Hurricanes Still In Control, Can't Look Back
The Miami Hurricanes left Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday night looking much different than they did when they arrived earlier that day. The team no longer had an unblemished record. They no longer had the ACC's second-leading rusher Duke Johnson to help spark the offense. But the team still had perhaps the most important piece of its 2013 season: the top spot in the Coastal Division.
Miami can't afford to dwell on the lack of offense in the second half that ultimately cost it the loss. Instead, they have to prepare for the stretch ahead, which will determine how the story ends for them this season.
A loss this week at Virginia Tech would throw the ACC Coastal Division into chaos with the potential for a logjam of teams at two losses. More importantly, winning could give the Hurricanes another shot at the Seminoles in the ACC title game. Virginia Tech and Duke will put up a good competition for the Hurricanes, which haven't looked dominating in many of their victories this season. In ACC play, Al Golden's team has two unconvincing wins over North Carolina and Wake Forest and a 15-point win over Georgia Tech in a game that was 24-23 early in the fourth quarter.
The problem the Hurricanes could run into is the Hokies' defense, which is tied with Oregon as the nation's seventh-best in terms of points allowed. Stephen Morris has struggled in recent weeks. The senior quarterback, who threw only seven interceptions during the 2012 season, has thrown eight in the last month. The game could be hard on the eyes if Morris and Virginia Tech's signal caller Logan Thomas continue their trend of poor play.
Unlike the Hokies, who have the 107th rushing attack in the nation, the Hurricanes will have a viable run threat despite the loss of Johnson. Dallas Crawford already has shown he has what it takes to fill in for Johnson once this season. Now he will be the guy that has to help keep the Hurricanes' ACC championship game hopes alive. Crawford has been a vital part of Miami's run game, which racks up nearly 200 yards per game. He has nine rushing touchdowns — two less than the entire Virginia Tech team — and 294 yards on 67 carries.
On defense, Miami will look to use the formula that has worked for much of the season, pressure and turnovers. Miami has been getting to opposing quarterbacks more frequently then they have in past years. They have 23 sacks through eight games (compared to 13 at this point last season). They also have come up with 21 turnovers. With the Virginia Tech offensive struggles, the Hurricanes' defense will get a chance to improve on those numbers and pick up a crucial homecoming victory if they can create a few turnovers.