Virginia Tech-Miami Preview: Hokies Face Tough Road Game at Hard Rock Stadium

Virginia Tech
(Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech’s road doesn’t get any easier this week as they travel to the state of Florida to take on a very talented Miami Hurricanes football team.  The ‘Canes are 2-2 on the season, with a limited offense thanks in part to the presence of some freshmen, but a dominant defense that will be among the best the Hokies face this season.

Coming off a 45-10 beating at the hands of Duke at home, there isn’t much confidence among the Virginia Tech fanbase right now.  Another thrashing, this time at the hands of a team that the Hokies shared a once-great rivalry with, is not ideal, but it appears that most Tech fans believe that is exactly what is going to happen.

Virginia Tech and Miami have played some entertaining football games throughout the years, though there have been some blowouts as well.  Recently, the blowouts have increased while the entertaining games have decreased.  Here are the last five meetings…

2018: 38-14 Miami
2017: 28-10 Miami
2016: 37-16 Virginia Tech
2015: 30-20 Miami
2014: 30-6 Miami

Five years, and not a single game decided by single digits.  In fact, the last time a VT-Miami game was decided by single digits was 2011, when the Hokies won a thriller 38-35 in Lane Stadium.  In recent years, the most physically dominant team has won each matchup with relative ease.  That doesn’t bode well for the Hokies, as the Hurricanes most certainly have a physical advantage heading into this game.

(Ivan Morozov)

The Miami Offense: Young and Struggling

The Miami offense features a number of young players, and as most such offenses do, they’ve struggled so far this season.  Here are their numbers against FBS competition, out of 130 teams…

Total Offense: No. 91
Rushing Offense: No. 110
Passing Offense: No. 49
Passing Efficiency: No. 29
Scoring Offense: No. 100
TFL Allowed: N. 121
Sacks Allowed: No. 126

When Miami has been able to protect the quarterback, they’ve been a solid passing team thus far.  However, they haven’t been able to protect the quarterback very often.  Overall they’ve been a very poor offense, and appear to be getting worse.  They scored 20 on Florida, 25 on UNC, and then only 17 against Central Michigan, with a 63-point effort against overmatched FCS Bethune-Cookman thrown in for good measure.

In their most recent game, the 17-12 win over Central Michigan, the Hurricanes had just 301 yards of total offense and averaged only 1.5 yards per carry.  They were also sacked four times, and have allowed 18 sacks on the season, including 10 to Florida.  Miami quarterbacks have been pressured on 41.7% of their drop backs, which ranks No. 122 in college football.  There is talent at the skill positions, but there are freshmen at critical positions as well, and the result is that this is one of the worst offenses that Virginia Tech will face all season.

Miami’s issues start up front, where they start two true freshmen on the offensive line. Jakai Clark (6-2, 310, Fr.) is the starter at right guard, and he’s done a pretty decent job for a true freshman.  However, left tackle Zion Nelson (6-5, 285, Fr.) is having a very rough season, particularly in the season opener against Florida.  He was a 3-star recruit who is being asked to play before he’s ready, and he’s likely going to struggle all season against ACC-level competition.

The quarterback those freshmen are blocking for is also a freshman.  Jarren Williams (6-2, 210, r-Fr.) beat out Ohio State transfer Tate Martell in the preseason.  At times he’s looked very good, despite the ineffectiveness of the Hurricane offensive line.  He’s completed 72.65% of his passes for seven touchdowns and no interceptions.  He’d rather run it than pass it, though it would be a bad idea for the Hokies to give him open rushing lanes.

Getting Williams and Miami behind the chains will be very important.  Though the traditional running game did struggle against Central Michigan, it was better in games against UNC and Florida.  Running back DeeJay Dallas (5-10, 215, Jr.) is a converted safety who has developed into a very good runner.  He has 343 yards rushing through four games, and he’s averaging 6.7 yards per carry.  If Dallas gets going and the Hurricanes can stay in manageable down-and-distance situations, that will lessen the burden on Williams and those freshmen on the offensive line.

The Miami offense would be much better were it not for the offensive line, as the Hurricanes do have plenty of talent and speed at the skill positions.  Buffalo graduate transfer KJ Osborn (6-0, 205, r-Sr.) is so highly thought of by Manny Diaz that he represented the Hurricanes at the ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte over the summer.  He has 16 receptions for 181 yards and three touchdowns.  Tight end Brevin Jordan (6-3, 245, So.) also has 16 catches, while Jeff Thomas (5-10, 180, Jr.) runs a legit 4.3 in the 40. 

