Harris to Travis Benjamin. A flea flicker later went for a nice gain, and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett threw a touchdown pass to Lamar Miller on a trick play to draw within three in the final quarter.

Harris, booed by the home fans earlier this season and in previous seasons, has been the epitome of resiliency. He finished with 267 yards on 13 of 21 passing with three touchdowns. Fans love to blame Harris for the Canes misfortunes, but he simply hasn’t given them the ammo this year. He’s thrown three picks this season. Two came against Ohio State in a game Miami won. The other came in the loss to Kansas State, a game in which he played well. He hasn’t thrown a pick since.

The running game got started in the second half as Miller and Mike James were instrumental in the fourth quarter. Miller finished with 166 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown—his fifth consecutive game of over 100 yards rushing—after starting with 20 yards on six carries in the first half. James finished with 65 yards on 10 carries.

The focus before the game was fell largely on whether Miami could stop Hokies running back David Wilson. The ‘Canes struggled, but it was Thomas and the passing game that drew the deepest cuts.  Thomas finished with 310 yards on 23 of 25 passing with three touchdown passes, and took two in for scores himself including the game-winner.

The Hurricanes offense is clicking, but the defense is far from it. The rush defense has especially struggled, but the pass defense was torn apart in Blacksburg. If Miami is going to be competitive in the ACC, this year or next, the defense has to get better. Much better. The players are talented, but the defense overall has not started well and any momentum they manage quickly dissipates. That edge that intimidated opposing offenses in the heyday at the Orange Bowl isn’t there so far this year.

The offense put Miami in position to win in each of the last two losses, but the defense has not kept them there. The Hurricanes offense grabbed a fourth quarter lead against Kansas State that was surrendered the next drive (the offense had the opportunity to grab the win from the two-yard line but failed, of course), and the offense gave the defense a four-point lead with less than three minutes remaining this afternoon. The defense does not deserve the full brunt of the blame, but better play on that side of the ball could be the difference between 2-3 and 4-1.

Virginia Tech (5-1, 1-1) has won the last three against the Hurricanes (2-3, 0-2), who lead the all-time series 17-12.