Christopher Smith

Miami Struggles Without RB Johnson

Created on Nov. 10, 2013 7:47 PM EST

Miami on Saturday played its first game without star running back Duke Johnson, out for the season with a broken ankle.

The Hurricanes faced a reeling Virginia Tech team that had lost back-to-back games against Duke and Boston College. Despite sporting the nation's fourth-best rush defense, even ahead of Alabama, the Hokies allowed 196 rushing yards to the Eagles and Andre Williams.

It's hard to tell what difference Johnson's absence made Saturday — Miami trailed by double digits the entire second half and couldn't stop Logan Thomas — but the Hurricanes offense previously relied on the running game. Virginia Tech held backup running back Dallas Crawford and company to just 28 rushing yards.

Virginia Tech gave up a 35-yard rush and later a 2-yard touchdown to Crawford, who carried just eight times for zero yards outside those two plays.

Johnson finished the season with 920 yards, including games of 184 and 168 in ACC play, and left the fourth quarter against Florida State, one of the nation's top defenses, with 97.

Miami, once 7-0 and in the Top 10, fell to No. 23 in the AP poll, but more significantly, threw the Coastal Division of the ACC into chaos.

Now four teams have two losses, and while Georgia Tech will be a big road underdog this week against Clemson, a Nov. 16 game in Durham, N.C. no longer will decide the division.

If Miami had beaten Virginia Tech, this week's Miami-Duke showdown likely would've determined the Coastal Division champion. Instead, a Miami win may serve to send the Hokies to the ACC championship game.

Luckily for Miami and Crawford, Duke allows a middling 167.2 rushing yards per game.

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