MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — A big punt return for Miami turned into points for Virginia Tech. A big kickoff return for Miami, more points for Virginia Tech.
In the span of a week, the Hurricanes have gone from unbeaten to reeling.
And if this is going to be the year where Miami finally plays for an Atlantic Coast Conference title, it’ll probably need some help down the stretch.
Three special-teams blunders led to touchdowns, two huge mistakes on third-and-long did the same, and all that simply doomed the Hurricanes on Saturday night. Trey Edmunds rushed for four touchdowns, and Virginia Tech knocked off No. 14 Miami 42-24 to turn the ACC Coastal Division race into a logjam.
“Whatever I say is an excuse,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “At the end of the day, we have to fix it. We have to go back to work and fix it.”
Edmunds’ first three scores were direct results of the special-teams mistakes. Virginia Tech also not only converted on third-and-17 and third-and-12 later in the game — but it got touchdowns on both of those plays. The Hokies outgained the Hurricaanes 549-352 and piled up 26 first downs to Miami’s 12.
“We had a lot of unforced errors. … That’s pretty much it,” Miami defensive captain Shayon Green said.
Edmunds had scoring runs of 10, 2, 4 and 1 yards for the Hokies (7-3, 4-2 ACC). Logan Thomas completed 25 of 31 passes for 366 yards, giving him consecutive games of 300 yards or more for the first time in his Virginia Tech career, and the Hokies held the ball for nearly a 2-to-1 margin — an all-too-familiar trend for Miami this season.
“We ran the ball really hard, had some holes to run in … one of our better offensive performances in a while,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “On defense, we played well, had a couple long plays. This was a great win for us.”
Miami wore new jerseys with the phrase “Deserve Victory” — a favorite of Golden’s — stitched along the collar.
Only Virginia Tech got the message.
Stephen Morris completed 16 of 29 passes for 324 yards for Miami (7-2, 3-2), which hasn’t beaten Virginia Tech consecutive times since 2001 and 2002. Morris had an 81-yard touchdown pass to Stacy Coley and an 84-yarder to Allen Hurns, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
“Like I was telling the team in the locker room, it’s not over for us,” Morris said. “We’ve got a lot to still work for.”
Virginia Tech held Miami to 28 rushing yards.
The win turns the ACC’s Coastal Division into a muddled mess, with Georgia Tech at 5-2 in conference play, Virginia Tech a half-game back (but owning the tiebreaker over the Yellow Jackets), Miami and Duke at 3-2, North Carolina at 3-3 and Pittsburgh at 2-3.
Florida State has already clinched the Atlantic Division title and spot in the ACC title game on Dec. 7.
“We’re back in there,” Beamer said. “We’ve got a shot.”
Joshua Stanford (107) and Willie Byrn (105) both had 100-yard receiving nights for Virginia Tech, helping carve a Miami defense that has allowed 1,066 yards in its last two games — both blowout losses.
Winning games with help of strong special teams play is nothing new for the Hokies. After all, it’s not called “Beamer Ball” for nothing.
But the Hurricanes were making it too easy for Virginia Tech.
After the Hurricanes took a 7-0 lead on the Morris-to-Coley completion, Miami was primed to get the ball back in Virginia Tech territory following a punt. But Coley fumbled it away at the Hokies’ 45 — after getting hit by punter A.J. Hughes, no less. And five plays later, Edmunds scored his first of the night to tie the game.
Rain was falling steadily. The mistakes, from the Miami side, started coming at deluge rates.
The ensuing kickoff was eerily similar to the punt return, with things going from great to dreadful for Miami in the blink of an eye. Artie Burns fumbled the kickoff return near midfield, Edmunds scored five plays later once again, and the Hokies had the lead. It became 21-7 not long after the third Miami blunder, this one coming when punter Pat O’Donnell’s knee was on the ground as he fielded a low snap at the Miami 17.
“Can’t let them get 21 points like that,” Golden said. “Inexcusable.”
Virginia Tech converted on a third-and-17 late in the half, when Stanford made three Hurricanes miss — two had a chance at him well short of a first down — on the way to a 32-yard scoring grab that made it 28-14.
A third-and-12 play at midfield in the third quarter summed up the night.
Virginia Tech took a time-out to keep Thomas, whose helmet was knocked off on the previous play, on the field. He found a wide-open Willie Byrn for a first down — and when Miami’s Ladarius Gunter punched the ball away around the 5, it bounded into the end zone, only to be recovered by Demitri Knowles for a 35-17 lead.
Beating Miami, Thomas said, is huge.
“Those colors,” Thomas said, “bring out the best in a player.”