The Hurricanes watched their 39-game regular season winning streak and Sugar Bowl chances vanish into thin air as Virginia Tech routed the ‘Canes 31-7 on Saturday night.
Miami (7-1, 3-1), who fell to No. 7 in the coaches’ poll, could not overcome a dropped pass in the end zone by Kevin Everett and two Brock Berlin interceptions as the Hokies (7-1, 3-1) built up a 31-0 lead that stood until Jason Geathers caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Derrick Crudup with 7:53 left in the fourth quarter.
Heisman candidate Kevin Jones rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries for the Hokies. The tandem of Bryan Randall and Marcus Vick combined to go only two-for-six for 44 yards, but Vick was able to find Ernest Wilford for a 46-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.
The two quarterbacks did their damage on the ground, with Vick gaining 23 yards on six carries, picking up crucial first downs throughout the game, and Randall rushing for 15 yards on five carries.
Junior quarterback Brock Berlin struggled mightily, going 16-for-25 for 164 yards and two interceptions before being pulled for Crudup in the third quarter. Crudup completed 13 of 21 passes for 97 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and rushed for 38 yards on six attempts.
Jarrett Payton gained 69 yards on 18 carries, but was unable to find the end zone. Ryan Moore led all receivers with seven catches for 101 yards, and Kellen Winslow had eight receptions for 48 yards.
The game started with a strong defensive showing from both teams, as neither squad was able to find the end zone in the first quarter. Virginia Tech was driving deep into UM territory but Brandon Meriweather picked off Randall’s third down pass, giving the Hurricanes the ball back.
The game remained a scoreless tie until early in the second quarter when the ‘Canes made their first significant blunder of the day. Roscoe Parrish coughed up the ball on a reverse and DeAngelo Hall returned the fumble for a 28-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Virginia Tech advantage.
The Hurricanes blew a golden opportunity to tie the game on a fake field goal attempt. Matt Carter threw a long pass to a wide-open Everett in the end zone, but the junior tight end could not hold onto the ball, giving the Hokies the ball back with good field position.
“We’d like to think it would be a different football game [if Everett had caught the ball],” Head Coach Larry Coker said after the game. “It was a good call. It was just a drop. Those are things in a game like this you just can’t have.”
The Hokies added a 39-yard Carter Warley field goal at the end of the second quarter to make the score 10-0 at the half.
The third quarter may go down as the worst 15 minutes in the history of Hurricane football, as the Hokies scored three touchdowns off of two interceptions to open up an insurmountable lead.
The ‘Canes were driving into Hokies territory when Berlin hurried a pass that was picked off by Eric Green, who ran down the sidelines unmolested for a 51-yard touchdown and a 17-0 lead.
The Hurricanes could not take advantage of a Thomas Carroll fumble recovery as Berlin was picked off on the ensuing play by Michael Crawford. Crawford’s 44-yard return set up a two-yard touchdown run by Jones.
“I was actually trying to get it out of bounds,” Berlin told ESPN.
Virginia Tech’s defense held the ‘Canes once again and needed just five offensive plays to blow the game open. Vick found Wilford for a 46-yard touchdown with 34 seconds left in the third quarter and the rout was on.
After Crudup’s touchdown pass put the Hurricanes on the scoreboard, the team had another chance to make the game respectable, driving deep into Hokies territory. Crudup was picked off in the end zone by Vincent Fuller, however, and Virginia Tech was able to start celebrating with the 65,115 fans in attendance.
In addition to snapping the ‘Canes’ 39-game regular season winning streak, the loss also put an end to UM’s 27-game Big East winning streak. The loss was only the second of Coker’s head coaching career with the Hurricanes.
All may not be lost for the ‘Canes, who now trail Pittsburgh by a game in the Big East Championship race. The team will get its chance against the Panthers on November 29.
The Hurricanes will have an opportunity to rebound against Tennessee this Saturday at the Orange Bowl.
Eric Kalis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.