Hokies host Miami on Thursday night

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  • Date/Time: Thursday, October 23, 2014, 8pm
  • TV: ESPN
  • Virginia Tech-Miami rostercard: Click here
  • Game notes from Hokiesports.com: Click here
  • For Miami links, see our Links page
  • Blacksburg Weather: Click here
  • Gameday information: Click here
  • Miami favored by 2.5

OXVT’s Tale of the Tape

Before we get started, here’s OXVT’s Tale of the Tape.

VTUTaleoftheTape

As a bonus, here are the results of all VT-Miami games since ACC expansion.

VTUResults

Getting back on track?

Virginia Tech will look to get back on track against the Miami Hurricanes in a big Thursday night game in Lane Stadium.

Both teams come into this game sporting a 4-3 record, along with a 1-2 mark in ACC play. The loser could potentially find themselves in sole possession of last place in the Coastal Division, or at best in a tie for last place with UNC, depending on what the Tar Heels do against UVA this weekend.

On the other hand, the winner can keep their Coastal Division title hopes alive. Miami is 0-3 on the road this year, with losses to Louisville, Nebraska and Georgia Tech. However, the Hokies haven’t been too good at home recently, either. Here’s a look at Tech’s most recent home games, dating back to the middle of last season.

vs. Duke: L
vs. Maryland: L
vs. William & Mary: W
vs. ECU: L
vs. GT: L
vs. Western Michigan: W

The Hokies haven’t beaten a Power 5 conference team at home since they knocked off Pitt 19-9 last October 12. That’s over a full calendar year ago. Something has to give in this game, either Miami’s inability to win on the road, or Virginia Tech’s recent struggles to beat a quality opponent at home.

Explosive talent on Miami’s offense

Miami features a number of very explosive players on the offensive side of the ball, particularly in the backfield.

Duke Johnson (5-9, 206, Jr.): Johnson is Miami’s career leader in all-purpose yardage with 4,427. He recently passed Santana Moss. He is averaging 7.2 yards per carry and 112.4 rushing yards per game this season, and he also has 17 receptions for 187 yards. As good as James Conner is, Johnson is the best back the Hokies will face all season. He can take it the distance on any play, and he is extremely difficult to tackle.

Virginia Tech was fortunate last year, as Johnson was injured and did not play against the Hokies. In 2012, he had 11 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown. Tech will have to swarm Johnson if they hope to stop him. He is too difficult to tackle in a one-on-one situation.

Two other Miami tailbacks have put up good numbers this year…

Joe Yearby (5-9, 192, Fr.): 43 carries, 417 yards, 7.4 ypc
Gus Edwards (6-2, 230, So.): 26 carries, 166 yards, 6.4 ypc

Perhaps no receiver in the country has been more explosive this season than Phillip Dorsett. He has just 16 catches in seven games, but they’ve covered 550 yards (34.4 ypc), and he’s scored six touchdowns. Without a doubt, he will be the most explosive wide receiver the Hokies will face this year, just as Duke Johnson will be the most explosive running back.

Miami’s leading receiver is tight end Clive Walford (6-4, 258, r-Sr.). He has 23 receptions for 306 yards and four touchdowns. Overall, the Canes spread the ball out very well.

Herb Waters (6-2, 198, So.): 19 catches, 257 yards, 13.5 ypc, 1 TD
Braxton Berrios (5-9, 183, Fr.): 18 catches, 203 yards, 11.3 ypc, 3 TD
Malcolm Lewis (6-0, 189, r-Fr.): 17 catches, 140 yards, 8.2 ypc, 1 TD
Phillip Dorsett (5-10, 187, Sr.): 16 catches, 550 yards, 34.4 ypc, 6 TD
Stacy Coley (6-3, 185, So.): 11 catches, 59 yards, 5.4 ypc

Miami has a talented, though young, group of receivers. They like to get the ball to the slot a lot to Braxton Berrios and Malcolm Lewis. Berrios is a true freshman from North Carolina that the Hokies recruited heavily. In terms of skill position talent, this will be Virginia Tech’s greatest challenge this season.

