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Miami Hurricanes

Virginia Tech survived one of wildest Hurricanes games in memory

Florida Football Insiders

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
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It was one of the wildest Miami Hurricanes games ever and unfortunately for “The U” and despite a 28-point come back, it ended in a bitter 42 – 35 loss to ACC opponent Virginia Tech.

It was a game that had more dramatic twists and turns than a Stephen King novel, but it looked initially like it was going to be a humiliating Saturday for Miami. This as the Hokies jumped all over the Hurricanes with four first-half touchdowns.

Three of those scores came with the arm and wheels of reserve quarterback Hendon Hooker, as he threw for two of them and ran for another one. And, before Miami knew what hit them, they were looking up at the Hard Rock Stadium scoreboard that read 28 – 0 with still 9 minutes to play in the second quarter.

Coach Manny Diaz had seen enough of an ineffective Jarren Williams, who threw three first-half interceptions. So, he replaced him with last year’s part-time starter N’Kosi Perry.

Perry got a key Hail Mary score on the final play of the first half, as the deflected ball in the end zone was pulled down by Mark Pope making the game 28 – 7 at the break:

Perry then engineered an 88-yard drive out of the locker room hitting tight end Brevin Jordan to trim the lead in half to 28 – 14. The Hokies still looked to be in great shape, when Hooker threw his third TD pass of the day to cap a Virginia Tech 80-yard drive, and it was 35 – 14 with 12:43 left.

But unfazed, Perry helped Miami get right back in the game hitting Jeff Thomas with a 13-yard score and then,  with another 25-yard score to Thomas, plus a 2-point conversion to make the game 35 – 29 with over three minutes remaining.

That’s when Miami stopped Virginia Tech and incredibly, running Back Deejay Dallas broke free on a 62 yard touchdown run that appeared to give Miami hope to take the lead. However, in a game of bizarre’ moments and shifts, kicker Bubba Baxa had his extra point partially tipped and it nicked the right upright no good.

That set the stage for the Hokies to retake the lead.

And Hooker lED them into scoring range once more and when running back Deshawn McClease converted from 3 yards out it was again a 42 – 35 Virginia Tech advantage with 1:03 left.

Perry who finished with 422 yards despite not playing until the second quarter got Miami in range for one more score. But, he threw incomplete with one second remaining in the back of the endzone and then, his final pass with no time left was batted down at the goal line, as Virginia Tech got their first ACC win of the season.

The final stat sheet showed 77 points, exactly 900 yards of offense and took almost four hours to complete.

Yes, it was an emotional roller coaster game for Diaz, his staff and players, but not all of it was bad.

Surely, the play of Perry and the heart the team showed in the comeback is something Miami can build on, even if the final outcome against the Hokies was a defeat.

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Miami Hurricanes

Another rough FSU Miami and USF Saturday

Florida Football Insiders

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It was another rough Saturday for several of the teams in the Sunshine State. Yes, Florida got a quality win at South Carolina in the SEC and UCF came off a bye week and cruised with East Carolina at home. However, for the Miami Hurricanes, USF Bulls and Florida State Seminoles Saturday was just the latest setback in what has turned into depressing seasons for all.

First in South Florida, the Hurricanes managed to blow a game at home against a team that had not won an ACC game in Georgia Tech.

The Canes gave up a fake punt for a touchdown in the first, missed three easy field goals of their own, including one that would have won the game at the end of regulation. And then, allow the Jackets to score the only touchdown of overtime to defeat them.

Couple this loss with the poor performance for most of the Virginia Tech game two weeks ago, where Miami trailed at one point 28 – 0 before roaring back, yet still lost the game. And also, an opening season loss at North Carolina will they allow the Tarheels true freshman quarterback to throw the game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute and Manny Diaz’s honeymoon is over with the fans and alumni.

As bad as things are in Coral Gables, they’re equally so in Tampa for USF. Charlie Strong’s team looked like they had “righted the ship” with wins at UConn and at home against a quality BYU team last Saturday. However, yesterday they traveled to Annapolis and had the Naval Academy roll them 35 – 3.

It is the third decisive blowout loss for USF this season and dropped them to 3 – 4 on the year.

Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry didn’t complete a pass in the game but still ran for 188 yards and two touchdowns and the ‘Middies had over 400 yards on the ground in the easy win.

