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Hot Read: ‘Canes Escape Blacksburg With Win

By Dave Holcomb
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Dave Holcomb recaps Miami's dramatic 25-24 win at Virginia Tech.

Although last year was an exception, the Miami-Virginia Tech rivalry has produced some lopsided contests recently. Over the last five years, Hurricanes-Hokies matchups have been decided by an average of 16 points.

But Saturday, just one point stood between Miami and Virginia Tech, as the Hurricanes mounted a second-half comeback to win in Blacksburg, 25-24.

Here are five observations from the very important win for No. 9-ranked Miami:

D’Eriq King saves the day

The Hurricanes quarterback didn’t stand out on the stat sheet. He played better in the second half, and yet his offense still had four three-and-outs in the third and fourth quarters.

But on two of his final five drives of the game, King led the Hurricanes to touchdowns. First trailing 24-13, King orchestrated a 13-play, 75-yard drive, which included 63 total yards from the quarterback. On the second touchdown drive, King capped off an 82-yard march with a 36-yard touchdown throw to Mark Pope.

King finished with 255 passing yards and two total touchdowns.

Virginia Tech hangs with Miami after tough loss to Liberty

While the Hokies lost, they did plenty of things well in this game, which was impressive going up against a top 10 team a week after a very tough loss to Liberty. Virginia Tech’s defense held King to only 15 rushing yards and Miami’s high-powered offense to 386 total yards. The Hurricanes didn’t reach 14 points in either half.

The Hokies offense started slowly, but it eventually revved up its ground game, finishing with 160 rushing yards. Virginia Tech didn’t outgain Miami, but the Hokies averaged more yards per play (5.10 versus 4.49)

Hurricanes penalties nearly costly

Miami came into the afternoon as the fifth-most penalized team in the ACC. That problem continued Saturday, as the Hurricanes went over their penalty yardage average with 77 yards on eight fouls.

The worst Miami penalty came late in the third quarter right after scoring its first touchdown of the half. Jaelan Phillips and Sam Brooks Jr. sacked Hooker, which was going to force Virginia Tech to face a third-and-16 at its own 13-yard line. But instead, Bubba Bolden committed a personal foul away from the play, giving Virginia Tech a first down.

Fortunately for the Hurricanes, they still managed to force a punt seven plays later, but the foul did make the fourth quarter more difficult for the Miami offense because it changed field position. The Hurricanes can’t continue to make those types of penalty mistakes if they want to win the ACC.

Suspenseful final drive thanks to 2-point tries

Manny Diaz made his own error in the second half as well, chasing points when he didn’t need to. After scoring to pull within five, Diaz elected to go for a two-point conversion to move within a field goal.

But with a whole quarter remaining, it was too early to go for two. The Hurricanes missed the try, which was a rather interesting swing pass to an eligible offensive tackle. That decision and miss forced Miami to go for another 2-pointer after scoring its next touchdown because at that point, a PAT was only going to give Miami a two-point lead with six minutes left. Again, the Hurricanes failed to convert.

Due to the two missed 2-pointers, the final drive was a lot more suspenseful because Virginia Tech could have won with a field goal. Had the Hurricanes kicked two PATs, they would have ahead by three.

Miami overcame this Saturday, but like the penalties, chasing points is not something the team wants to be doing a lot.

Miami remains in ACC Championship race

The Hurricanes already lost to Clemson and don’t play Notre Dame, so their chances of earning a spot in the ACC Championship Game is slim, but it would have altogether been eliminated had they lost. King’s comeback heroics keep Miami alive in the conference championship race.

Barring a COVID-19 cancellation, Miami ends the season with matchups against Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and North Carolina. The Demon Deacons gave the Tar Heels a scare Saturday, but in all likelihood, the Hurricanes have a good chance to remain a one-loss team heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

The schedules for Notre Dame and Clemson aren’t any harder, but as long as Miami keeps winning, there’s pressure on the Tigers and Irish to do the same not only for the playoff race but the conference title game as well.