The Freshman Quarterback

Brad Kaaya (6-4, 209, Fr.) is a true freshman quarterback whom Miami fans should be very excited about. He has completed 63% of his passes for 1,806 yards this season. He has 16 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. He is one of just 12 quarterbacks in the country who have already thrown for 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns this year, and the fact that he has done it as a true freshman makes it even more impressive.

Kaaya started out a bit slow, but it’s hard to ignore his progress:

at Louisville: 17-of-29 for 179 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs
vs. FAMU: 12-of-22 for 177 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs
vs. Ark. State: 16-of-24 for 342 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT
at Nebraska: 28-of-42 for 359 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs
vs. Duke: 20-of-34 for 223 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT
at GT: 16-of-25 for 245 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
vs. Cincinnati: 17-of-24 for 286 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT

Through his first two games, Kaya was 29-of-51 for 356 yards, with three touchdowns and four interceptions. That’s a QB rating of 119.22. However, his performance really started going up beginning with the Arkansas State game. Since that game, he is 97-of-149 for 1,455 yards, with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. That’s a QB rating of 169.21, which is very impressive for a guy his age.

How good are the pass defenses that Kaaya has faced? Here’s a looking at the pass efficiency defense ranking of each team they’ve faced.

Louisville: #2
FAMU: 1-AA
Arkansas State: #53
Nebraska: #8
Duke: #5
GT: #85
Cincinnati: #124

Kaaya has faced a couple of duds in Georgia Tech and Cincinnati, but he has also faced three of the most efficient pass defenses in the country. His numbers against those three teams: 65-of-105 for 761 yards, with six touchdowns and four interceptions. His QB rating in those three games is 134.02. That’s not great, but it’s hardly bad either, and he took a big step forward against Nebraska and Duke after struggling in his first career game at Louisville.

It’s impossible to predict how a true freshman quarterback is going to do on a game-by-game basis, but I think it’s clear that Kaaya is a very talented player, and his ceiling is higher than any quarterback Miami has had in the last decade or more. He might come into Lane Stadium and struggle in his first Thursday night game. After all, he is 0-3 on the road this season. However, he’s already played road games at night at Louisville, Nebraska and Georgia Tech, and two of those places are tough places to play. I think he’ll be more ready for the Thursday night Lane Stadium atmosphere than any other true freshman could possibly be.

Kaaya, combined with Miami’s young skill position talent at wide receiver and at running back, could give Miami a very powerful offense in a year or two. It’s good now, but their ceiling is pretty high, assuming the Canes continue to have a solid offensive line.

The Offensive Line

Miami’s offensive line has size, and Virginia Tech’s coaches believe it is more athletic than usual. Here’s a look at the starting lineup.

LT Ereck Flowers (6-6, 324, Jr.)
LG Nick Linder (6-3, 290, Fr.)
C Shane McDermott (6-4, 300, r-Sr.)
RG Daniel Isidora (6-4, 318, r-So.)
RT Jonathan Feliciano (6-5, 316, Sr.)

Feliciano, McDermott and Flowers have plenty of experience against Virginia Tech. This is a very solid offensive line that paves the way for a balanced offense.

Offensive Numbers

Here’s how Miami ranks statistically on offense.

Rushing: #68
YPC: #23
Passing: #44
Pass Efficiency: #24
Total: #55
Scoring: #56
Third downs: #127

The Canes have a very high yards per carry rank, and they are pretty balanced between the run and the pass. However, their performance on third down has been abysmal, and it’s the one thing that’s holding them back from being a complete offense. Their third down offense vs. Tech’s third down defense (#4 nationally) is a matchup that favors the Hokies.

Defensive Numbers

Before we get into specific players, let’s look at Miami’s defensive numbers.

Rushing: #56
YPC: #37
Passing: #10
Pass Efficiency: #16
Total: #22
Scoring: #53
TFL: #104
Sacks: #52
Third downs: #79

Sometimes stats are overrated. Although the Hokies rank much higher than Miami in rushing defense (#30 to #56), they actually give up more yards per carry than the Canes. Don’t let the Miami rushing defense rank fool you. They have actually done pretty well there. They have done even better against the pass. However, their kryptonite is third downs, where they are just #79 nationally.

