Turnovers key to Hurricanes’ success on defense

The Hurricanes’ defense continued its havoc-wreaking ways with three interceptions and a fumble recovery against Virginia Tech on Saturday. Miami leads all ACC teams with 15 takeaways on the year and is tied for 11th nationally out of 128 teams in turnovers created. The Canes already have 11 interceptions this season, one more than the team had all of last year.

The entire defense is contributing toward taking the ball away, but the secondary in particular is playing at a different level. Four defensive backs account for 10 of Miami’s 11 interceptions, and members of the secondary have three of the team’s four fumble recoveries. Leading Miami’s pass coverage is junior defensive back Artie Burns, who now has five interceptions through six games after adding two more against the Hokies.

“I’m just trusting my technique,” Burns said after Miami’s 30-20 win over Virginia Tech on Saturday. “I’ve been working on my craft over the offseason, getting better with ball control and stuff like that and making plays.”

Both of Burns’s interceptions on Saturday came at crucial points for the Canes. The Hokies were 30 yards away from tying the game at 20 early in the third quarter until Burns read quarterback Brenden Motely perfectly and made a leaping grab over his receiver.

Burns then iced the game with his interception on quarterback Michael Brewer with 2:29 remaining. Virginia Tech Head Coach Frank Beamer benched Motley after he threw a pick straight to sophomore linebacker Juwon Young late in the third quarter.

Young said his first career interception “definitely boosted” his confidence. The seldom-used Georgia native came in for starting linebacker senior Raphael Kirby after Kirby left the game with a knee injury with 6:54 left in the third quarter.

“I’ve been kind of down, just waiting on my chance,” Young said. “So now I finally got it, but it boosted my confidence a lot.”

Virginia Tech Offensive Coordinator Scot Loeffler lamented his group’s giveaways after the game.

“We threw three interceptions today. That’s why we lost the game,” Loeffler said. “Whenever you walk in against a team that’s No. 1 in the ACC in turnover margin, you cannot turn over the football. That’s the number one thing we walked into this game saying we cannot do.”

Sophomore defensive lineman Trent Harris started Miami off with a fumble recovery on Virginia Tech’s first drive of the game. Harris came charging at quarterback Brenden Motely unblocked, and Motley dropped the ball back at the Hokies’ three-yard line. Sophomore Joseph Yearby scored one play later to put the Canes on top 7-0 nearly three minutes into the game.

While the defense racks up takeaways, the offense has only turned the ball over twice all year. Miami (4-2, 1-1) will need this trend to continue if the team is going to challenge for an ACC Coastal Division title.

The Hurricanes next play No. 6 Clemson at 12 p.m. Saturday at Sun Life Stadium.