Miami Gardens, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The 14th-ranked Miami-Florida Hurricanes try to bounce back from their first loss of the season, as they host the Virginia Tech Hokies in an Atlantic Coast Conference clash on Saturday evening.
After losing its opener to top-ranked Alabama, Virginia Tech caught fire with six consecutive victories, rising all the way to No. 16 in the AP poll. Since beating Pittsburgh on Oct. 12 however, the Hokies have fallen in consecutive contests, losing at home to Duke on Oct. 26 (13-10), and at Boston College last weekend (34-27), dipping to 3-2 in conference as a result.
"Things just aren't going our way sometimes, and then, we're not making it go our way," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "We're not making the plays we need to make or take care of the ball the way we need to take care of it. (We've) got to work (our) way out of these funks."
Miami started the season unranked but managed to rise to national prominence following a 7-0 start, but it had its hands full against No. 3 Florida State last Saturday, losing convincingly in Tallahassee, 41-14.
"Obviously, we didn't do enough (against Florida State) to put any pressure on them," Miami coach Al Golden said. "We needed one more score in the first quarter to put some pressure on them and then be able to stay with the running game. Once we started getting behind, it unraveled a little bit."
The Hurricanes currently sit in first place in the ACC's Coastal Division at 3-1, although a defeat in this bout would create a three-way tie in the loss column with Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech (5-2), which is idle this week.
Miami holds an 18-12 advantage in the all-time series with Virginia Tech. After the Hokies won three consecutive matchups from 2009-11, the Hurricanes snapped the slide with a 30-12 home win last season.
Virginia Tech has been able to compile an impressive record despite an offense that ranks 10th in the ACC in yardage (348.0 ypg) and 11th in scoring (22.1 ppg).
Quarterback Logan Thomas has been inconsistent in his senior season. While he has amassed solid numbers passing (2,056 yards, 11 TDs) and rushing (296 yards, four TDs), he is completing fewer than 56 percent of his throws and has tossed 12 interceptions, two of which came in last week's loss.
"Turnovers are the story again," Thomas said following the setback to BC. "We've got to take care of the football or we wouldn't have been in the position we were in. The defense played well, other than when we put them in bad field position."
Thomas has three very capable receivers to throw the ball to, as Demitri Knowles (35 catches, 450 yards, two TDs), Willie Byrn (34 catches, 424 yards, TD) and Joshua Stanford (27 catches, 455 yards) all rank in the top-20 in the ACC in receiving yards.
Trey Edmunds has carried the ball 125 times, nearly four times as often as any other back on the team, but he has just 447 yards (3.6 ypc) and five scores.
The Hokies' success this season is due in huge part to the play of their outstanding defense, which ranks third in the nation in allowing just 253.2 ypg, while also ranking in the top-10 in point allowed (16.9 ppg).
The unit's 17 interceptions is tied for second-most in the country, with Kendall Hunter and Brandon Facyson pacing the ball-hawing secondary with five and four picks, respectively. Jack Tyler leads the way with 74 tackles , while J.R. Collins, Dadi Nicolas, Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy all have at least 4.0 sacks.
In stark contrast to its counterpart here, Miami boasts a very good offensive attack, ranking third in the ACC in both scoring (36.4 ppg) and yards (458.1 ypg), but those numbers are expected to take a hit with the loss of star running back Duke Johnson, the conference's second-leading rusher with 920 yards. Johnson will miss the rest of the season after suffering an ankle injury in the Florida State game.
"I'm disappointed for (Duke) because he was really starting to understand how to be a good running back," Golden said. "He was really starting to convert talent to skill."
In Johnson's absence, Dallas Crawford (294 yards), who already had a large role in the red zone with nine touchdowns, will be asked to take on more of the load.
Stephen Morris will also be relied on more under center. The Hurricane's success this season has masked a lackluster campaign for their signal caller, who is completing just 59.5 percent of his passes for 1,655 yards with 12 touchdowns and a career-high 10 interceptions.
Allen Hurns is one of the best big-play receivers in the ACC with 33 receptions for 590 yards and four touchdowns. His 17.9 yards per catch ranks second in the league among players with at least 30 grabs.
While the Miami defense may not be having as impressive a season as Virginia Tech, it has still performed well in its own right, allowing only 20.6 ppg and 364.1 ypg, while holding opponents to just 37 percent on third-down conversion attempts.
Denzel Perryman has a team-high 63 tackles, while Shayon Green has 9.5 TFL and 3.0 sacks. Ladarius Gunter, Tracy Howard, Tyriq McCord and Rayshawn Jenkins have all picked off multiple passes.