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Miami vs Virginia Tech: The Biggest Rivalry that Too Few Pay Heed

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Some people don't think of Miami as a rival to Virginia Tech. Well those some people would be flat out wrong. It might be sort of private, but the Hokies and the Hurricanes have a rolling fur ball going back more than 30 years. This game is critical to both programs. Who has the most to lose is anyone's guess, but neither team likes to, especially against the other. Independent, to Big East, to ACC; Miami vs. Virginia Tech is always serious.

Last Year, Disaster.  This year, vengence?  We'll see Miami and Tech buckle up again.
Last Year, Disaster. This year, vengence? We'll see Miami and Tech buckle up again.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

It all started for me, anyway, at the Peach Bowl on January 2, 1981.  It was our first bowl game in memory.  I'll have to check for earlier bowls in the pre John VT schedule, but that bowl game was the start of many things for this university's football program.  We were finally on national television.  Tech was after a decade of inching around as a perpetual borderline 1A, 1AA football program, on the TV across the nation.   Of course it would be our luck to face the Miami Hurricanes, with future Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly at the controls.  The loss was painful.  The game was far less disappointing in the score which was a more than respectable 20-10; but loses in front of national audiences have a greater more special sting to them.   This, I swear is where I began to think of Miami as a program that I wanted the Fighting Gobblers to grind into the turf every time we met them, from here on out.

Well, last year, Miami came to our house and embarrassed us.  It's actually one of those "I don't want to talk about it" sorts of losses because Tech flat out didn't show up to play football; and to add insult to injury, we did it on our home field.  There wasn't anything right about that game, and the rapidly emptying field by halftime was a stark reminder that the Hokies were beginning to lose their fan base to other things, like early dinner, laundry, and homework.  So, that's enough about that.

The Miami (FL) Hurricanes

Their mascot is an ibis.  Ok, it looks like a duck, but we aren't going to complain since Hokie Bird and a Wild Turkey bear so much resemblance to each other, but at least we're a bird.  What a destructive storm an ibis have to do with each other some Miami fan will have to clue me in on.  Suffice it to say, Miami's record is scarcely better than ours.  They are 3 and 2, with only one win against a major peer competitor (Nebraska) and two losses (Cincinnati and FSU) to show for what looks to be an above average offense, and a pretty good defense.   The ‘Cane losses were not particularly high scoring games, the Bearcats managed 34 points, but the Seminoles didn't dominate the game, and only came away with a narrow hard fought win (24-29).

There is that impulse to play matchup and give Miami less credit for returning to the ranks of the Costal contenders, but the team is still dangerous.  Add to that, the ACC Costal Division is a hot mess with no particular dominant program in place for the past half-decade.  Duke seems to be the current cream, but then things fall off into a jumble where Georgia Tech was the big winner, only to be hung with a down season this year.  It's difficult to see Miami giving up on any chance at taking a Costal championship home.  It lists out as a marginally better team than Pitt, and is capable of much more offense than any other team in the Costal except for Duke.  We will have to acknowledge that Georgia Tech's ‘special' option is not functioning this season.  This puts GTech in some special danger.

There is no denying that Al Golden is on a bubble this season.  He hasn't been awful, but Miami is not used to season after season of just barely winning, or being invited to sub-par booger bowls in December and January.  The Miami fan base wants wins, and eventually the pressure to move beyond the sanctions and dicey recruiting activity is going to be outweighed by the allure of championship bling.   The energy and emotion are going to be sky high to keep the ACC loss column minimized.  FSU might have been too much too soon, but the ‘Canes nearly won last week.  Al had Jimbo a bit itchy and sweaty in the neck ware region.

