Now is the time for the No. 21 Miami Hurricanes to be their toughest and most relentless.
It’s Miami’s last stand in the Atlantic Coast Conference as the Canes face the No. 14 Virginia Tech Hokies, who have an eight-game winning streak.
Miami (7-3, 5-2 ACC) will have to come out with passion, excitement and energy to give the Hokies (8-2) their first loss in the ACC.
Head coach Randy Shannon expects a tough game.
“Our last ACC team we have to play this season is an opportunity for us this week to put ourselves in situations of trying to win the ACC conference,” said Shannon, who is 1-0 against VT at home. “The only thing that matters to us is [that] we come out and play well against Virginia Tech. I think it’s a great rivalry between both teams because we know each other so well.”
Last season, the Hokies handed the Hurricanes their first loss, 31-7. Shannon referred to the game as embarrassing; Virginia Tech piled up 272 rushing yards, forced two turnovers and returned a block punt for a touchdown.
But the last time the Hurricanes played the Hokies at Sun Life Stadium, Miami beat Virginia Tech 16-14.
The defense held Virginia Tech to 2-for-11 on third-down conversions.
Shannon didn’t sugarcoat that the team with the fewest turnovers and the best running game would win.
“Virginia Tech beats you on turnovers,” Shannon said. “If we go out and there’s no turnovers in this game, it’ll be a low-scoring close game and we’ll have a great shot of winning.
The years we’ve won we haven’t turned it over, and ran the football. The years they’ve won they had a lot of turnovers and ran the football.”
This week freshman quarterback Stephen Morris will make his third straight start, since junior Jacory Harris is still sidelined with a concussion. Harris has thrown the ball around in practice, but has not participated in contact drills.
Despite last year’s blowout, the Canes contained quarterback Tyrod Taylor. He was held to 98 yards passing and 75 yards rushing. If the Hurricanes are able to stop Virginia Tech’s running game, then they have an opportunity to contain Taylor.
“I expect them to play hard,” said senior fullback Patrick Hill, who has led the way for the Hurricane running backs this season. “Despite whatever situations happen, I expect them to keep coming, play hard, play fast and physical. It’s going to be a 60-minute fight. They’ve been down and come back. They’re a hot team right now.”
If Miami is able to defeat the Hokies, the Hurricanes will need Virginia to pull another upset, this time in Blacksburg on Thanksgiving weekend.
“We just got to stay focused,” senior captain Leonard Hankerson said. “Do what we have to do and go into game day prepared. Play 11-on-11.”
Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.