University of Miami

Duke Johnson runs wild as Miami Hurricanes dominate Virginia Tech Hokies in Blacksburg

Miami running back Duke Johnson (8) breaks a tackle by Virginia Tech linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka, bottom right, as linebacker Derek Di Nardo (41) and safety Detrick Bonner (8) defend during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Blacksburg, Va., Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014.
Miami running back Duke Johnson (8) breaks a tackle by Virginia Tech linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka, bottom right, as linebacker Derek Di Nardo (41) and safety Detrick Bonner (8) defend during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Blacksburg, Va., Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. AP

Virginia Tech set off fireworks at halftime.

Miami set them off the entire game.

In a game reminiscent of old times, the Hurricanes dominated thoroughly Thursday night at a place they hadn’t mastered since 2005 to stay alive in the Coastal Division race of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Miami 30, Virginia Tech 6, and UM fans likely still pinching themselves after the Hurricanes nearly became the first team to shut out the Hokies since September 1995 — a 251-game scoring streak.

Virginia Tech scored on a 13-yard touchdown from Mark Leal to Isiah Ford with 1:30 left.

Running back Duke Johnson, who missed the Virginia Tech game last season with a broken ankle, tore through the Hokies’ defense for a career-high 249 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries — an 8.6-yard-per-carry average. He also had two catches for 37 yards and a touchdown.

Johnson surpassed 1,000 yards (1,036) for the first time in a season. His 249 yards were the most ever run by an opponent at Lane Stadium.

“I thought that was one of the better running backs, maybe the best, that we tried to tackle,” said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, adding a few minutes later that he wasn’t just talking about this season, he was talking about “ever.”

Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster was even more effusive: “I thought going into this game they were the most explosive team we would play to date. I was scared to death of Duke Johnson and he proved why tonight.”

Johnson, who came one carry shy of his career high, appeared to get injured on his last 2-yard run and walked off the field with 5:59 remaining. WQAM-560 reported he twisted his right ankle, but UM coach Al Golden said he was fine.

“He looked like a man tonight,’’ Golden said of Johnson. “We’re a different team now than when we started the season with a freshman quarterback.

“We did what we needed to do. We won the red zone. We won the third downs. …’’

Johnson was asked what was behind his breakout performance.

“Before we talk about what was behind it, let’s talk about what was in front of it,’’ Johnson said. “Just the O-line, tight end, receivers, everyone doing their job opening up lanes for me to run through – and the coaches doing their job getting me into plays where I could show my ability.

“It was amazing.’’

Did he see this coming?

“I don’t think anybody would ever see themselves running for over 200 on Virginia Tech’s defense,’’ Johnson said. “They have one of the best [defensive] coordinators and head coaches in college football.’’

The Canes (5-3, 2-2 ACC) won their first road game after losing at Louisville, Nebraska and Georgia Tech and are one victory away from qualifying for a bowl game.

The Hokies (4-4, 1-3), who hadn’t lost to UM in Blacksburg since 2005, are all but eliminated from Coastal contention.

The Hurricanes played their most aggressive, hard-hitting defense of the year and forced three fumbles in the third quarter. Linebacker Jermaine Grace recovered two — one forced by cornerback Tracy Howard and the other by linebacker Denzel Perryman.

“I was having lots of fun until I got hit in the ribs,” Perryman said. “Then I went into my little zone to where someone had to pay for it.”

Safety Deon Bush added a strip/fumble recovery when he ripped the ball out of Marshawn Williams’ hands at the 2-yard line in the third quarter.

By then, the Lane Stadium sellout crowd of 64,007 was nearly silent.

Before the first half ended, the crowd booed its own team.

Most of the fans had left in the final quarter.

UM’s defense held the Hokies to 262 yards — 120 rushing and 142 passing. The Hokies converted only three of 12 third downs.

In its 14 previous ACC road games, UM had never allowed fewer than 23 points. In 10 of those games, the opponent had scored at least 30.

The Hurricanes gained 456 yards — 364 rushing. Besides Johnson’s amazing night, sophomore tailback Gus Edward had an impressive performance. Edwards gained a career-high 115 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

Freshman Joseph Yearby did not play. Golden said he had a hamstring issue.

Miami came into the game 113th nationally in time of possession, averaging 27:22. On Thursday it held the ball for 37:52 to the Hokies’ 22:08.

Offensively, the Canes converted seven of 15 third downs. They were ranked 124th of 125 teams in third-down conversions entering the game.

The Canes were dominant from the start.

On the Hokies’ first two drives, UM’s defense came through in a big way, stopping Tech twice on third downs.

On third-and-1 from the Tech 22, Raphael Kirby and Olsen Pierre combined on a tackle-for-loss to send the Hokies punting.

On third-and-8 from the Virginia Tech 42 in the next drive, Grace sacked Michael Brewer to again get the ball back.

Defensive end Anthony Chickillo also had a sack that set the Hokies back 13 yards.

The Hurricanes next meet North Carolina at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in their homecoming game at Sun Life Stadium. Former Miami quarterback Jim Kelly will be honored that day, and fans are urged to wear all green in what UM has dubbed a “Green Out.’’

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