Game Preview: Week 11 vs. Virginia Tech

Game Preview: Week 11 vs. Virginia Tech

Paul Austria
Let’s backtrack to October 6th. Miami had a freshman quarterback in N’Kosi Perry lead a 20-point comeback victory over Florida State in front of a sold out Hard Rock Stadium under the bright lights that improved Miami’s record to 5-1. Mark Richt’s team is only one game away from becoming bowl eligible and it seemed like an easy path to the ACC championship game the rest of the way. Fast forward one month later and the former statement is still true while the latter statement is far from accurate. This Saturday, the Canes (5-5, ACC 2-4) will have yet another chance to lock down a bowl bid this Saturday as they travel to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech (4-5, ACC 3-3).

Both teams have suffered their fair share of disappointing losses this season. Since their win over the Seminoles, the Hurricanes have lost four consecutive conference games and scoring no more than 21 points in any of those games. The Hokies surprised a lot of critics with their opening win over FSU in Tallahassee, but only three weeks later, they suffered a dismal loss to Old Dominion. As it stands, because of the cancellation of the East Carolina game, Virginia Tech must win its last two games to get a bowl bid: this Saturday and next Friday against Virginia.

However, the option to add another game to the schedule on December 1st remains a possibility. Nevertheless, VT coach Justin Fuente is confident his squad is capable of more than what they’ve shown the last three weeks.

“They’re anxious to prove, as the whole team is, that they can play better football,” Fuente told the AP.

The good news for Miami is that quarterback play improved slightly, with coach Richt opting to start redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry under center over Malik Rosier. Perry connected on 14 of 23 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown at a position where the Hurricanes have been desperate for consistency.

Perry even led a 75-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter in what seemed to be a good early sign for the Canes. For the time being, Richt seems comfortable with Perry starting for the rest of the season, barring any performance mishaps or injuries.

Freshman RB Cam Davis had his first breakout game as a member of the Canes, receiving six carries for 48 yards and he even made his first trip to the endzone.

Outside of Davis, Miami’s running game was unusually limited as Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas combined for 17 carries for 45 yards with a touchdown each.

But success could be looming for them this Saturday as they face off against a run defense that is ranked 109th in the nation and coming off a game in which they allowed 492 rushing yards against Pittsburgh. That is music to Miami’s ears, but Homer isn’t going to get too comfortable.

“I’m just going to look at their defense like I would any other team because anything can happen, any given day,” Homer told the Miami Herald. I’m just going to keep preparing just like I would.”

Dallas is hoping to regain the trust of the coaching staff after he had another fumble on a kickoff last week. He had two fumbles while running the ball the week before.

“It’s all mental. You don’t get from never fumbling in practice or the game to having four in two games,” co-offensive coordinator iterated to the Miami Herald. “I think it’s definitely inside of his head. We’re doing a really good job of trying to calm down...He’s a tough dude.”

Unfortunately, Miami’s offensive line struggles persisted as each member of the line committed at least one penalty last week, including four of them in false start fashion.

The Canes’ defense fell victim to the triple option offense of Georgia Tech last week, allowing 231 rushing yards to the Yellow Jackets, which is about 100 yards higher than what Miami is used to allowing. The problem last week lied more in getting the defense off the field and getting stops, which hampered Miami’s comeback efforts. Tech was 9-16 on 3rd down facing a team that had the fourth-best 3rd down conversion defense in the nation. Their pass defense was sparingly tested as GT only threw four passes for a total 73 yards, but the bad news is that they completed three of them and one of them went the distance. Nonetheless, the Canes maintained their rank as the #2 pass defense in the country and are 14th with 20 turnover chain appearances. DT Gerald Willis is currently eighth in the country with 17 tackles-for-loss this season and the Canes are 1st as a team. Facing a defense that is heavy on veterans, coach Fuente knows that his offense has a tough task in front of them.

“They understand the scheme,” Fuente told The Roanoke Times. “They’ve been in it for several years now and repped it over and over again. And that, combined with their talent, makes them pretty dangerous.”

Fuente is entering third season as head coach of the Hokies and this may be his toughest year yet. Virginia Tech has had to deal with a multitude of outgoing transfers, injuries, and players dismissed in the preseason and during the season (DE Trevon Hill was kicked off the team a day after their loss to Old Dominion).

To Coach Fuente’s delight, the team is getting four defensive starters back from injury this Saturday: LB’s Dylan Rivers and Rayshard Ashby (leads team with 63 tackles), DT Jarrod Hewitt, and DE Emmanuel Belmar. On the offensive side, outside of RB DeShawn McClease (day-to-day), there are no other reported injuries.

Junior QB Ryan Willis has been of the bright spots on this team, throwing for 16 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions on the season, replacing Josh Jackson, who fractured his fibula in September. Willis even has a streak of six straight games with at least two touchdowns and his completion percentage has hovered around 60% since he took over.

RB Steven Peoples is the Hokies’ leading rusher with 546 yards on the season and he is averaging just over 5 yards/carry. Sophomore WR Damon Hazelton sat out last season as a transfer from Ball State and is now leading the team with 687 yards on 40 catches and eight touchdowns.

Virginia Tech’s defense has been their main downfall this year. In addition to last week against Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech also allowed 465 rushing yards to Georgia Tech and the defense currently ranks 105th out of 129 FBS teams.

In addition to Ashby, S Reggie Floyd has played a key role, as he currently tops on the team with 8.5 tackles for loss despite his position. He also has a couple of interceptions to add to his resumé.

A 3:30 start is slated for the matchup in Blacksburg and you can catch all the action on ESPN.

Comments (3)

We win tommorow.
VT defense gonna look as good as it ever has this week. Can't wait to hear the announcers talking about how getting the starters back and Bud Foster's genius never really went away....