On paper, third downs are a big matchup advantage for the Hokies on both sides of the ball. However, we’ve seen Tech’s third down numbers on offense drop the last two games, so I’m not sure we can count on the offense to exploit the Canes’ third down weakness.

An Experienced defense

Virginia Tech pushed Miami’s defense around last season, and also torched them through the air. The Hokies ran for 183 yards and passed for 366, for a total of 549 yards of total offense. It was by far Tech’s best performance of the year, though in hindsight we see that Miami’s defense completely collapsed down the stretch and was soundly beaten by everybody they played.

This year Miami’s defense is playing much better than it did down the stretch a year ago. The statistics prove it. I think it’s because they have a much more experienced and more mature defense this season. 10 of their 11 starters are juniors or seniors.

DE Anthony Chickillo (6-4, 282, Sr.): 41 career starts
DT Calvin Heurtelou (6-3, 315, Jr.): 6 career starts (JUCO player)
DT Olsen Pierre (6-5, 300, Sr.): 29 career starts
DE Tyrid McCord (6-3, 248, Jr.): 7 career starts
LB Thurston Armbrister (6-3, 241, Sr.): 17 career starts
LB Denzel Perryman (6-0, 242, Sr.): 30 career starts
LB Raphael Kirby (6-1, 238, Jr.): 7 career starts
CB Artie Burns (6-0, 196, So.): 6 career starts
S Deon Bush (6-1, 198, Jr.): 16 career starts
S Nantambu-Akil Fentress (5-9, 200, Sr.): 3 career starts
CB Ladarius Gunter (6-2, 192, Sr.): 24 career starts

That’s a pretty experienced defense, particularly at linebacker. Nantambu-Akil Fentress will be making just his fourth career start at safety despite being a senior, so he could be a liability, but he certainly has plenty of experience in the system.

Perryman, Armbrister spearhead the defense

Except for Anthony Chickillo, I don’t think there is anything special about the Miami defensive line. The Canes rank #104 in the country in tackles for loss, and #52 in sacks. This isn’t a group of playmakers up front. However, they are a very experienced group, and they are disciplined and gap sound.

The strength of the Miami defense is at linebacker in the form of Denzel Perryman and Thurston Armbrister. Perryman is a 4-year starter who mans the middle, and Armbrister is a good athlete who can make plays in the backfield.

Perryman: 51 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sacks, 1 INT
Armbrister: 39 tackles, 6 TFL, 5 sacks

Perryman and Armbrister have combined for 10 of Miami’s 32 TFL, and six of their 16 sacks. They also have three of Miami’s eight forced fumbles.

Make no mistake, these two guys are the heart and soul of Miami’s defense. If the Hokies can manage to get Perryman and Armbrister blocked on a consistent basis, then the offense can have a very good day. However, that’s going to be easier said than done.

Stacy Coley wants to have a big game against the Hokies

Last season, Stacy Coley was responsible for a huge fumble against Virginia Tech on an early punt return. The fumble resulted in a Trey Edmunds touchdown that tied the game. Without the fumble, the Canes would have had the ball in Tech territory already holding a 7-0 lead.

Coley is averaging 9.1 yards per punt return and 24.4 yards per kickoff return. He is very dangerous in the open field, and you can bet he wants to atone for his huge turnover against the Hokies a year ago.

Who will win the penalty battle?

Virginia Tech has struggled with penalties this year:

Penalties per game rank: #120
Penalty yards per game rank: #108

That’s as bad as it gets. Or is it? Here’s how Miami ranks…

Penalties per game rank: #111
Penalty yards per game rank: #117

The Hokies hold a slight advantage in penalty yards per game, though they are a bit worse than Miami in total penalties per game. No matter how you slice and dice it, neither team has been able to keep the yellow handkerchiefs off the field this season.

