Virginia Tech turned up the pressure on defense and made an underutilized offensive weapon into the star of the show on Thursday night as they blasted Miami 37-16 to keep pace in the ACC Coastal race.
Fullback Sam Rogers had a huge game from out of nowhere to get the Hokies’ offense going with several big plays. His first came halfway through the second quarter when he snuck out of the backfield and rumbled 52 yards just short of the goal line to set up the first touchdown of the night.
He saved his best for the second half however as he actually threw a touchdown to all but seal the victory on a bit of trickeration, rolling right before finding fellow fullback Steven Peoples on a wheel route.
Quarterback Jerod Evans threw for 259 yards and two scores while rushing for 98 and a touchdown on the ground as well. Sophomore tailback Travon McMillian also chipped in 131 yards on the night for a lofty 7.3 yards a carry.
The story of the night for Miami was just how under siege the offense was as Bud Foster’s defense pressured quarterback Brad Kaaya on nearly every dropback and wound up with eight sacks. The Hurricanes signal-caller did throw for over 300 yards and two scores while tossing a few NFL-caliber passes but it just wasn’t enough with the game resting squarely on his shoulders. The ground game never got going as they rushed for under two yards a carry.
The win allows Virginia Tech to keep pace in the ACC Coastal as they pull even with North Carolina at 3-1 in the conference but take first place in the division on account of their head-to-head win. The Hokies remain in the driver’s seat for an ACC title game berth as they take on Pitt next week.
For Miami, the loss was their third straight on the year after dropping a heartbreaker to Florida State earlier in the month. The Hurricanes continue to deal with injures and lost several more players on Thursday as they head back to South Florida looking to regroup after a rough outing against the Hokies.
Miami and Virginia Tech got together for a big ACC Coastal clash and each squad’s defense stepped up with numerous big plays on Thursday night as the Hokies held onto a 16-9 halftime lead.
The biggest play of the first half came from a surprising source: senior fullback Sam Rogers, who was wide open on a pass over the middle of the field and rumbled 52 yards to set up the Hokies’ only touchdown. That score came one play later as quarterback Jerod Evans found Bucky Hodges in the end zone from seven yards out.
Evans eventually finished the half with 147 yards on 12-of-19 passing and chipped in another 36 rushing.
Virginia Tech’s defense was able to come up with some big plays of their own to limit the normally productive Miami offense. QB Brad Kaaya was pressured on nearly every snap but finished the half with 201 yards through the air. In addition to throwing an interception into triple coverage, he was also sacked three times. The UM ground game also couldn’t get going either, averaging less than a yard per carry.
The game’s momentum seemed to change completely for the Hurricanes when Kaaya hit David Njoku for a big gain on a coverage bust but the speedy tight end was tackled by the Lane Stadium turf monster despite a wide open path to a touchdown. Miami eventually kicked a field goal on the drive but couldn’t get going at all until entering their hurry up offense with just over a minute left in the second quarter, scoring a late touchdown but missing the extra point to keep it a seven point game.
It should make for a fun second half if the visitors from South Florida can back into things like they did just before halftime as each team needs a win badly if they want to win the division.
When Miami takes the field Thursday night against Virginia Tech, the Hurricanes will do so with a significantly depleted defense.
On The U’s official injury report, starting defensive end Chad Thomas is listed as questionable with an upper extremity injury. However, both Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald and Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post are reporting that Thomas did not travel to Blacksburg with the team and will not play in the prime-time game against the Hokies.
Thomas suffered the injury in last Saturday’s loss to North Carolina.
Additionally, fellow starting end Demetrius Jackson and starting cornerback Sheldrick Redwine have been ruled out as well. Jackson is nursing an injured knee, while Redwine was not listed on The U’s injury report and the reason for his absence — he didn’t make the trip, either — is unknown.
Thomas, who has started all six games this season, currently leads the ‘Canes in tackles for loss with eight, while Jackson is tied for second with 5.5. Jackson has started five of the six games.
Redwine has started the last five games for the Hurricanes, the first starts of his collegiate career.
Sam Bruce‘s time at Miami came to an abrupt end, but the former highly-touted recruit’s impact on the football program is still being felt.
According to the CBS affiliate in Miami, Sam Bruce was arrested Monday night and charged with marijuana possession. The station’s website writes that the arrest came after police spotted “several people getting high in a car.”
The Palm Beach Post, meanwhile, writes that “[t]wo of Bruce’s former UM teammates, freshmen safety Cedrick Wright and tight end Jovani Haskins, were with Bruce when he was arrested.” Neither of those two Hurricane football players were arrested or charged.
A week ago, The U announced that Bruce had been dismissed for “multiple” violations of team rules, as well as a “failure” to meet the expectations for players set by first-year coach Mark Richt.
In early September, and prior to a broken leg playing basketball, it was confirmed that Bruce would be suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season. The stated reason for the suspension was the standard unspecified violations of team rules, although that punitive measure stemmed from an incident while he was still in high school.
It was reported in mid-July that the prized recruit was facing a suspension by The U because of a photo that showed him “brandishing a gun.” That incident this past February, which involved a male student and centered on Bruce’s ex-girlfriend, led to Bruce withdrawing from his high school, St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale.
Bruce was a four-star member of The U’s most recent recruiting class, rated as the No. 11 receiver in the country and the No. 13 player at any position in the state of Florida. The 5-8, 180-pound Bruce had been expected to contribute immediately to the Hurricanes in both the passing and return games, but he didn’t appear in any games during his very brief time with the program.
Better against a Hurricane than in one, North Carolina dispatched Miami 20-13 on Saturday to make things interesting in the ACC Coastal race once again.
While the skies did open up and start raining heavily in the fourth quarter at Hard Rock Stadium, the Tar Heels were able to hold on thanks to a key defensive stop and a handful of big plays on offense.
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky returned to his early season form for UNC after a bad outing against Virginia Tech in stormy weather, bouncing back to throw for 299 yards and two scores while adding another 47 on the ground. He did most of the damage in the first two quarters as Miami turned up the pressure after halftime and the Tar Heels offensive line started to falter as the result of a few key injuries.
Running back Elijah Hood returned to limited action in the backfield but averaged just 2.4 yards a carry. T.J. Logan did most of the work on his way to an 84 yard effort.
North Carolina’s defense was particularly impressive, limiting QB Brad Kaaya to just 16-of-31 passing (224 yards) and holding the Canes under four yards a carry. They also stepped up big as Miami threatened to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, with Malik Carney forcing a sack/fumble that Jeremiah Clarke recovered to seal the win in the closing minutes.
The victory, when combined with Virginia Tech’s loss to Syracuse, keeps Larry Fedora’s squad atop the ACC Coastal standings in surprising fashion. Miami’s second straight home loss will cause many to question just how good the young team is but they are not out of the running in the division at all and fall to just 4-2 on the year.