2005 Game Preview: #3 Virginia Tech vs. #6 Miami

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Saturday, November 5th, 2005, 7:45

TV: ESPN

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Preview: #3 Virginia Tech (8-0, 5-0 ACC) vs. #6 Miami (6-1, 3-1)


by Chris Coleman

Finally, the game everyone has been anticipating is close at hand. On
Saturday #3 Virginia Tech will host #6 Miami in a battle that will decide who
will represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game. The Hokies
have played some big games in Lane Stadium throughout the years, but they have
never had as much riding on one as they will on Saturday night.

Virginia Tech is very much a National Championship contender, standing third
in the BCS. Miami still has championship aspirations as well. The Hurricanes
rank sixth in the BCS and are the highest ranked team with a loss. If they can
knock off the Hokies this weekend, they could conceivably be back in contention
for the National Championship.

The Miami Offense

The Miami offense has been the weakness of their team so far this season. The
Hurricanes are breaking in a new quarterback, they don�t have as many big time
receivers as they used to, and their offensive line has been disappointing. It
will take a supreme effort from Miami, as well as a bad game from the Tech
defense, for the Canes to move the ball with consistency against the Hokies.

The Miami offense will live or die in this game based on the performance of
quarterback Kyle Wright. Wright, a sophomore, is a talented player, but he
entered the season lacking experience. He has played some good games, and some
bad. Let�s take a closer look at Wright�s games this season.

Kyle Wright’s Statistics
Opponent
Comp-Att.


Yards


TD


INT

Florida State

16-28
232 1 2

Clemson

16-26
156 1 0

Colorado

20-39
264 1 0

USF

13-26
173 0 1

Duke

18-31
255 3 2

Temple

9-10
196 4 0

UNC

11-16
111 0 3

It�s obvious from looking at those statistics that Wright has enjoyed a lot
of success against Duke and Temple, accounting for seven touchdowns and just two
interceptions. Against the average-to-good teams on the schedule, Wright has
thrown just three touchdown passes and six interceptions.

Wright’s worst outing came against North Carolina last weekend. Wright threw
three interceptions to a defense that is ranked 52nd in pass defense and 70th in
pass efficiency defense. That type of production will not get it done in
Blacksburg, a place where young quarterbacks have a history of spending the
majority of games on their backs and throwing a lot of interceptions.

Wright may be facing a lot of pressure from the Virginia Tech defense this
week as well. The Miami offensive line, despite starting four seniors, has been
poor in pass protection this season. The Canes gave up nine sacks in their
season opener against Florida State, and have given up 22 sacks on the season.
If the Hokies can get pressure on Wright, they can force him into some mistakes.

Tailback Tyrone Moss has been Miami�s biggest offensive threat this season.
Moss was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school who considered
Virginia Tech. He is in his first year as a starter. He has rushed for 675 yards
on the season and 12 touchdowns, averaging 5.2 yards per carry in the process.
Moss dropped about 20 pounds in the offseason, which made him quicker. He is
also running with a better body lean this season.

The Hurricanes need to establish the running game against the Hokies, who
rank sixth nationally in rushing defense, allowing only 92.25 yards per game.
Despite Moss� performance this year, Miami hasn�t been dominating on the
ground as a team. They average 153 yards per game rushing, which ranks 53rd in
the country. They only average 3.8 yards per rush as a team. Miami has had
trouble along the offensive line, particularly in the middle. Look for Jonathon
Lewis and Vince Hall to shut down the running game, forcing Kyle Wright to have
to win the game with his arm.

Miami�s top receiver is tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen is a talented young
sophomore who has caught 24 passes on the season. Sinorice Moss, brother of
Santana Moss, is Miami�s best wideout with 20 receptions. He is a big play
receiver, averaging 20 yards per catch. However, Miami doesn�t have the game
breaking talent at wide receiver that they used to (either that or it hasn�t
developed yet). Either way, the Canes won�t be able to beat the Hokies
consistently through the air. Tech ranks second nationally in pass defense, and
third in pass efficiency defense.

Miami�s offense ranks 62nd nationally, averaging about 375 yards per game.
That won�t be enough to get it done against a talented Tech defense in
Blacksburg. Miami has scored a total of 17 points against Virginia Tech the past
two season, and seven of those came as a result of a blocked punt that was
covered on the one yard line. Those stats won�t change much this season. Look
for the Tech defense to control Miami at the line of scrimmage and shut down the
Canes� offense.