Brad Kaaya is a young quarterback with a solid season's field experience, and a Hokie win under his belt.  He is capable of slinging the ball around for serious yardage, and has the receivers needed to make that happen, though not as great as it has been in the past, the Miami offense can move the ball, and is capable of scoring points. (Statistics by Yahoo Sports this week)*

Passing

Comp

Att

Pct

Yds

Y/A

Y/G

TD

Int

Long

Sack

YdsL

QBRat

Brad Kaaya

115

189

60.8

1499

7.9

299.8

8

1

58

6

42

140.4

Herb Waters

1

1

100.0

26

26.0

5.2

0

0

26

0

0

318.4

Malik Rosier

2

6

33.3

24

4.0

8.0

0

0

13

0

0

66.9

Rushing

Rush

Yds

Y/G

Avg

Long

TD

Joseph Yearby

73

457

91.4

6.3

41

4

Mark Walton

47

187

37.4

4.0

17

5

Trayone Gray

16

118

59.0

7.4

33

1

Malik Rosier

2

4

1.3

2.0

6

0

Malcolm Lewis

1

-2

-1.0

-2.0

0

0

Brad Kaaya

11

-37

-7.4

-3.4

3

0

Receiving

Rec

Yds

Y/G

Avg

Long

TD

Rashawn Scott

29

415

83.0

14.3

58

2

Herb Waters

19

299

59.8

15.7

45

0

Stacy Coley

9

150

75.0

16.7

38

1

Joseph Yearby

11

126

25.2

11.5

52

2

Tyre Brady

7

99

49.5

14.1

34

1

David Njoku

5

96

32.0

19.2

40

0

Mark Walton

9

73

14.6

8.1

26

0

Standish Dobard

6

71

17.8

11.8

23

1

Christopher Herndon IV

7

66

16.5

9.4

15

1

Malcolm Lewis

5

47

23.5

9.4

17

0

Braxton Berrios

5

46

15.3

9.2

14

0

Lawrence Cager

4

37

12.3

9.3

13

0

Jerome Washington

1

13

13.0

13.0

13

0

Trayone Gray

1

11

5.5

11.0

11

0

The Hurricanes come into the contest with a nearly 7 point advantage, and though not at the "traditional" Miami level on either side of the ball, are very capable.  Kaaya can pass, as his numbers indicate, but his rushing attack is still diffuse and too low to present a threat that requires Tech to push more men into the box (Dime Formations instead of variations on the Nickel).  Look for the ‘Canes to put it in the air, pressure underneath the zone, their passing average shows that they are not afraid to push the ball down the field in a rapid hurry.

The Virginia Tech Hokies

The question here; "which Hokies show up on the field on both sides of the ball on Saturday?"  If the answer is the second and fourth quarter NC State game offense with the second, third, and fourth quarter defense from that game, then the Hokies don't deserve a one touchdown spread disadvantage.  That is, however, a huge question.  Virginia Tech's season, to date, has been marred by brutal inconsistency from quarter to quarter and game to game.  Tech over performed for a good part of the OSU game until Brewer got hurt.  We underperformed in the first half of the Furman game, and played an up and down game against Purdue.  Belaboring the ECU and Pitt non-performances will only poison the air.  We are looking for Tech to put that stuff behind it, and come out firing on all cylinders this weekend.

Brenden Motley has proven that if he has a modest amount of protection, and a game plan that fits his playing style, he can move the team and score points; especially on the ground.  His passing has been moderately successful and he has at least taken care of the ball, with a blessedly low interception rate (though 5 is still too many).   The Travon McMillian, Sam Rogers running express should be expected.  If it doesn't appear, then there will be issues.  Miami's defense is almost as good as Pitt's so every effort has to be made to influence the running game instead of brute forcing the issue.

All of this Motley oriented analysis goes to naught though if Brewer suits up and takes the field.  I have seen no indications that he is even on the active roster this weekend, though there are persistent rumors that he will be in uniform on the sidelines.   This offense is going to have to play hard for Motley.  It's also going to need to innovate and dare to be different than its normal.

The Tech Defense is going to be challenged.  It must get to Kaaya.  It also must shut down those 8 to 15 yard quick passes and keep Miami from moving consistently.  Even though the Hurricane run offense isn't the world's greatest.  It can gash opponents.  Tech's pass rush needs to be wary and refuse to overcommit.

