Virginia Tech at UM, 7 p.m. Saturday, ESPN

Miami Hurricanes taking aim on winning ACC Coastal Division

 

In trying to rebound from its loss to FSU, UM knows that it can secure a possible rematch in the ACC championship game.

 
Miami quarterback Stephen Morris, (17), in the fourth quarter as the University of Miami hosts Wake Forest in football at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday, October 26, 2013.
Miami quarterback Stephen Morris, (17), in the fourth quarter as the University of Miami hosts Wake Forest in football at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday, October 26, 2013.
Al Diaz / Miami Herald Staff

sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com

Any painful remnants from their 41-14 thrashing at the hands of Florida State by now should be deep in the recesses of the Hurricanes’ psyches — at least that’s what UM coach Al Golden hopes.

On Monday morning, Golden said the Hurricanes were “still trying to dig out” of their postgame funk.

By Tuesday, they were staring straight toward Saturday opponent Virginia Tech, in its own turmoil after losing back-to-back games against Duke and Boston College.

“It might be a little bit harder for everybody on the outside to move forward, but we have to move forward,” Golden said. “This is going to take every ounce of energy we have Saturday night at 7.”

In another nationally televised matchup, the No. 14 Hurricanes (7-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) will meet the Hokies (6-3, 3-2) at Sun Life Stadium for a chance to take firm control of the Coastal Division.

Being undefeated would have been nice, but the Hurricanes’ most immediate goal — to win the Coastal side of the ACC and get to the league championship game — is still there for the taking.

The Canes are the only team on the Coastal side with one loss. The Hokies, Georgia Tech and Duke each have two losses. A win Saturday, with a road game at Duke next weekend, would get Miami closer to its first ACC title game.

Should the Canes win the Coastal, at that point they could start thinking about likely would-be opponent FSU.

“Right now there aren’t a lot of one-loss teams in the country,” Golden said. “We have a lot to play for. … There’s only one way to get what you want, and that’s through the Coastal Division.”

Virginia Tech has advanced to the ACC title game five of eight years, claiming the league title in 2007, 2008 and 2010. They also won in 2004, the year they exited the Big East and joined the ACC, along with the Canes.

The Hokies, still a defensive juggernaut under coach Frank Beamer and defensive coordinator Bud Foster, have struggled mightily on offense in their first year under offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.

They rank 101st nationally in total offense and 100th in scoring. Their quarterback, senior Logan Thomas, has committed eight turnovers in the past two games — six interceptions and two fumbles. Hokies fans are beginning to fume, but Beamer is remaining steadfast in his support of Thomas, who has 36 consecutive starts at quarterback and a school-record 8,152 career passing yards, among several other records.

“He gives us a chance to win,” Beamer said this week. “There is no question in our mind that he’s the guy.”

According to the Roanoke Times, which cited ESPN stats, Thomas’ 33 turnovers since the start of last season are tied for the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Thomas was in no mood to deal with the negativity coming his way early last week.

“You can go ahead and ask anybody… that’s a part of this program if they think there is any chance of me being taken out for a series and it would be a quick, ‘No,’ ” Thomas told Virginia Tech reporters Monday.

Given the loss of star UM running back Duke Johnson to a broken ankle and the erratic play of quarterback Stephen Morris, the Hurricanes are also ailing offensively.

Morris threw two of his 10 interceptions this season (to 12 touchdowns) in the second half last week. He has thrown eight picks in the past four games.

Johnson (920 yards and six touchdowns rushing and 1,393 all-purpose yards), who had surgery Monday night, will be replaced by sophomore Dallas Crawford and backups Gus Edwards and Eduardo Clements.

Crawford said Johnson told him “to pick up where he left off.

“He said he has full confidence in me. He knows I can do it.”

When Johnson left the game with a head injury in the first quarter Nov. 17 at North Carolina, Crawford rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns, the winning score coming with 16 seconds left.

“That was a big confidence-booster,” Crawford said.

“That’s what I expect out of myself now. Duke left big shoes to fill. I have to have games like I had at North Carolina in order for us to win.”

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