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2010 Virginia Tech Football: What to Watch vs. Miami

No. 16 Virginia Tech Hokies (8-2, 6-0) at No. 24 Miami Hurricanes (7-3, 5-2)

The Team

  • I'll save you any drama and tell you right now that I think Miami's going to win this game. At the beginning of the year I picked Boise State and Miami as the two teams we'd lose to and I'm going to stand by that pick, even though it looks like Miami's going to start a freshman at quarterback. I don't think that's going to matter much because Miami's talented running backs matchup well against our inability to stop the run. I hope I'm wrong, but I think our troubles against the run are finally going to catch up with us.
  • Plus, the last time we had an eight-game win streak Miami stopped it and the Canes have handed us our only two November losses since joining the ACC. I expect our guys to come out motivated to clinch the Coastal, and It'll be a close, low-scoring game, but I think Miami will prevail at home.
  • And can we please not come out completely flat for once?

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Miami Defense

  • The biggest key for the Hokies will be establishing the run game against the Miami defense. It won't be easy and it may not work in the first half, but it's important the Hokies stick to the run. It is possible to run against this team, as Florida State and Clemson proved. I don't think the big runs will be there, but if we can get six to seven yard gains consistently we should be fine.
  • The problem is the Canes are big up front with two 305-pound tackles led by sophomore Marcus Fortson. Linebacker Sean Spence is often in on run-stopping plays and has seven tackles for loss in conference play.
  • Tyrod Taylor won't have the same time in the pocket he had against Georgia Tech and North Carolina, but that could end up being a good thing. Against GT and UNC, Tyrod seemed to hold the ball too long and was indecisive in the pocket. He won't have that option against Miami.
  • Even when Miami rushes four, they have some very good pass rushers at DE that they can rotate, led by Allen Bailey. Bailey, a senior, has six sacks in seven conference games, third in the ACC. With less time to react, we'll either see Tyrod find the form we saw in October, where he made quick, correct decisions in the pocket or we'll see a lot of sacks like we did the last time he played the Canes in Miami.
  • Another trend we have to see reversed is Tyrod's tendency to miss high on his passes. Unlike Georgia Tech and North Carolina, the Canes will make you pay on errant passes. Miami has 13 picks in conference play, tied for first in the ACC with the Hokies.
  • The Canes' secondary is loaded with talent and cornerback Brandon Harris gets a lot of the headlines. But the guy I'm most worried about is safety Vaughn Telemaque. Telemaque is having a great year as the quarterback of Miami's secondary and always seems to be around the ball. He has three interceptions this year.
  • We're going to see a lot of man coverage from the Canes, and Tyrod does better against man coverage. It will be up to Jarrett Boykin, Danny Coale and Marcus Davis to make plays against this secondary. If one of them is going to have a game, it will probably be Boykin, who's a better down-field receiver.
  • Talent-wise, this is the best defense we'll face all year. Yards are going to be hard to come by.

Virginia Tech Defense vs. Miami Offense

  • Unless Randy Shannon is putting on one of the bigger rouses in recent college football history, Jacory Harris will sit out this Saturday and Stephen Morris will be the quarterback. After being thrown into the fire in the second half against UVa, Morris has been solid, but did throw two interceptions against both UVa and Maryland, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
  • Morris led the Canes on a last-minute touchdown drive to beat the Terps, but he hasn't really been asked to put the team on his back. That's because Miami has had success on the ground the last two weeks. You can bet they'll try to get the ground game going this week to keep the pressure off Morris.
  • If the Canes run the ball 40 times, were in trouble because it means they're grinding away on the ground and picking up yards in big chunks. You'll see four running backs from the Canes but the two that I think we'll likely see the most of are Damien Berry and Lamar Miller. Berry is a bruising, between-the-tackles back who's a physical runner and Miller is a speed back who can pick up huge chunks of yards if he turns the corner.
  • The key for the Hokies will be getting their linebackers into the running lanes to try and shut down those gaps with Bruce Taylor and Lyndell Gibson. With Miller, we need to string him to the outside and allow our corners and safeties to get in on the tackles as well before he can turn the corner.
  • Tech needs to stop Miami on first down, get them into passing downs and force Morris to beat them. Hopefully the Hokies' secondary can do a better job stopping the Miami passing game than GT did last week.
  • Miami has a handful of wide receivers who can make game-changing plays led by senior Leonard Hankerson. He leads the conference with eight touchdowns in ACC play, including scores in five consecutive games.
  • Hankerson is prone to drops, but is the most versatile receiver the Canes have. They'll occasionally line him up in the slot, like UNC sometimes does with Dwight Jones to create mismatches. The Hokies will need a good game from Antone Exum, Kyle Fuller, Jeron Gouveia-Winslow and whoever else is thrown in there to stop Miami's slot receivers.
  • One thing we cannot afford is missed tackles. If we do that against Miami, guys like Miller and Travis Benjamin are going to burn us.

Watch the Box Score

  • Miami Yards Per Carry
  • Virginia Tech 3rd Down Pct
  • Tyrod Taylor Rushing Yards
  • Turnovers

Virginia Tech Players to Watch

  • 5 - Tyrod Taylor, Sr., QB
  • 34 - Ryan Williams, So., RB
  • 51 - Bruce Taylor, So., LB
  • 1 - Antone Exum, Fr., DB

Miami Players to Watch

  • 20 - Damien Berry, Sr., RB
  • 85 - Leonard Hankerson, Sr., WR
  • 31 - Sean Spence, Jr., LB
  • 7 - Vaughn Telemaque, So., FS

Final Score

Miami 20, Virginia Tech 16