Because of Miami’s limitations up front, the Tech defense should be able to perform pretty well.  However, the Hokies lack a 100% natural pass rusher to oppose Miami left tackle Zion Nelson.  I’m hesitant to believe the Hokies can get pressure without blitzing, which should make things a little easier up front for the Hurricanes this week.

Miami has plenty of swagger on defense, including the Turnover Chain. (Jon Fleming)

The Miami Defense: Talented and Experienced

Look no further than the career starts for Miami’s three senior linebackers for proof that the Hurricanes have plenty of experience on defense.

Shaq Quarterman (6-1, 240, Sr.): 43
Michael Pinckney (6-1, 220, Sr.): 40
Zach McCloud (6-2, 235, Sr.): 31

McCloud has 31 career starts despite not having started a single game as a senior.  Imagine having a backup senior liniebacker with 31 career starts!

The Hurricanes are almost as experienced at other spots on defense.  True sophomore safety Gurvan Hall, Jr. (6-0, 195) and true sophomore cornerback DJ Ivey (6-1, 195) are the youngest starters in this group.  Everyone else is a junior or older.  They even have senior backups, such as McCloud, as well as Virginia Tech graduate transfer Trevon Hill at defensive end.

Here are Miami’s numbers against FBS competition this year…

Total Defense: No. 20
Rushing Defense: No. 6
Passing Defense: No. 83
Pass Efficiency Defense: No. 45
Scoring Defense: No. 30
Tackles For Loss: No. 40
Sacks: No. 40


This is a defense that is pretty much above average in everything, and downright dominant against the run.  The Hurricanes are allowing an average of 59.3 yards per game on the ground against FBS teams, and just 1.96 yards per carry, which is tied for third nationally.  The Hokies have struggled to run the football against every team they have faced, and Miami will be by far their biggest challenge to date.

Duke’s defense is very experienced, but not as talented as Miami’s.  Last week the Hokies put up the following numbers, at home, against that Blue Devil defense…

Points: 10
Rushing yards: 139
Passing yards: 120
Total yards: 259

Even wearing a pair of maroon and orange blinders, it’s difficult to picture this Virginia Tech offense doing much against this Miami defense on the road.

Special Teams: Beware Jeff Thomas

Over halfway through the third quarter last year, the Hokies trailed Miami 24-14.  They were still very much in the game.  Until, that is, Miami speedster Jeff Thomas broke it open with 51 yard punt return for a touchdown.  That made it 31-14, and it ended 38-14.

The Hokies must be wary of Thomas yet again this season.  Thus far in 2019, he’s averaging just 3.8 yards per punt return, but he’s capable of breaking one at any moment.  He also serves as the Hurricanes’ kick returner, and he’s equally as dangerous there.  This is a game where the Hokies can’t afford to make any mistakes, and that includes allowing big plays on special teams.

Virginia Tech – Miami: Final Thoughts

Miami’s offense is in such a place that a typical Virginia Tech team would stand a pretty decent chance of going down there and getting the win.  I expect more mistakes from the Hurricanes on the offensive side of the ball than we saw from Duke last week.  Not necessarily from a turnover standpoint, but just sloppy play in general.  If the Hokies stay mentally engaged for four quarters of football, I think they can play a good game on Saturday afternoon.

However, good game from the defense regardless, I just don’t see how the Virginia Tech offense is going to score enough to win.  They seem to have gotten worse over the last two weeks, and with two banged  up quarterbacks, I don’t see them getting better this week against a very talented and experienced Hurricane defense.

What I want to see this week is a Virginia Tech team that stays mentally engaged for four quarters of football.  That clearly didn’t happen this past week.  If something good happens early in the game, such as a Miami turnover and a Hokie touchdown, that would help keep Tech engaged, of course.  But when they face adversity, which they surely will on the road against a better team, I want to see them keep their heads in the game.

Really, that’s all I’m looking for.  I’d love to win, don’t get me wrong.  But I’m not expecting it…not at all.  I just want to see the team keep their heads in it and get better.

Chris’s Prediction: Miami 31, Virginia Tech 10

Will Stewart’s Take: I’m not sure when the last time was that I had this little hope for a victory. Usually, you can see a path to a win, but with the Virginia Tech offense sputtering so badly and trying to pick a starter from two injured QBs to play behind such a young offensive line … it’s just hard to see how the Hokies will manufacture much scoring.  There isn’t a magic wand the coaching staff can wave here.

