Football, Sports

Virginia Tech presents defensive challenge as Hurricanes look to continue momentum in Blacksburg

Tight end Will Mallory (85) is tackled by N.C. State safety Jakeen Harris (6), Tyler Baker-Williams (13) and Cecil Powell (4) during the first half of Miami's game versus N.C. State at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina on Friday, Nov. 6.

Tight end Will Mallory (85) is tackled by N.C. State safety Jakeen Harris (6), Tyler Baker-Williams (13) and Cecil Powell (4) during the first half of Miami's game versus N.C. State at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina on Friday, Nov. 6. Photo credit: Ethan Hyman/ACC/The News & Observer

With at least 15 college football games cancelled or postponed this weekend, it’s a feat in itself that the No. 9 Hurricanes will be traveling to Blacksburg, Virginia to face the Virginia Tech Hokies this Saturday.

The Hurricanes had 11 players listed as unavailable for last week’s win over NC State, most likely due to a positive Covid-19 test or contact tracing. Star tight end Brevin Jordan was included in that list of players.

“It will be better. We are getting guys back,” Miami head coach Manny Diaz said this week. “It’s still incremental as the week goes on and we are still at the mercy of the testing throughout the week.”

Miami (6-1, 5-1 ACC), is a two-point underdog for the game that is slated to kickoff at 12 p.m. on ESPN.

The Hokies (4-3, 4-2) are coming off a 38-35 loss to now No. 22 Liberty. With an opportunity to win the game on a last-second 59-yard field goal, Liberty’s kick appeared to be blocked and returned for a touchdown by Virginia Tech, but the officials ruled VT head coach Justin Fuente called a timeout before the kick, giving Liberty another chance on a 51-yard kick, which was made for the win.

Offensively, Virginia Tech is dominant in the run game. As a team, they are averaging 277 rushing yards per game, which ranks fourth in the nation. The Hokies are led by redshirt junior quarterback Hendon Hooker, who is responsible for 15 touchdowns this season, a team-high eight rushing and seven passing. The 6’4 quarterback has run for 515 yards this season, including a 164 rushing yard game against Boston College in October. He has also thrown for 870 yards with a 65 percent completion rate.

Running back Khalil Herbert is Virginia Tech’s other dominant offensive weapon. Herbert is questionable for the game after he injured his hamstring on the opening kick return against Liberty last weekend, which forced him to miss the remainder of that game. Herbert is averaging 8.4 yards per carry with 803 rushing yards on 96 carries and six touchdowns this season.

The key for Miami defensively will be to stop the run game, which is something they have struggled to do in the past, specifically against teams with strong running backs, like Clemson’s Travis Etienne and Louisville’s Javian Hawkins. The Hurricanes are currently giving up 148 rushing yards per game. Offensively, however, quarterback D’Eriq King should have the another opportunity to use his running ability effectively. The Hokies are allowing an average of 31.5 points per game, 202 rushing yards per game and 257 passing yards per game.

While the Hurricanes are focused on winning one game at a time, the chances of making it to the ACC Championship game in late December are still real. The top two teams in the conference with the highest winning percentage will play each other in the title game. Right now, Clemson (7-1, 6-1) and Notre Dame (7-0, 6-0) sit atop the division. Clemson’s only loss came at the hands of Notre Dame last weekend, so if either team loses one or more games, the Hurricanes still have a chance.

But Diaz told his team the only thing they can focus on is going 1-0 this weekend, which they will try to do Saturday afternoon.

November 14, 2020

Reporters

Isabella Didio


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