Miami Swaggers In, Staggers Out of Blacksburg
Nearly every "expert" picked Miami to beat Virginia Tech on Saturday afternoon, and with some reason. Tech's offense struggled against Alabama and Nebraska. Fans continued calling, e-mailing, twittering, sending carrier pigeons and smoke signals for offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring's head. Everyone pondered what was wrong with Bud Fosters defense, ranked 107th in rush defense coming into this week.
Miami came into the game ranked 16th nationally in total offense, and eighth in passing offense.
The national media swooned over Jacory Harris; admiring his pronouncement that he'd wear a purple suit and diamond-studded accessories to the Heisman Trophy presentation if invited. They said that Miami's "swagger" was back—and it did appear, that like Stella, Miami was edging closer to their old groove after wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech.
Virginia Tech proved all doubters wrong and sent Miami home, winning 31-7. The Hokie offense firmly established the run, and the defense set it's aim on Jacory Harris, blitzing from all angles.
A safety blitz from senior Dorian Porch led to a Jacory Harris fumble, and Tech's first touchdown in the first quarter. The play foreshadowed what was to come. The Hokies sacked Harris three times; he'd only been sacked once in Miami's first two games.
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster was pleased with the amount of pressure his defenders put on Harris, "We were able to mix in some blitz pressure and our ends were able to get some pressure. I felt like we needed to get a better push up the middle, but we were still able to mix in pressures. And having a hit early, causing a fumble, that was a big factor in the game, getting us jump-started early on both sides of the ball."
Harris finished just 9-for-25 for 150 yards and an interception.
The weather also seemed to play into Virginia Tech's hands. The near constant downpour seemed to slow Miami's passing attack, and make Jacory Harris uncomfortable. Although, coach Randy Shannon did not use the weather as an excuse, "Both teams had to play in [the rain]. We've scrimmaged in it plenty of times. They just came out and they beat us."
Virginia Tech defensive end Jason Worilds embraced the playing conditions, "I love it. I love this game. Any weather...football is a warrioristic sport and I love it.”
The Hokies' defense held the Hurricanes to 59 rushing yards, and 209 total yards.
Besides great defensive play, and the weather, the Hokies also cooked up an impeccable offensive recipe, highlighted with a heavy dose of Ryan Williams and well-timed, well-executed pass plays - not to mention some good ole fashion Beamer Ball.
Ryan Williams led the Hokies offensive attack with 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries. He also added two catches for 40 yards.
"I love getting the ball. I love running. It was a great feeling getting the ball that many times," said Williams, "If I have to carry the ball 50 times a game, that’s what I’m going to do."
After just four games Ryan Williams is already establishing himself in the Virginia Tech record books. If the season ended today he would rank eighth in freshman rushing yards and fourth in touchdowns.
Williams scored on a two yard run the series after Porch forced the fumble. Tech's next possession Tyrod Taylor hooked up with Jarrett Boykin on a 48 yard touchdown pass. Then in the second quarter Jacob Sykes blocked a Miami punt deep in Hurricane territory and Matt Reidy picked it up for the touchdown. The Hokies led 21-0 at the half.
Miami took the opening second half kickoff to the Virginia Tech 46 yard line, scored in five plays, and it looked like the 'Canes were going to turn it into a game. Tech's defense held strong the rest of the way though. The Hokies got a field goal in the third and another Ryan Williams touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer was very pleased with his team's performance, "I am really proud of our football team. The way we won together as a team with all areas contributing—I liked that a lot. I was proud of our crowd, too. It was a rainy night all night, but I don’t think anybody left."
The Virginia Tech win, coupled with Georgia Tech's win over North Carolina, gives the Hokies an early, but distinct, advantage over the other ACC Coastal division contenders. Georgia Tech, UNC, and Miami now all have a conference loss, and the Hokies would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Hurricanes.
The toughest games remaining for Virginia Tech are; North Carolina, as well as Atlantic division contender N.C. State, at home, and Georgia Tech on the road. Virginia Tech has survived it's toughest slate of games with only a loss to Alabama, a national title contender.
As for Miami, their season is far from ruined at this point. The 'Canes have a good bounce-back opportunity against Oklahoma next week. And, as competitive as the ACC tends to be there's no guarantee the Hokies will run away with the Coastal division title.
Although Randy Shannon and Company may not be ready to compete for the national title just yet, Miami is a young team, with a dynamic signal-caller in Jacory Harris leading the way—the near future is bright in South Beach.
The Hokies have saved us, at least for a while, from drowning in ESPN's drool over the Hurricanes' "swagger."
*Thanks to, www.hokiesports.com, Kyle Tucker, Virginia-Pilot: http://hamptonroads.com/blogs/kyle-tucker, and www.espn.com, for information, stats, and quotes.
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