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College Football: Hokies lose game, likely ACC title shot
BY NATHAN WARTERS
THE FREE LANCE–STAR
MIAMI—Even in the midst of its worst season in recent memory, Virginia Tech made it to November with a realistic shot at winning the ACC’s Coastal Division title.
That’s not the case anymore.
The Hokies suffered from a series of mistakes in a 30–12 loss to Miami in front of a sparse crowd at Sun Life Stadium on Thursday night. They had two major special teams gaffes that led to touchdowns, committed two costly red zone turnovers and had tackling issues on defense.
The Hurricanes now appear to have the inside track on the division title, while the Hokies’ chances of getting back to Charlotte for the ACC championship game have taken a major hit.
Miami (5–4, 4–2 ACC) won despite gaining only 134 yards in the second half. Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris completed 13-of-28 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman Duke Johnson rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and had an 81-yard kickoff return in the first quarter that set up a touchdown.
Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas rushed for a career-high 124 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries. He completed 19-of-37 passes for 199 yards and two interceptions.
Virginia Tech’s 19-consecutive bowl games streak is in peril now. The Hokies need to win two of their last three to become bowl eligible. They host No. 9 Florida State next Thursday.
Virginia Tech (4–5, 2–3), which has now lost seven straight games away from home, had little trouble gaining yards against Miami’s defense, but it couldn’t get in the end zone. In the Hokies’ four red zone trips, they managed only six points and turned the ball over twice.
Tech out-gained Miami 107–3 in the third quarter but failed to score. The Hokies lost a fumble at the Hurricanes’ 1-yard line on a fumbled exchange between center Caleb Farris, who was making his first career start, and Thomas with 4:29 left in the third quarter.
Kicker Cody Journell provided half of the Hokies points on field goals of 22 and 20 yards, but he missed an extra point in the second quarter and a 47-yard field goal attempt in the third.
The Hokies fell behind 14–3 in a mistake-filled first quarter. A blocked punt and long kickoff return led to Miami touchdowns and Thomas threw a red zone interception to end a promising opening drive.
Miami’s porous run defense did a good job stopping Virginia Tech’s tailbacks, but the Hurricanes found it difficult to slow the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Thomas.
Thomas had a career-high 122 rushing yards in the first half. He ran untouched on a career-long 73-yard touchdown early in the second quarter that cut the Hurricanes’ lead to 14–9.
Miami went ahead 20–9 on a pair of second-quarter Jake Wieclaw field goals. The Hokies made it 20–12 on Journell’s 20-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
Virginia Tech moved down the field with relative ease to start the game. The Hokies had a first down at the Hurricanes’ 20-yard line when Thomas underthrew a pass intended for fullback Joey Phillips that was intercepted by Miami cornerback Ladarius Gunter at the Hurricanes’ 12-yard line.
The mistakes continued for the Hokies. Miami blocked an A.J. Hughes punt and then scored on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Morris to wide receiver Allen Hurns two plays later.
The Hurricanes victimized the Hokies’ special teams again near the end of the first quarter. Johnson returned a kickoff 81 yards to set up a 16-yard touchdown pass from Morris to tailback Mike James.
Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442