Miami is prepping for another showdown, but it’s missing a deadly weapon – the injured Duke Johnson.
On Saturday, the No. 11 Hurricanes (7-1, 3-1 ACC) take on Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2 ACC) at Sun Life Stadium in a matchup that has created several memorable moments over the years.
Miami leads the overall series 18-12, and the Canes are 11-5 at home against the Hokies.
The game also marks Miami’s 79th Homecoming contest. The Hurricanes are 50-26-2 on Homecoming, including a 2-2 mark versus Virginia Tech.
But without Johnson’s go-to yardage, the Miami offense needs to pull its scoring from other sources. Lucky for the Canes, they have another capable sophomore running back named Dallas Crawford.
Crawford is averaging a touchdown every 7.5 offensive touches. Coach Al Golden acknowledged that Crawford’s role on special teams might also be impacted in Johnson’s absence.
“We have to pull him back a little bit,” said Golden, because as Crawford’s overall touches climb, his appearances on special teams will be limited. “That means Jamal Carter, Jermaine Grace, guys like that need to step up and do a great job for us. We’ll do that.”
Golden said the Canes are prepared to adjust.
“We’ve added Gus Edwards and those guys to some other units,” he said. “Certainly Eduardo [Clements] and Dallas are two of our better special teams players and we’ve had to pull back on some of their reps because of how many reps they’ll be getting on first, second and third down.”
The Hurricanes will look to Stephen Morris for answers in the air. Morris is fourth on Miami’s career passing list and is one of only seven 6,000-yard passers in program history. The senior has surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, former NFL quarterbacks Steve Walsh, Kyle Wright, Bernie Kosar, Ryan Clement, Craig Erickson and Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde.
His most consistent target, senior Allen Hurns, is on pace to crack Miami’s top 10 lists for career receptions (92) and career receiving yards (1,319). Hurns is tied for 10th in career touchdowns with 12.
But the Hokies stand as the most formidable ACC opponent left on the schedule after last week’s trip to face the Seminoles.
“Virginia Tech has won seven of the last 10 against us,” Golden said. “They’re 4-2 in their last six trips to Miami. They know what’s coming into town – this is a tough, rugged team that’s built on playing hard-nosed defense and running to the ball. I think they have 28 sacks, so being disruptive. They’ve always been great on special teams. We know what we’re in for. But I also think the guys know there’s a plot to play for here in November. As much as it was a painful loss for us the other night, we really have to move forward quickly.”