My suspicion is that emotion and energy are going to be very important in this game.  Miami is the better football team at this point.  Tech is truly the underdog in this game, and being the underdog seems to be the best place for the Hokies to be.   Here are Yahoo's stats for us as of 10/15/2015*:

Passing

Comp

Att

Pct

Yds

Y/A

Y/G

TD

Int

Long

Sack

YdsL

QBRat

Brenden Motley

78

140

55.7

1019

7.3

169.8

10

5

61

13

96

133.3

Michael Brewer

11

16

68.8

156

9.8

156.0

2

0

51

2

9

191.9

Dwayne Lawson

3

9

33.3

51

5.7

12.8

0

0

31

0

0

80.9

Sam Rogers

1

1

100.0

13

13.0

2.6

0

0

13

0

0

209.2

Rushing

Rush

Yds

Y/G

Avg

Long

TD

Travon McMillian

43

319

53.2

7.4

63

1

Brenden Motley

71

194

32.3

2.7

22

3

Trey Edmunds

36

149

29.8

4.1

35

2

J.C. Coleman

37

120

20.0

3.2

10

1

Sam Rogers

18

105

21.0

5.8

29

1

Dwayne Lawson

14

55

13.8

3.9

10

1

Shai McKenzie

13

50

25.0

3.8

11

0

Chris Durkin

4

25

25.0

6.3

9

0

Isaiah Ford

2

17

2.8

8.5

10

0

Greg Stroman

5

5

2.5

1.0

6

0

Michael Brewer

4

0

0.0

0.0

6

0

A.J. Hughes

1

-4

-4.0

-4.0

0

0

Receiving

Rec

Yds

Y/G

Avg

Long

TD

Isaiah Ford

28

421

70.2

15.0

61

6

Cam Phillips

21

274

45.7

13.0

60

1

Bucky Hodges

14

207

41.4

14.8

46

2

Ryan Malleck

9

120

30.0

13.3

40

2

Sam Rogers

7

89

17.8

12.7

51

1

Travon McMillian

8

46

7.7

5.8

19

0

Kalvin Cline

1

31

31.0

31.0

31

0

Kevin Asante

1

13

13.0

13.0

13

0

Brenden Motley

1

13

2.2

13.0

13

0

J.C. Coleman

1

10

1.7

10.0

10

0

Trey Edmunds

1

8

1.6

8.0

8

0

Demitri Knowles

1

7

7.0

7.0

7

0

The IFs and Breaks:

We'll go with Virginia Tech, first, since we are the legitimate underdogs in this fracas.

The Hokies win IF, we establish a running game.  Rattle the keys on 1st down because moving the ball beyond puny gains will be critical.  Tech must avoid third down and long yardage situations.  Motley needs to be smart.  Protect the ball, and be quick about his decisions.  He is not going to get a lot of time to throw.  The team must play clean mistake free football.  The massive mountain of yellow laundry that both the defense and offense are laboring under is becoming a serious drain on the win/loss balance.   The coaching staff must make continual adjustments; it must eliminate any hope of a Hurricane running attack and make Kaaya throw the ball under pressure into bad situations.

Miami wins IF it can move the ball under the zone.  It needs to keep Kaaya on his feet, and out of bad decision making.   They need to run the ball enough to keep the defense honest, and the ‘Cane defense absolutely has to keep Motley struggling in 3rd and long for 3 and out situations.  In short, Miami needs Pitt's defense.

We will see how this one goes.  The Hokies are now in one game at a time mode.  Al Golden is going to be feeling the heat and pressure of another disappointing season so this is an absolute MUST win game for him.  Of course every game is a ‘must win' for us.

Kickoff is at 3:30 and the game is on ESPNU.

GO HOKIES!!!!!

*Sources:

http://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/teams/mmi/stats/

http://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/teams/vvd/stats/