The Miami Defense

Continuing with our statistical analysis, let�s take a look at the Miami
defense. From a numbers standpoint, this is the best Miami defense the Hokies
have ever faced. They are fast and they fly to the football. They lead the
nation in total defense (221.57 yards) and passing defense (121.29 yards). Their
rushing defense ranks ninth nationally, allowing just 100.29 yards. The
Hurricanes are very good in every phase defensively, and they will present a
tremendous challenge to the Virginia Tech offense.

That being said, when you take a look at Miami�s opponents this season,
only Florida State could be considered a good offensive team. The Seminoles
average 444 yards per game, 13th in the nation. However the teams played each
other in the first week of the season, when offenses are still developing,
especially in the case of FSU and freshman quarterback Drew Weatherford, who was
making his first collegiate start.

When we take a look at the rest of Miami�s opponents, no one really stands
out offensively. Clemson ranks 50th nationally in total offense, and they
represent the second best offense Miami has faced this season. Of the remaining
Miami opponents, UNC ranks 101st, Temple ranks 115th, Duke 116th, South Florida
79th and Colorado 57th.

Don�t get me wrong. This Miami defense is very good, one of the best in the
nation. But Virginia Tech�s offense will be the most complete, most efficient
offense they will have faced all season.

One other thing worth pointing out is that the Hokies always have success
running the football against Miami. Virginia Tech has had a 100 yard rusher
against the Canes every year since 2000. Lee Suggs ran for 121 in 2000, Kevin
Jones had 160 in 2001, Bryan Randall scrambled for 132 in 2002, Kevin Jones ran
for 124 in 2003 and Cedric Humes had 110 last season. The Hokies always seem to
find a way to get it done on the ground against Miami.

Now we�ll take a look at some of Miami�s top defensive players. Their
best defensive player is probably strong safety Brandon Meriweather. Despite his
relatively small size for a strong safety (6-0, 188) he leads the team in
tackles (49) and is second in tackles for loss (8.5). That many tackles for loss
is incredible for a safety. It also shows me that Miami is so confident in the
coverage abilities of their other defensive backs that they are playing
Meriweather close to the line a lot.

That could turn out to be a mistake against Marcus Vick and his plethora of
wide receivers. Miami starting cornerback Kelly Jennings is just 5-11, 178.
Jennings is a very good player, but big Tech receivers Josh Morgan (6-1, 210),
David Clowney (6-1, 179) and Justin Harper (6-3, 206) could present matchup
problems for him. Also keep in mind that Miami starts true freshman Kenny
Phillips at free safety. Phillips has been compared to Sean Taylor and Ed Reed,
and he projects as a future NFL player. But right now, he�s still a true
freshman. The Hokies got Ernest Wilford isolated on Sean Taylor in 2003, and
Wilford was able to beat him deep for a touchdown from Marcus Vick. Taylor was a
first round draft pick the next year, so Tech needs to test the young free
safety Phillips.

It is also worth mentioning a few other Miami defensive players. Kareem
Brown, who doesn�t start but sees a lot of playing time, is a defensive tackle
that leads Miami in tackles for loss (9.5). He also has two sacks on the year
and 29 total tackles. To give you an example of how productive Brown has been as
a backup, consider that starting defensive tackles Orien Harris and Baraka
Adkins have combined for 9.5 tackles for loss. A backup defensive tackle
is equaling the combined production of two starting defensive tackles? Talk
about depth.

Speaking of depth along the defensive line, Javon Nanton is a senior
defensive end who also does not start. He does, however, lead the team in sacks
with 5.5 and has eight tackles for loss. Miami�s starting defensive ends,
Bryan Pata and Thomas Carroll, have combined for 6.5 tackles for loss and one
sack. So when you see Miami�s backup defensive line in the game, don�t
assume that the Hokies have a chance to make some big plays, because the Canes
have plenty of good players in their two-deep.

Miami�s linebackers are quietly productive. They don�t get as much hype
as their counterparts on the defensive line and in the secondary, but they are
solid. Roger McIntosh is the best of the bunch. McIntosh is second on the team
in tackles with 41. He also has four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Special Teams

Everyone knows about Miami�s tremendous punt returner Devin Hester. He is a
very dangerous player who can score a touchdown anytime he touches the ball. He
is averaging 15.2 yards per return this season and has one touchdown. His
longest return was just 48 yards, so that shows that he is consistently getting
good returns rather than breaking an 80 yarder every now and then.

