It seems like every time Miami enters a football game as a sizeable underdog, it rises to the occasion in emphatic fashion.
The No. 5 Hurricanes (7-1, 4-1) relied on their top-ranked defense to force six turnovers in a 27-7 victory over No. 3 Virginia Tech (8-1, 5-1) on Saturday. A capacity crowd of 65,115 at Lane Stadium was silenced early, as Miami jumped out to a 27-0 lead and never looked back.
The Hokies entered the game undefeated, with players openly discussing their Rose Bowl chances before the Hurricanes even arrived to Blacksburg, Va. Miami quickly put a halt to the national championship conversation by holding highly-touted Hokie quarterback Marcus Vick to 8-for-22 passing for 90 yards, two interceptions and four fumbles.
“We didn’t let Marcus get comfortable today,” UM Head Coach Larry Coker told the Miami Herald. “It was an outstanding team win for us, just a tremendous effort by our defense. That was a huge difference in the game.”
While the defense set up 17 Hurricane points off turnovers, the offense controlled the clock and avoided making drive-crippling mistakes. Quarterback Kyle Wright overcame a dizzying shot to the head from Hokie defensive end Darryl Tapp to finish with 146 yards, one touchdown and an interception on 13-of-22 passing. Sophomore tailback Charlie Jones filled in admirably for Tyrone Moss, who left the game in the first half with a sprained knee, gaining 97 yards on 24 carries.
Both teams traded punts to begin the game before Thomas Carroll sacked Vick, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Rocky McIntosh at the Virginia Tech 29-yard line. Four plays later, Jon Peattie nailed a 27-yard field goal to put the Hurricanes on top 3-0.
On Miami’s next possession, the offense mounted a clock-eating 17 play, 82-yard drive, culminating in a one-yard Jones touchdown run on fourth-and-goal to make the score 10-0. Both defenses clamped down, and the Hurricanes’ lead remained 10 points at halftime.
Miami mounted another long drive to open the second half, gaining 72 yards on 12 plays before Peattie added another field goal for a 13-0 UM advantage. Vick led the Hokies to Miami’s 42-yard line when a bad snap was recovered by Orien Harris. About four minutes later, Wright found Darnell Jenkins for a nine-yard touchdown on third-and-goal to push the Hurricanes’ lead to 20 points.
Three plays later, Javon Nanton sacked Vick in the end zone, forcing a fumble, which was recovered by Vegas Franklin for a touchdown to officially close the door on the Hokies.
Virginia Tech was able to get into the end zone in the fourth quarter when Vick scored from two yards out.
After the victory, Wright told The Miami Herald that Miami’s underdog status helped motivate the team to prove doubters wrong.
“We played with a chip on our shoulder,” Wright said. “Anytime you’re counted out, when somebody says you’re not going to do something, it [pumps you up].”
The win leaves Miami hoping for a Southern Cal, Texas or Alabama loss down the stretch to propel the Hurricanes into the Rose Bowl picture.
“We’re just waiting for somebody to fall,” left tackle Eric Winston told the Herald. “It’s going to happen.”
Eric Kalis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.