Three Reasons Why Virginia Tech Could Beat Miami
Here we go again. The Hokies are coming off yet another loss being deemed “Rock Bottom” with a showdown against Miami in store.
We know what happened last time: after being absolutely dismantled by Duke, the Hokies went down to Coral Gables, switched from Ryan Willis to Hendon Hooker at QB and beat Miami in what would be one of the team’s most impressive performances that season.
Will we see a similar outcome this year? Here are three reasons why it could happen:
History is on the Hokies’ side
That 2019 win over Miami isn’t the only time the Hokies have put together a strong bounce-back performance against the Canes in recent memory. In fact, each of the Hokies’ last four wins against Miami came following a loss.
We’ve already touched on the 2019 win, so let’s hop in the time machine and look at the previous three:
2016: After a gut-wrenching, inexplicable loss by 14 to a bad Syracuse team in the Carrier Dome, the Hokies had to suit up again just five days later for a Thursday night showdown in Lane Stadium with Miami.
Hurricanes’ QB Brad Kaaya had yet to be sacked all season, but the Lunch Pail Defense was not afraid. The Hokies reeled off EIGHT sacks, setting up the offense to do its thing.
Jerod Evans amassed 357 total yards and three touchdowns, Sam Rogers threw a touchdown to Steven Peoples and the Hokies won convincingly 37-16.
2013: Following back-to-back disappointing losses to Duke and Boston College, the Hokies were knocked out of the top 25 and the ACC Coastal race. With no real reason to be motivated, Frank Beamer’s squad went on the road to face #11 Miami.
Logan Thomas had arguably the best game of his VT career, putting together 366 yards and two touchdowns through the air as well as 42 yards on the ground. Trey “The Elder” Edmunds rushed for a whopping four touchdowns.
The Hokies got the convincing upset, winning 42-24.
2011: A week after getting embarrassed at home by Clemson in a game that saw the offense score just three points, the Hokies hosted Miami.
This was one of those games that has gone down in history as an all-time great game in Hokie history. Does “These people are losing their minds!” ring a bell?
Logan Thomas threw or ran for all five of the Hokies’ touchdowns, including the game-winning run with less than a minute left. The Hokies held on and beat Miami 38-35.
Khalil Herbert Comes Back Hungry
Star RB Khalil Herbert appeared in just one play last week, tweaking his hamstring on the opening kickoff. Hamstring injuries are no joke, but if Herbert is able to return this week, it could bode very well for the Hokies.
Herbert is still averaging 8.4 yards-per-carry, and throwing out last week’s game in which he did not have a rush attempt, he is averaging just under 134 rushing yards per game.
It has become abundantly clear the Hokies’ offense flows through Herbert first and foremost. If they are going to pull off the upset against #9 Miami, he is going to have to play and play well.
Should that happen, the Hokies have an opportunity to control the clock by pounding the football against good-but-not-great Miami defense. If the Vice Squad can win the battle in the trenches, Herbert and Hooker could have ample opportunity to break off chunk run after chunk run to have long, time-consuming drives.
Doing so will help the Hokie defense out as D’Eriq King is kept off the field. If the Hokies want to win this game, they need to have Khalil Herbert on the field so they can control the clock.
The VT Front Seven Steps Up
This much-maligned VT defense has been abysmal against the run this season, currently standing at second-from-last in the ACC in rushing yards allowed. Miami likes to run the ball a fair amount with Cam’Ron Harris and D’Eriq King.
Those two have combined for 163 rushing attempts this season, an average of over 23 per game. This is a lot, but not nearly as much as the Hokies, as Hooker has the same number of attempts as King in just four and a half games.
Miami has been hesitant to let King throw the ball down the field, as even his pass attempts are often short screen passes or sideline routes. Whether this is due to a lack of downfield weapons or King’s shortcomings throwing an accurate deep ball is unknown, but it shows that a vast majority of Miami’s plays involve players getting the ball at or near the line of scrimmage.
This puts all the pressure on the Hokies’ defensive front. Can they step up with their backs against the wall?
In each of the Hokies’ losses this season, the defensive line and linebackers have either been completely outrun or failed to be gap-sound. Sometimes both (see UNC).
Miami is a fast team that likes to get to the edge, and that will require the defense to focus hard on being in the right spots. Alan Tisdale, Amare Barno and Chamarri Conner will have to utilize their speed by finding the right gaps to fill in order to avoid giving up big plays.
This defense is assuredly feeling humiliated after allowing Liberty to score 38 points. Now is the time to step up, and if the Hokies are going to win this game, they will need the defense to do just that.