Miami Football: Stellar Coaching Proves Al Golden's 'Canes Aren't Done in ACC

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2014

USA Today

Duke Johnson was already a household name, so a 249-yard performance during a 30-6 victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies will only boost his national popularity.

However, the Miami Hurricanes didn't handle their rival solely because of the junior's career-best night. Instead, "The U" dismantled Frank Beamer's squad because of the coaches.

Yes, those coaches, whom Miami fans have pleaded to fire—whether rightfully or not—entered Blacksburg with an excellent game plan.

A 24-point victory over Virginia Tech was the best game in Al Golden's tenure.
A 24-point victory over Virginia Tech was the best game in Al Golden's tenure.USA TODAY Sports

And the timing couldn't have been any better. Since the 'Canes have dropped two conference games, a third would effectively eliminate them from winning the ACC Coastal Division. With Florida State looming on Nov. 15, Al Golden's squad couldn't afford a letdown in Lane Stadium.

For the first time all season, everyone was on the same page, and Miami didn't win on talent alone.

Much-maligned defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio did something completely out of character: He blitzed the quarterbackand it worked. The 'Canes consistently pressured Michael Brewer, tallying two sacks and forcing the gunslinger away from his first read.

Susan Miller Degnan @smillerdegnan

Heard in pressbox: Mark D'Onofrio is saying, 'I told you guys!'

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Brewer completed 13-of-20 passes for just 80 yards and zero touchdowns before being pulled late in the fourth quarter.

The defense collectively had its best tackling game of the year, limiting Virginia Tech to negative-13 rushing yards in the first half. The latter frames showcased three forced fumbles, including Deon Bush literally stealing the ball from Marshawn Williams at the Miami 1-yard line.

Miami was 90 seconds away from shutting out the Hokies, which was practically an unfathomable achievement prior to kickoff.

Offensive coordinator James Coley never strayed from the running game, calling 53 running plays compared to 16 passes.

A steady dose of Duke Johnson helped Miami record an outstanding 364 rushing yards.
A steady dose of Duke Johnson helped Miami record an outstanding 364 rushing yards.Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

Additionally, he broke out the "Wild Cane" formation that hadn't been a factor all year. Simply put, it was a perfect opportunity to unleash the wrinkle.

Pittsburgh's Chad Voytik and James Conner tore the Virginia Tech defense apart via the read-option, but Brad Kaaya isn't a running threat. Instead, Coley relied on Johnson and speedy receiver Stacy Coley.

As an added bonus, it was a creative way to potentially get Coley easy touches, because he has struggled mightily throughout his sophomore campaign.

Andy Bitter @AndyBitterVT

Beamer asked about Duke Johnson being best RB he's seen this year: "Not only all season. Forever." #Hokies

Most importantly, the zone-blocking scheme was executed to perfection. Offensive linemen Ereck Flowers and Jon Feliciano shined, while true freshman Nick Linder excelled.

Consequently, Johnson's 249 yards rushing tied for the third-highest single-game total in program history and shattered his previous career high of 186. Second-string running back Joe Yearby was unavailable, yet Gus Edwards added 115 yards and two scores off the bench.

Heck, the only thing that could stop Johnson was a bench on the sideline after a 29-yard scamper.

Jim Weber @JimMWeber

Someone get that bench a Hokie jersey... https://t.co/oCtxs96Z8o

Even Golden showed some aggressiveness, relying on his offensive line as the first half was coming to a close. Miami pounded the ball on 4th-and-1 and moved the chains, which set up Johnson's 22-yard touchdown reception with three seconds remaining in the second quarter.

Up 24 points, the fourth-year coach elected to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Though the Hurricanes didn't convert, Golden went for the dagger, and it was a commendable decision.

Miami has possessed the talent to compete in the division all along, but beating tough opponents was a matter of the coaches putting their stars in the proper schemes.

The battle for a Coastal championship is certainly uphill, but the blowout victory over Virginia Tech showed Miami has the on-field talent—and coaching—to make it interesting.

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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