The former Big East bullies are roaring in the Atlantic Coast Conference — and still in the hunt for a national title.
The No. 9 Miami Hurricanes defeated No. 13 Virginia Tech 28-10 late Saturday in front of a crazed Hard Rock Stadium crowd of 63,932 to come within one game of clinching the league’s Coastal Division for the first time.
“We’re so excited,’’ said UM coach Mark Richt, crediting UM’s offensive and defensive lines for anchoring the victory. “We beat a very good team, very well-coached — a team that came in with good reason to believe they could take care of business today.”
Miami (8-0, 6-0 ACC), No. 10 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, remains one of four undefeated Power 5 teams and firmly entrenched in the four-team playoff race after CFP No. 6 Ohio State and No. 7 Penn State lost Saturday.
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Bring on Notre Dame.
The No. 5 Fighting Irish (8-1), ranked third by the College Football Playoff committee and 30-27 winners over the Canes last year in South Bend, Indiana, will come to Miami at 8 p.m. Saturday (ABC) for the first time since the final regular-season game of 1989, when UM won and went on to defeat Alabama for the national title.
On Saturday, any UM national title dreams gave way to a smaller, yet still huge conquest of winning its half of the league. The all-black-clad Hurricanes, who have never won the ACC since joining the league in 2004, conquered the all-white-clad Hokies (7-2, 3-2) with some big offensive plays and a fierce defensive performance — to come ever-so-close to achieving that Coastal goal.
“We’re not there yet, but we’re really close,’’ said receiver Braxton Berrios. “This was a huge game; We might’ve been out of it if we lost this one. It’s incredible to be this close, to put ourselves in this situation. We control our own destiny and that’s all we can ask for.’’
UM would have clinched the Coastal on Saturday had Virginia (6-3, 3-2) lost to Georgia Tech (4-4, 3-3) in a late-afternoon game. But the Cavaliers defeated the Yellow Jackets, and UM must wait to claim a Coastal title.
The Hurricanes led 14-3 at halftime on two second-quarter touchdowns: an 8-yard pass from Malik Rosier to Braxton Berrios with 9:41 left and a 64-yard sprint by Travis Homer with 7:09 remaining.
“We finally came out firing,’’ Berrios said. “We finally came out on top and we didn’t wait. We finally clicked early. It felt great to be on top, and the defense was absolutely killing it.’’
Linebacker Shaquille Quarterman called the atmosphere “magical.’’
“This was the livest game I’ve ever been a part of.’’
Rosier finished 10 of 21 for 193 passing yards, two touchdowns and a career-worst three interceptions. He rushed for a career-best 84 yards and a touchdown.
“It was a great night of not flinching,’’ Richt said of Rosier’s day. “I’ll put in some props for my son, Jon,’’ Richt added of UM’s quarterbacks coach. “He really did a good job of keeping him even-keeled and saying, ‘Look, man, we’re going to take shots. Some of those things happen and you can’t flinch. We believe in you, we trust you and you’re our guys, so just get used to it.’
“I heard some of the things Jon was saying over the headphones, and he was saying the right things to Malik to help him know that we’re behind him and he’s doing a pretty darn good job against a great defense.’’
Down 14-0, Virginia Tech answered with a 10-play drive that ended with Joey Slye’s 50-yard field goal with 2:03 left in the half.
The Hokies scored again five plays after Rosier’s second of three interceptions — this one by safety Reggie Floyd, who returned the ball 37 yards to the UM 17 with 13:55 left in the third quarter. Quarterback Josh Jackson plunged across the goal line to make it 14-10.
But UM made it 21-10 on a 43-yard catch-and-run by tight end Chris Herndon, who put on the burners en route to the end zone at 7:59 of the third quarter. The drive lasted two plays and took all of 59 seconds.
The Canes scored again on another big-play drive: three plays highlighted by Rosier’s 42-yard completion to Ahmmon Richards at the Virginia Tech 13-yard line. Rosier then ran the 13 yards to make it 28-10 with 14:34 left in the game.
UM had fumble recoveries by Jon Garvin and RJ McIntosh. And safeties Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine intercepted Jackson passes.
Although the Canes meet Virginia at home on Nov. 18 and Pittsburgh the day after Thanksgiving in their final two ACC games, a Virginia loss at Louisville next week would also clinch the Coastal for UM.
Should the Canes win the Coastal, they would play the winner of the Atlantic Division — likely defending national champion Clemson — on Dec. 2 for the ACC title at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
If the winner of that game doesn’t earn a spot in the College Football Playoff, it would earn a berth in the Orange Bowl at 8 p.m. Dec. 30 at Hard Rock Stadium.
With the victory, the Hurricanes extended their nation-leading winning streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision to 13 games.
The last time UM won 13 in a row was during the Canes’ historic 34-game streak that began after the loss at Washington in early September 2000 and ended with the double-overtime loss to Ohio State in the Jan. 3, 2003, Fiesta Bowl.
No other team carried a double-digit win streak into this weekend.
Mark Richt is now 17-4 in his first 21 games as the Miami coach.