The results of Saturday’s game against the Virginia Tech Hokies will be a telling sign for how the rest of the season will go for the Hurricanes.
They have two options: Win and maintain the opportunity to have a winning season, or lose and risk going 2-3 into a tough match-up against a ranked Virginia team.
The good news for the Canes is that Virginia Tech has struggled so far this season, also at 2-2. The Hokies are coming off a 45-10 loss at the hands of Duke last week.
Meanwhile, Miami has had two weeks to recover from an abysmal 17-12 win over a less than mediocre Central Michigan team.
“Many of us had a bad performance last game,” head coach Manny Diaz said. “When you play a game, you try to play your best. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, you work on it during the course of the week and you get another chance to prove yourself during the game.”
One of Miami’s biggest issues heading into Saturday’s matchup is the team’s inability to convert on offense, which starts with the offensive line.
The young offensive line visibly struggled last game, allowing four sacks, one of which lead to a safety for CMU. Miami is also currently ranked last in third down completion percentage, with just 10 conversions on 43 attempts.
Diaz, however, said he believes the offense will be able to improve on third down.
“Third down is a manner of winning your one on one matchup,” Diaz said. “I think our third down offense will continue to improve. We probably spent over 20 minutes in practice on third downs.”
If the Canes are able to see improvement in both the offensive line and convert on third down, they should have no problem scoring against a Virginia Tech defense that gave up four scoring plays of 17 yards or longer last week.
Quarterback Jarren Williams, who continues to be a bright spot for Miami, has thrown for 1,027 yards and 7 touchdowns this season, without an interception. Williams had a 70.8 completion percentage last week against Central Michigan.
Offensive coordinator Dan Enos said he thinks the offense is finally starting to click, and that at the end of the day, success comes down to making plays.
“These guys are really starting to understand it,” Enos said. “We play with tremendous effort and toughness. We just got to make routine plays right now back from last week that we didn’t do.”
Miami is also preparing for the potential return of running back Lorenzo Lingard, who has been out with an injury since October of last year. Diaz emphasized that preparation is necessary for Lingard to make his return.
“You can’t account for a lack of missed reps,” Diaz said about Lingard. “He’s not doing anything wrong, he’s just developing as a player.”
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Blake Baker is excited about the season debut of transfer safety Bubba Bolden and injured defensive tackle Nesta Silvera, who will provide the depth on the defensive side that the Canes desperately need.
“From a depth standpoint, they are going to provide a huge boost for us, but also just a spark of energy,” Baker said. “They have both had two really good weeks of practice.”
This will be the 37th meeting between the two teams which have played each other for consecutive years since 1993. Since 1995, Virginia Tech leads the series 14-8.
“It’s a big game,” Williams said. “We just gotta go out and do what we’ve been coached to do.”
The Hurricanes will face the Virginia Tech Hokies on Oct. 5 at 3:30 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN.