That so-called Florida State hangover?
Came and went as quickly as a cold splash in the face.
The Miami Hurricanes are back on track and pumped for their biggest test of the season at home against No. 5 Clemson on Saturday.
Miami forced four turnovers, scored 10 points off two of them, and rode quarterback Brad Kaaya’s gifted right arm Saturday to a 30-20 victory over Virginia Tech at Sun Life Stadium.
The Hurricanes’ sophomore threw for 296 yards and two huge touchdowns — both to Rashawn Scott near the end of each half — to lead the Canes (4-2, 1-1) to their first Atlantic Coast Conference victory after consecutive losses at Cincinnati and archrival Florida State.
“It’s awesome because this is our first Coastal game,” said Kaaya, who has thrown at least two touchdown passes in every one of his home starts. “We bounced back pretty well from last week. Guys made a point that, ‘Hey, We can’t be hung over from a loss.’
“I really meant what I said last week when I wanted to see Florida State again,” Kaaya added, referring to the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 5 in Charlotte, North Carolina. “In order to do that, we’ve got to handle business one week at a time, one practice at a time, one play at a time, and it started with Virginia Tech this week.”
Kaaya’s defense did plenty to help the cause.
Outside linebacker Trent Harris recovered a fumble, cornerback Artie Burns had two interceptions off Brenden Motley — the last one with 2:29 remaining in the game — and backup middle linebacker Juwon Young had a third-quarter interception to secure the victory.
Young’s emergence, however, was at the expense of starting senior middle linebacker, team captain and leading UM tackler Raphael Kirby, who sustained what appeared to be a severe right-knee injury at 6:54 of the third quarter.
When Kirby likely realized the extent of the injury, he slammed his right arm onto the medical table and put his head down on it. Afterward, he covered himself with a towel and cried.
“Hopefully, he’ll be back God willing,” said Al-Quadin Muhammad, who had his second strong game in a row with one of three Miami sacks and a tackle for loss. “To be honest, I didn’t even know he was on the sideline. I just locked in.”
The other UM sacks were by linebacker Jermaine Grace and end Chad Thomas.
Running back Joe Yearby scored a touchdown after Harris’ fumble recovery, and Michael Badgley added three field goals, including a career-long 49-yarder for the Hurricanes.
Virginia Tech fell to 3-4 and 1-2.
Perhaps the Hurricanes’ biggest spark of the season came when likely few expected it — with 58 seconds left in the first half after a 38-yard field goal by Virginia Tech tied the score at 13.
Miami took over at its 21, and despite a false start by tackle Trevor Darling and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Stan Dobard, drove 79 yards on seven plays thanks to a poised Kaaya and some nifty receiving.
On third-and-20 from the UM 11, Kaaya hit Herb Waters with a 45-yard bullet. Suddenly, the Canes were on the Hokies’ 44 with about half a minute left.
Kaaya hit Stacy Coley for 8, then got a roughing-the-passer gift from nose tackle Woody Baron with 25 seconds left, moving the ball to the Virginia Tech 21-yard line.
After an incomplete pass, Kaaya completed a 14-yard pass to Scott, took a timeout, then hit Scott with a 7-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone.
UM led 20-13 with four seconds left in the half, suddenly infused with life.
“A man was on me,” Scott said of Hokies rover Anthony Shegog. “But Brad trusts me to catch the ball.”
Scott also drew UM coach Al Golden’s ire when he was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after his final 2-yard touchdown reception with 2:44 left.
Scott stood over the face of a Hokies defender, made some gestures and began jawing. It was Miami’s ninth penalty for a total of 81 yards.
“I’ll learn from it,” Scott said. “I was just caught up in the moment.”
Golden was upset.
“I just told the captains they need to handle it,” he said. “We’ve drilled everything. We’ve been punitive. We’ve done everything you possibly can. They have to own it right now, because it’s sloppy.
“To get an unsportsmanlike conduct after a touchdown, that’s a poor reflection on our team and, obviously, on me as a head coach.“
The Hurricanes meet Atlantic Division powerhouse Clemson on Saturday at Sun Life Stadium. The Tigers haven’t been to Miami since 2009.
“That’s a good team,’’ Kaaya said of Clemson. “They’ve got dudes across the board. … We have some dudes, too, and we’ve just got to go to work this week. We can’t really hang on this win too much because in the ACC every week someone is bringing it.
“We’re the Miami Hurricanes. They’re the Clemson Tigers. It’s going to be a big game. We’ve got to start getting ready now.”