The team that reverses that trend on Thursday night (if either can manage it) could very well find themselves celebrating a win.

Final Thoughts

I keep going back and forth on who I believe will win this game. I think each team has certain matchup advantages. I think the fact that Bud Foster will be facing a true freshman quarterback is a good thing. However, the mounting injuries the Hokies are facing really bother me. Cam Phillips (toe) and Isaiah Ford (ankle) have been in blue for parts of this week, and neither is 100%. Though Marshawn Williams will likely play, he isn’t participating in all periods of practice, so I really don’t think he’s 100%, and I question whether or not he can be effective. The fact that Jerome Wright, who hasn’t played in a game all year, is getting a lot of reps with the #1 offense says quite a bit about where the Hokies are offensively right now.

On the defensive side of the ball, Chase Williams is out. That means r-freshman Andrew Motuapuaka will make his first start at mike linebacker, and he struggled after Williams went out against Pitt. Motuapuaka was a little slow reacting at times, and often found himself caught up in traffic. Against Duke Johnson, and against the Miami offensive line, that’s a major concern.

On the other hand, Miami is 0-3 on the road. Oh, but the Hokies haven’t beaten a Power 5 opponent at home for over a year, so I guess those two things cancel each other out. I suppose this game, like most other matchups in the Coastal Division this year, is a complete toss up.

Here’s what I really don’t like: The Hokies haven’t played well against a quality opponent since the Ohio State game.

ECU (5-1): L
GT (5-2): L
WMU (4-3 MAC team): W
UNC (3-4): W
Pitt (4-3): L

The Hokies beat a MAC team, and then beat a UNC team with a losing record. They were defeated by ECU and Georgia Tech, who will both go bowling. Then they lost to a Pitt team who is now 4-3, and which had lost three games in a row. Tech has won the two games they should have won on paper, and they lost the three toss up games. That’s a concern, considering Thursday night’s game against Miami is considered a toss up.

I’ll go with the law of averages and pick the home team. Virginia Tech hasn’t defeated at Power 5 team at home in over a year. That streak can’t continue, right?

Chris’ Prediction: Virginia Tech 23, Miami 20

Will Stewart’s Take: Virginia Tech played a bad game last Thursday night, especially in the first half, and the tendency after a game like that is to let it color how you view the next game. The bottom line is that Virginia Tech is not as bad as they looked last Thursday against Pitt, and they won’t play that poorly again.

But how much better will they play? Good enough to win?

To me, the key to beating the ‘Canes is really simple: When Miami faces a third down, stop them short of the sticks and get them off the field. Other than penalties, it’s their major weakness, and since the Hokies are just as bad as the ‘Canes at committing penalties, winning the third down battle is really Tech’s biggest key to victory.

Since (and including) the 1995 game, the Hokies are 7-2 against Miami in Lane Stadium. The only two ‘Canes teams to beat Tech in Blacksburg in two decades are the 2001 National Championship team, and a talented 2005 Miami team that went 9-3 and played their best game of the season the night they downed #3 VT 27-7. Winning in Blacksburg is not something Miami does often.

I’m torn, because I have zero respect for Miami’s football team — I think they’re soft and have no discipline as a program — but the numbers look daunting. Of larger concern to me is how many injuries the Hokies have suffered, and a feeling that Chase Williams being out might be the tipping point. If the Miami coaching staff puts together a game plan with a brain — an iffy prospect, based on past performances and game plans — they’ll run right at Andrew Motuapuaka, and try to catch the energetic but young mike linebacker out of position, as Pittsburgh did a couple times. Motuapuaka also has to call the defense and get everyone in position properly in his first start at mike, a tall order. That alone makes me want to pick the Hokies to lose.

The Hokies need to get their mojo back and start playing with confidence again. A Thursday night game against Lane Stadium against the hated ‘Canes — Virginia Tech’s best rivalry, in my opinion — is good medicine to accomplish that, and I recommend that the Hokies sport all-maroon unis in this Maroon Effect game to get everyone fired up, and then go out and leave it all on the field.