Kick returns have not been as kind to Miami. The Hurricanes rank only 100th
nationally in this category. They have returned only 12 kickoffs this season
because their defense hasn�t allowed the opposing offense to score very much.

Jon Peattie is a solid placekicker from in close who struggles from long
range. He is 9-14 on the season overall, but is only 1-4 from distances greater
than 40 yards. From 30 yards out or more, he is just 6-11 on the season. He is
perfect from inside 30 yards.

Brian Monroe is having a solid season punting. He is only averaging 39 yards
per punt, but he has put 14 of his 32 punts inside the 20 yard line. He has also
had one punt blocked this season.

Look for the Hurricanes to come after a lot of Virginia Tech punts. They
blocked a punt against the Hokies last season and blocked a punt against UNC for
a touchdown last week. They have become one of the best kick blocking teams in
the nation.

Predictions

Remember when you used to hope Virginia Tech would beat Miami? You didn�t
think it was going to happen, or maybe you thought it might happen, but you
never expected it to happen. This season the vast majority of Tech fans expect
to beat Miami. I certainly do. Miami is a very talented team, the most athletic
team the Hokies will face during the regular season.

But the Hokies have some serious momentum in the series. They have won seven
out of the last ten games, including the last two in which they dominated the
Hurricanes on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Miami is a cocky, confident
team, but the fact that Hokies physically whipped them the past two years will
be in the backs of their minds during the game.

Obviously the biggest thing the Hokies have going for them, beyond talent and
team chemistry, is the Lane Stadium atmosphere. You think you�ve seen some
great atmospheres at Tech games in the past? You haven�t seen anything yet. College
GameDay
, the ACC Championship, the National Championship, the biggest game
in Lane Stadium history, and it�s at night. I think it�s safe to say that
Blacksburg will be an extremely hostile environment for Miami on Saturday night.

The Hokies will ride that emotion, as well as the arm and legs of Marcus
Vick, to a big win on Saturday night.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Miami 10

Will Stewart’s Take: Despite taking some serious beatings in the past at
Lane Stadium (43-10 in 1999 and 31-7 in 2003), the ‘Canes are always competitive
early in the game. Miami led Tech 13-3 in 1997 and 10-0 in 1999, though Tech
went on to win both games; the ‘Canes jumped out to a 20-3 half time lead in
2001 before barely winning 26-24; and in 2003, it was only 10-0 Hokies at half
time.

Miami comes ready to play whenever they come into Lane Stadium, so don’t
expect it to be 17-0 Hokies at the end of the first quarter. I expect VT to win,
but I also expect them to have to put in the time, wear the ‘Canes down, and
create opportunities throughout the game.

It’s fascinating that this Miami team has risen so far in the polls while
receiving zero attention doing so. I’m not sure what to think about them. Is the
Hurricane defense really that good? Kyle Wright’s got some skills, but
does he have the intangibles? Does this current roster of Miami players have
what it takes to come into Lane Stadium and win? Only one Miami team in the last
ten years has done that, and they went on to be national champions. If you’ve
got a U on your helmet, that’s what it takes to win in Blacksburg.

All else being equal � and statistically, it pretty much is — it comes
down to the quarterbacks. That’s where I like VT’s chances. Marcus Vick is
second in the nation in passing efficiency and has played his best in difficult
games (WVU and NC State on the road, Boston College), with the exception of an
interception-riddled performance against Maryland. He rises to the occasion.

Kyle Wright is an unknown. He’s only 45th in the country in passing
efficiency. He didn’t let nine sacks rattle him against FSU, and he’s got a good
arm, but he’s young, and this is his first year as a starter.

One area in which the QB play manifests itself is in third-down conversions.
The Hokies convert 41.9% of their third downs, while Miami only converts 34.1%.
That�s a pretty large margin that will be amplified with Tech playing at home
and Miami playing on the road.

Barring multiple Hokie mistakes, I can’t see Wright leading Miami to victory
in Lane Stadium. If he does, I’ll be thoroughly impressed, and it might signal
the tide turning in the rivalry, because any QB who can put up a top notch game
in Blacksburg against the Hokie defense is a guy who is going to win some games.

But I think this one will go the way most Miami-VT games go in Lane Stadium.
It’ll be tight early, and the ‘Canes might even take a lead. But as the game
wears on, the Hokies will build momentum, and it could snowball VT’s way in the
end, as so many VT-Miami games in Lane have done in the past.

Will’s Prediction: VT 31, Miami 10

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