In a wet, sloppy mess of a game, the Miami Hurricanes — shiny new uniforms and all — turned homecoming into a horror show Saturday at Sun Life Stadium.
Coming off a disheartening loss in Tallahassee, the No. 14 Canes needed the victory to claim control of the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference. What they got was a defense that seemed helpless and clueless, and an offense that gained just 28 rushing yards without Duke Johnson.
What Virginia Tech got, after two consecutive losses, was an offense that took advantage of Miami’s many miscues for the 42-24 victory — and a defense that never allowed Miami to get going long enough.
“You can’t spot them 21 points like that,” UM coach Al Golden said of the Hurricanes’ three big mistakes in the first half that led to three touchdowns. “The [long] punt return and [long] kickoff return, exactly what we wanted. We fumbled both of them.
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“Just inexcusable. … Now you’re playing uphill the whole time.”
The Hurricanes came into the game as the lone team in the Coastal Division with one loss, but fell to 7-2 overall and 3-2 in the ACC.
The Hokies improved to 7-3 and 4-2, taking away UM’s hope of winning the division outright without the possibility of a tiebreaker.
Four teams in the Coastal now have two losses: Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke.
With rain pouring much of the night, the disgruntled boo birds came out, booing UM quarterback Stephen Morris more than once.
Morris threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns and was sacked three times, and Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas completed 25 of 31 passes for 366 yards and two touchdowns.
“Honestly, I can’t put a grasp on it,’’ said Morris of his team’s two losses in two weeks. “I don’t know what it is, but I’m not worried about it. This is a resilient team. This is a tough team.
“Like I was telling the team in the locker room, it’s not over for us. We have a lot to do and a lot to still work for. I’m one of those guys who is always going to be positive.’’
The Hokies amassed a season-high 549 yards and 26 first downs and converted eight of 14 third downs.
“We didn’t convert well enough on third down,” Golden said. “We didn’t convert enough plays on offense. Just really disappointed in those mistakes.”
UM scored the first touchdown on two plays early in the first quarter, leaving fans giddy and likely thinking this one might be easy. But the Hokies never trailed again.
Miami travels to Durham, N.C., on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. game at Duke. The Blue Devils are no pushovers this season, however, defeating North Carolina State on Saturday to improve their record 7-2 and 3-2.
Three huge first-half mistakes by the Hurricanes resulted in 21 points for the Hokies — and that’s not counting the three missed tackles on one play that turned into Virginia Tech’s fourth touchdown of the night.
First error: A fumble by freshman Stacy Coley during a 23-yard punt return.
Tech punter Ricky Carroll stripped the ball from a streaking Coley, and Tariq Edwards recovered at the Virginia Tech 46-yard line. Five plays later, Trey Edmunds rushed for 10 yards to make it 7-7 with 7:37 left in the first quarter.
Second error: On the kickoff return after Edmunds’ touchdown, UM freshman Artie Burns raced up the middle for 43 yards before Derek DiNardo forced and recovered Burns’ fumble at the Tech 49.
Again, it took five plays for the Hokies to convert UM’s loss into Virginia Tech’s fortune. During the short drive, UM cornerback Tracy Howard caused receiver Joshua Stanford to fumble – but the ball skipped toward the goal line and was recovered by Tech at the Miami 2. Edmunds scored again to make it 14-7 Hokies with 5:12 left in the first quarter.
Third error: On fourth-and-11 from the Miami 31 and Pat O’Donnell set to punt, a low snap by Sean McNally forced O’Donnell to put his knee on the ground as he went to scoop up the ball. Virginia Tech took over at the Miami 17-yard line, scoring two plays later on a 4-yard rush by Edmunds.
The Hokies led 21-7 with 13:01 left in the first half.
“Two fumbles and then basically what amounted to a fumble on the low snap,” a frustrated Golden said. “So again, to start out the game like that — I don’t think there’s anybody in this business that would see that coming. There’s just no way that should happen.”
The Hurricanes scored on their ensuing 77-yard drive, aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty and two pretty passes from Morris to Allen Hurns. The first reception went for 24 yards, and the second for 27 that put the Hurricanes at the Hokies 1-yard line.
After Gus Edwards lost a yard, Dallas Crawford leaped over the defense and into the end zone. Miami trailed 21-14.
Crawford, the backup to the sidelined Duke Johnson (broken ankle last week), ran for 37 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries — not nearly the performance for which UM had hoped.
Virginia Tech took over after Crawford’s touchdown, and three missed tackles by safety Deon Bush, linebacker Denzel Perryman and safety Rayshawn Jenkins allowed Stanford to turn a completion from Thomas into a 32-yard touchdown and 28-14 Hokies lead with 2:58 left in the half.