I think the Hokies will play hard and do some things well, but Brad Kaaya’s performance is picking up too much steam for my comfort level, the Miami skill position players have too much big play capability for my liking, the Miami defense is too experienced, and Chase Williams being out is too big a concern for me.

Will’s Prediction: Miami 27, Virginia Tech 20

Who do you think will win the VT-Miami game?

  • VT wins by 1-9 (29%, 330 Votes)
  • VT wins by 10-19 (9%, 103 Votes)
  • VT wins by 20+ (3%, 33 Votes)
  • Miami wins by 1-9 (31%, 346 Votes)
  • Miami wins by 10-19 (23%, 254 Votes)
  • Miami wins by 20+ (5%, 57 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,121

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17 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I’m not saying Miami is good, but I think given the folks that currently make up our 2 deep, that they are better than us. We are hurt, we lacked fire at Pitt, something appears to be physically wrong with our QB and our RB situation is a mess. Stack that up against a D missing our best lineman and our coordinator…. I think that’s not a good combination.

    I hope we win. I’ll be rooting hard for us to win. I just don’t think it will happen.

  2. The winner can keep their Coastal Division title hopes alive?

    WOW. You guys are reeeeally optimistic.

  3. Will, I am with you on your pick for the winner. I said several weeks back that VT could and would lose at least three games this year. Looks they are heading on past that…. Hope Not but all signs are showing just that.

  4. I just don’t see our O-line giving Brewer any option but to immediately run for his life and think with the injuries to RB’s we simply don’t have a running game. Throw in injuries on D, I just don’t see us able to put enough points on the board. I think Miami will own both lines and that ends up being the difference in the game. I hope I’m wrong!

    1. Have you seem scUM’s D play? They’re as putrid as our O and they haven’t “owned” any decent line this year. Geesh

  5. Some what interesting to see that a majority of people who responded to the poll still pick the Hokies to win. I think some people vote what they want see happen rather than what is most likely. While I really want VT to win this one, given our history, current trending, plus injured key players, I feel it is not likely that VT will win. However, many of us were wrong about the OSU game…

  6. Wow, our D held Miami under 300 yds 5 of 6 games 2004-09. Since 2010, UM is getting a lot more yds on us

  7. Sigh…if we had Shai & Trey, I think we roll over them. Without those guys AND Chase AND Maddy, we’re going to have to force mistakes.

    Bucky & Malleck could have big games vs their safeties, Byrn might be the sleeper as UM has messed up the drag route against us a lot

  8. It would be great to see VT D rankings each week in comparison to the teams that our opponent previously faced (especially since even VTs rankings will change somewhat as the season progresses). Just a recommendation- thanks again for the hard work in putting this analysis together!

  9. Hard to see a win in this game. The injuries on D are a key concern given the U offensive speed and big play ability. I just to not think (absent U turnovers) the VT offense can score enough to win this one. We need to run a kick back or block a punt.

  10. Since I live in Huskerville and have Nebraska season tickets, I had the opportunity to watch Miami when they came to Lincoln earlier this year. In summary, Nebraska had their way with them on the ground, rushing for 343 yards (Ameer had 229 yards in 35 carries and Armstrong tacked on 96). Because Nebraska had such a dominant ground game, they only attempted 13 passes (thankfully) and completed 9. So, Miami had to play catch up.
    Miami started the game by spreading the field with twin receivers on both sides and often used Johnson as a receiver (he caught 5 passes for 84 yards). So, it appeared that their game plan for Nebraska was to attack them through the air. Miami was very pass heavy with Kaaya attempting 42 passes (completed 28, but had 2 interceptions). Johnson did do some damage on the ground, gaining 93 yards on 18 attempts.
    It will be interesting to see if Miami comes out with the intent to establish the running game, or if they start out with a spread hurry up offense (ala Texas Tech) like they did against Nebraska.
    Btw, there was lots of jawing going on and more than a couple of times the refs had to break things up.

  11. Unfortunately I think our defense will give up a few too many big plays for scores and offense will be unable (inept) to overcome those mistakes.

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