We have written about Strong job security already this season and Saturday will only reignite the conversation that the Green and gold need to look elsewhere for leadership after this season.

Speaking of leadership changes, the outrage continues with the struggles of Florida State who lost for the latest time Saturday night at Wake Forest. The Noles actually took a 14 – 12 lead of the fourth quarter but allowed the Demon Deacons to take the lead on a field goal with just over four minutes remaining.

Florida State then bumbled and stumbled at the end of the game, including coach Willie Taggart taking a timeout to ice his own kicker, Ricky Aguayo, before he missed a 51-yard field goal.

FSU could have also used that timeout to save them more time at the very end of the game where they got the ball back once more with just :35 remaining.

Quarterback James Blackman took a sack, fumbling the ball and FSU barely got lined up to run one last futile play that ended the game. Another Nole loss has them at 3-4 and staring squarely at having back-to-back losing seasons that likely isn’t survivable ($17 million buyout or not) for Taggart.

Again, Gators and Knights fans have a lot to smile about and look forward to, but right now, the other three prominent programs in the state or wondering how much more losing is going to go on before the finish line in December?

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Miami Hurricanes

Even in victory reality is harsh for Hurricanes

Matt Zemek

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It makes sense that an important victory for the Miami Hurricanes – a season-saving 17-9 win over the Virginia Cavaliers on Friday night – would simultaneously remind the Canes how far they still have to go, and how slim their margins are.

This was an improvement, and a significant one, but it wasn’t the conquest which dramatically changes opinions and gives birth to a fresh sense of hope.

The uneasy coexistence of happiness and uncertainty is going to remain part of Miami’s world in 2019, and if we’re being honest, probably the first half of the 2020 season. The U isn’t yet ready to escape the familiar problems which have dogged the program for a decade and a half.

If we are looking at the very big picture, negativity can’t be eliminated from the landscape. One has to see reality for what it is.

But enough about the bigger picture. In the immediate aftermath of Friday’s game against Virginia, Miami gained positive clarity and took a needed step forward in its evolution. The Hurricanes probably knew this on a conceptual level before the game began, but now they know this in a concrete way:

They have to lean on their defense, and they have to avoid huge mistakes.

The Canes watched a home game against Virginia Tech slip away the week before. A tidal wave of interceptions led to a boatload of Hokie points. Miami’s festival of mistakes enabled The U to lose as a 12-point favorite.

A starting point for the Canes against Virginia was to not commit turnovers Sometimes, “addition” can simply mean the elimination of negatives: addition by subtraction.

Miami did exactly that against the ACC Coastal leader and favorite, committing zero turnovers. Virginia endured a blocked field goal – made possible by Miami’s Pat Bethel – and a steady stream of failed red-zone possessions which recalled UCF’s nightmare the Friday before against Cincinnati.

Virginia committed a turnover inside the Miami 25-yard line. Jon Ford punched the ball out. Trajan Bandy made the recovery.

Miami didn’t make any of those debilitating mistakes.

No, the offense didn’t function well for most of the game. Miami’s first drive and its last produced touchdowns; everything in between created only three points. N’Kosi Perry (above) lacked touch on his deep ball. The offensive line wasn’t particularly good (though not as bad as it was against Florida).

Yet, with zero turnovers, Miami didn’t give Virginia any free points. It gave Virginia Tech several free touchdowns six days earlier.

Merely weeding out the awful aspects of its performance was enough, given how well the defense played, especially freshman defensive end Greg Rousseau

He hadn’t been in the starting lineup earlier in the season, but on Friday, he delivered seven tackles, a sack, a fourth-down stop, and a forced fumble recovery.

Perry might not need to win games; he can merely avoid losing them… and allow Rousseau and the defense to win them.

Miami isn’t a complete team. It does not have a complete solution within its grasp. It does, however, possess the roadmap to success in 2019. It probably won’t always work, but it is the way UM needs to play:

Don’t screw up. Shorten the game. Play for field position and a rested defense. Let the defense win.

If Miami can continue to trim the fat and add by subtracting, this season – which probably won’t reach all of its goals – can become a lot better than many expected after any of September’s especially embarrassing moments.

That isn’t a soaring statement of hope, but it’s a lot better than the previous weeks of this season.

For now, that’s a start, and a good step in the right direction.

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