|Miami took control of the ACC Coastal Division with a 30-12 win over Virginia Tech. (US Presswire)|
MIAMI WON. Rare is the evening when you can convert just one of your 12 third down attempts, get outgained by 74 yards, and still defeat a Virginia Tech team that has won three of the last four Coastal Division titles. But it was that kind of night in Sun Life Stadium, and Miami jumped into control of the division with a 30-12 win over the Hokies.
HOW MIAMI WON: I do not want to discredit the play of Miami's defense or the explosive playmaking of Duke Johnson, but this was a game that may have been more about Virginia Tech losing than the Hurricanes winning. The special teams miscues were particularly painful for Virginia Tech fans who become accustomed to thriving in that area under Frank Beamer. The Hokies allowed a blocked punt (that led to a touchdown), gave up an 81-yard kickoff return to Duke Johnson (that led to a touchdown), missed an extra point and a field goal. The Hurricanes' defense also forced Logan Thomas into two red zone turnovers (one interception, one fumble) and brought a solid pass rush when it counted in the fourth quarter.
The third quarter was embarrassing to the forefathers of football on both sides. Thomas and Hurricanes' quarterback Stephen Morris were missing receivers all over the field, but it was Miami - who gained just three offensive yards in that third quarter - who finally pulled it together in the fourth to pull away for a victory.
The first third down conversion of the game was followed by a Stephen Morris 20 yard reception (wide receiver Phillip Dorsett on the pass) and eventually a Duke Johnson run for a touchdown. It was as if as long as Miami did not convert a third down, the Hokies still had a chance. Once they moved the ball down the field for the first points of the second half, the flood games had opened. Johnson looked 100 percent healthy again, and finished the game with 217 all-purpose yards on the just 14 touches.
WHEN MIAMI WON: With 7:38 left in the fourth quarter Miami broke open the second half stalemate with the third down conversion scoring drive. (There was only one third down conversion for Miami, so it was THE drive.) On the very next drive, the highly criticized Miami defensive line turned up the pressure, sacked Logan Thomas - for the first time all game, and forced a three and out from the Hokies. After Miami marched down the field and picked up an additional field goal, the game was done.
WHAT MIAMI WON: This is crazy to write - but the ACC Coastal Division will likely come down to Miami and Duke. The two teams picked 5th and 6th in the division before the season are sitting atop the standings with only two losses in ACC play. Miami only has Virginia and a trip to Duke left on the conference schedule, and they lead the division with a 4-2 record. Duke is currently 3-2, but host Clemson this weekend and face Georgia Tech before that showdown on Nov. 24.
Assuming Duke falls to Clemson - which is not certain AT ALL - they would need to beat Georgia Tech, Miami, and hope Virginia Tech loses to Florida State to win the Coastal at 5-3. If Duke drops to four ACC losses heading into that finale with Miami, the Hurricanes will win the ACC Coastal for the first time since the conference expanded to divisions in 2005.
WHAT VIRGINIA TECH LOST: The Hokies not only lost control of the ACC Coastal Division for the first time in three years, they also are ended one of their most impressive streaks in program history. The eight season streak of 10+ win seasons is officially over with Virginia Tech's fifth loss of the season.
But that fifth loss also brings the Hokies dangerously close to ending a postseason streak that dates back to 1992. With Florida State, Boston College, and Virginia left on the schedule; a 6-6 finish will require much sharper play than the Hokies displayed on Thursday night.
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