Hurricanes defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio used the word "disappointing" to describe the way his unit played against Florida State -- one of the most potent scoring machines in the country led by Heisman candidate Jameis Winston.
After Saturday night's 42-24 loss to Virginia Tech, D’Onofrio used the word again. And again. And again.
“Every score today was attributed to one of two things: we either cut a man loose in man coverage or we missed a tackle,” said D’Onofrio, whose defense gave up season-highs in yards (549), first downs (26) and points (42) and has now given up 500 yards in three of its last four games.
“That's disappointing. We had opportunities to get off the field and we didn't do it."
The Hokies (7-3, 4-2 ACC) came in ranked 101st in scoring (22.1 points per game), 108th in rushing (116.78 yards per game) and with a quarterback who had turned the ball over eight times in his previous eight quarters. None of that, though, seemed to carry over Saturday.
Two special teams turnovers and a kneel down on a poor punt snap didn't put Miami's defense in the greatest of situations against the Hokies. But the Hurricanes couldn't get a stop on any of those sudden change possessions, giving up touchdowns on each.
Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas, who finished 19 of 37 for 199 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in UM's 30-12 win here a year ago, carved the Hurricanes up and down the field Saturday. He finished 25 of 31 for 366 yards and two touchdowns.
When Thomas wasn't picking apart UM, redshirt freshman running back Trey Edmunds was finding running lanes. He scored the first three Hokies touchdowns. The Hokies ran for 183 yards on 47 attempts.
The Hokies also finished 8 of 14 on third down – the third consecutive game UM has given up better than 50 percent on defense. They hadn’t allowed better than 40 percent over their first six games. Thomas alone was 7 of 12 for 145 yards with two touchdowns and six first downs on third down pass plays.
The real dagger of the first half was the 3rd and 17 the Hokies faced with a little over three minutes to play in the second quarter. Thomas found receiver Joshua Stanford open in the flat and he broke three tackles, bouncing off safety Deon Bush and linebacker Denzel Perryman and then safety Rayshawn Jenkins on his way to a deflating touchdown which covered 32 yards and gave the Hokies a 28-14 lead at the break.
“I think they've done a lot of good things throughout the year,” D’Onofrio said of his defense. “We won seven straight games. We had to win a lot of games in the fourth quarter. We had to hold a team [North Carolina] to comeback on the road. But I do think in some of those [wins] there were some [troubling] signs.
“I told you we weren't tackling. I told you we weren't causing fumbles or taking the ball away. Those were things that weren't fixed and those are the same things I was telling the defense. Again, it's hard unless you're doing like we are everyday and seeing every single play and knowing what the calls are and the responsibilities are. It's been the missed tackles and somebody cutting an assignment, cutting somebody loose. We had too many today. I've been saying that since I've been here.”
The Hokies are the eighth opponent since the start of the 2012 season to put up more than 500 yards of offense against D’Onofrio’s unit. They are also the sixth opponent during that span to score at least 40 points against Miami.
“It would be premature to say we have to change things when we really had too many unforced errors, to be honest with you,” UM coach Al Golden said. “There’s no excuse. It has to be better. It wasn’t good enough and it’s my responsibility to get it fixed.”