That leaves it up to the defense, and the best way for a defense to help win a game is to force turnovers. If VT wins the turnover battle, though, it will represent a full 180 turn from what has happened so far. The Hokies are No. 128 out of 130 in turnover margin, No. 118 in turnovers lost, and No. 114 in turnovers gained. Miami is No. 6, No. 3, and No. 13.

This is not a good setup. Like Chris, I just want to see some grit. By the way, keep an eye on the Trevon Hill show. He’s a second-string DE, wearing No. 94.

Will’s Prediction: Miami 31, Virginia Tech 7

45 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. There is a whole lot of naysayers here. After Duke my head agrees.
    But my heart wants to stop to consider what vtgriff09 and AbsolutVT03 also contributed to this conversation?
    We are EXTREMELY YOUNG on BOTH sides of the ball.
    Give these boys, and their coaches a chance. I don’t want us to knee jerk and get rid a a talented coach who had a pretty impressive offer list if I remember correctly.
    Let’s stick with this guy. And stick with Whit. Let him find us a good innovative D coach and get on a roll again.
    I always heard 2020 was our year anyway.

    1. Well said Waco! I read these articles and then listen to podcasts and in response /reaction to the “villagers at the gate with pitch forks” , the podcasters say firing of Fuente is t what they want but it’s a sentiment among the fan base, but when pressed on the message board, the podcaster writes effectively “take it down to the studs” i.e. fire Fuente and all coaches. Such nonsense.
      Let Fu make some changes (BTW Bud didn’t do us any favors negotiating his extension for a year only to announce retirement thus killing recruiting of D players until 2021.

  2. I am really looking forward to this game just for the sake of finding out what our Coaches and players are made of.

    Our blood is in the water. The word is out that the Hokies are extremely young and extremely vulnerable. In the words of Rece Davis, we are “Hot Garbage” a proverbial “Dumpster fire”.

    How do we respond? How well prepared did the Coaches get our players ready to play this time? How does the QB and RB Platoon respond? The OL, LB, CB DE positions….whatcha got left in the tank?

    Trevon Hill and the rest of the Manny Defense have us circled and will be ready. Will Bud realize this game and each game from here out will be a deliberate and personal attempt to slaughter his parting Legacy?

    I’m hearing chatter that coaches and/or teams in the league are challenging their teams to send Tech off with a league goose egg for the year.

    Dont be the Hokie team to surrender a winless shut out to your league peers! Dont be the Hokie team to surrender the Commonwealth Cup to the French.

    I believe Trevon will play clean but plans to bring the pain and hit with bad intentions to make his point heard. It’s time to play for Pride & Respect fellas.

    1. Yep I actually see hokies covering that 14 on the road. Maybe getting out of town is the answer.

  3. I think we need to start QP at QB and let him air it out. What is the worst thing that could happen? Although he did not throw a lot in high school, he was good when he did and has had 2 years to develop. If he can complete a couple of balls early, that could open up the read option game. We need to take risks in a game where our normal plan will certainly result in a loss.

      1. Agreed. If we are going to lose it would at least be good to see QP get some action. See if he plays better than he practices. Plus he may improve faster with game play.

    1. I’ve been thinking the same thing, though I don’t think it will be against Miami. Once Fuente realizes the bowl streak is ending, I think QP will become the starting QB. It may be ugly at first, but he needs in-game reps and a lot of them so he’s ready next season.

  4. Even with a lackluster offense, Miami should have a field day with Tech’s defense. I saw ZERO gang-tackling against Duke, and a over abundance of standing around waiting for someone else to make the play, which way too often no one did.
    There is a long and storied list of past VT players that are shaking their heads and wondering what happened to “lunch pail,” “Beamer Ball,” and simply playing with pride.

  5. Chris – please forward the following to the coaches, ASAP!

    We all know the Hokies are struggling. Mistakes on offense. Blown coverages on defense. Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers.

    This is all unacceptable.

    A change of approach is needed.

    Here is the No_Limit_Hokie Game Plan, which I nickname ‘Low Expectation Armchair Football’.

    1. When receiving the kickoff, always fair catch, to minimize the field position damage. If this were a punt, I would say don’t even try to field it, but it’s a free ball, so an attempt has to be made. Actually, you hope they just kick it into the endzone, so there is not even a possibility of an error.

    2. The Hokies need to make the game short. Take the air out of the ball. So, on every play, always take the full allotment of time. Give the players a chance to catch their collective breath, and run that clock down. Oscar Bradburn for Heisman!

    3. Do not throw the ball, even once (except for end of the Half – maybe. Risky!). Incompletions stop the clock, and interceptions just blow things up. Do not use any plays that use any form of lateral or side to side motion. No slow developing plays. Straight forward all the time. Always keep two ARMS on the ball. Even if breaking away past the defense. You’ll thank me later.

    4. Defensively, play bend but don’t break. Just do not allow any big plays. Do not allow any receivers to get behind you. Keep all in front of you. When they eventually get down to the red zone, they will have used up a big amount of time, and there will be less room for receivers to try to elude defenders. If they attempt a field goal, play defense like they might be planning a fake. Blocking a kick is unlikely. Also a possibility of roughing the kicker. And, they might miss anyway.

    5. In keeping with the spirit of Point 4, do not attempt to block a punt. They might be faking, and the depressed feeling if they do fake and get a first down, could mean the game. And there is always the danger of roughing the kicker, totally spoiling a good defensive sequence. So, don’t even put someone back to field the alleged punt. Keep 11 on 11. Don’t let them fool you!

    6. Have plays planned out for the whole game, ahead of time. Therefore, no real need for timeouts. You do not rush the plays, as this would violate Point 2. But having them ready, with all the players knowing what will be done, will give confidence. With them also knowing that the ball will not be snapped until 1 or 2 seconds left on the play clock, no Illegal Procedure penalties. The QB will vocally count down the play clock, having informed the offense in the huddle, whether the ball will be snapped with 2 seconds left, or 1. (I admit there is a slight chance for error, here, and maybe just always count down to 1.) The offense in this plan, should not get even a single penalty, all game.

    There is is. To summarize:

    Take the air out of the ball. No turnovers or penalties. Run out the clock.

    So we don’t lose by 60.

    1. Miami has the #6 rushing defense and the #83 passing defense. I don’t think we would get more than 1-2 first downs the entire game if we don’t throw the ball.

      1. The “Plan” was part parody, part noting how it is harder to lose – when you don’t beat yourself, and make the other guy try to do it, without your help.

    2. This is hilarious. Consider me on-board. After sitting through the debacle in Lane on Friday I was watching the equally terrible Redskins play on Sunday. They had stopped NY on 3rd down to make it 4th and 5 from around the 35. Would have been a 52 yard field goal for the Giants but there was a holding penalty on the play. Of course the Redskins accepted the penalty and predictably gave up 17 yards on a screen pass (sound familiar) for a Giant’s first down. The Giants scored a touchdown a couple of plays later… They should have listened to your plan.

    1. I don’t bet, but if I did, I’d take Miami to cover the spread. I am a little shocked that they are only favored by 13.5-14.0

        1. I agree! My first thought when I saw the opening line was “is Miami really that bad (to only be favored by 8.5)?”

  6. I just want to point out that you said the offense features a number of freshman and as such offenses do, they struggle often. The defense, on the other hand, is 2 Sophs and the rest Jrs and Srs with tons of starting experience and they are great.

    If that makes common sense….then why in the world do we believe that we should be getting different results with youth and inexperience on both sides of the ball? Sometimes our assessment of others (which is often unbiased) needs to be reflectedto our assessment of our own team.

    1. I thought the same thing. The biggest difference between us and Miami is that they have a veteran defense to lean back on. We don’t.

  7. Agree with the predictions. Put an L in the loss column on this one and for most the rest of the year. Sad…………..sad………….sad.

  8. I think we should huddle before each play to settle everyone down and to save the defense. I always thought that could help a young team. I do not see where it hurts unless there is something about the play-calling that does not allow it. Of course, what do I know about football. Do NFL teams still huddle? I can’t remember the last time I watched a pro game.

      1. I plAyed golf with Josh Jackson in July. He predicted at least 2.
        He said Hill was a bad guy

  9. Shaq Quarterman seems like he’s been at the U since the Michael Irvin days. Can that guy run out eligibility already?

  10. Miami will be sniffing a shutout. Have to find points from defense and special teams to even keep it close. I hope our Hokies play physical, Nnot sure there is hope for a victory without running the ball well.

  11. Hopefully, our coaches will abandon the “run the ball at all costs” against a D that is so good against the run. Instead, mix it up with some play action, and bubble screens. And please, can we abandon the jet sweep? Da U is going to blow that one up!

  12. Can’t really argue with the predictor’s this week. I would hope, however, that the effort against Duke was rock bottom.

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