Canes and Hokies matchup in primetime Coastal showdown with Playoff hopes on the line

Written by Brian Pohl
​Miami, FL- Control of the ACC Coastal Division, and potential ACC Championship game implications hang in the balance as the No. 9 Miami Hurricanes take on the No. 13 Virginia Tech Hokies under the lights in Miami at Hard Rock Stadium.

After a 24-19 victory over UNC last week, the Hurricanes now have four-straight victories of eight points or less. “We have a lot of momentum right now,” said tight end Christopher Herndon IV of the close victories.

“People are saying we’re barely winning, but to us, it means a lot because we know how hard we’ve been working and we didn’t give up, not once so it means a lot to all of us.”

The Hurricanes have overcome these close games and are on a 12-game winning streak dating back to last season, their longest since 2002.

With the chance to play in their first ACC Championship game since joining the conference in 2004,  The Hurriacanes can’t get ahead of themselves. Only three conference games remain, and Miami knows they need to keep their focus on one opponent at a time. Sophomore Linebacker Shaquille Quarterman said, “We know what’s on the table. We can’t afford to lose. Miami, we don’t have the room or the margin for error at all, we have none. We focus on every game like it’s our last.”

Virginia Tech is playing well since their run-in with Clemson earlier this season, winning three-straight conference games. Miami head coach Mark Richt said of the Hokies, “There’s a reason why they’re one of the best teams in America,” he continued, “It’ll be a great battle for us, for sure. We’re looking forward to our fans being there, loud and proud.”

Miami will look for a little home-field advantage to disrupt a Virginia Tech offense that has had success under second-year head coach Justin Fuente. Redshirt Freshman quarterback Josh Jackson has emerged for the Hokies, throwing for over 2,000 yards on the season and 17 touchdown passes. Jackson’s favorite target has been Senior wide-receiver Cam Phillips, who has racked up 692 yards and six touchdowns on the season. The key for the Hurricanes defensively will be slowing down the passing game of the Hokies, something that has become a staple of this Miami team with the new “turnover chain.”

With 16 total turnovers on the season and 11 interceptions, the Hurricanes “turnover chain” has seen a lot of action this season with 11 different Miami players getting to don the chain. This chain, which includes an oversized “U” to top it all off, moved a few times last week as the Hurricanes defense forced three interceptions. Michael Jackson leads the team with four interceptions, with three in the past two games.

The key to Miami’s success offensively will be a fast start. In their last four games, the Hurricanes have totaled just six points in the first quarter. A quick start will alleviate some of the pressure on the Miami defense, and gain early momentum for the offense. Despite the slow starts, redshirt Junior Malik Rosier Jr. has been successful with over 2,000 yards passing and 17 touchdown passes, nearly identical numbers as VT’s Josh Jackson. Rosier’s favorite target has been Senior wide-receiver Braxton Berrios, who has 415 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

Sophomore running back Travis Homer has been a significant weapon for the Hurricanes since Mark Walton suffered a season-ending injury October seventh. His 512 rushing yards and 173 receiving yards on the season have been a big boost, and the Hurricanes will need another big game if Miami is to continue its undefeated season.

Depending on the outcome, the ACC Coastal division could be wrapped up this weekend. A Hurricanes win, and a Georgia Tech victory over Virginia means Miami will win the coastal and will head to Charlotte for their first ACC Championship appearance. If Virginia Tech wins, the Hokies will move into first place in the Coastal with three weeks left in the season. Regardless of the outcome, this is setting up to be a major clash in South Beach.

This top-15 matchup between the No. 13 Hokies and No. 9 Miami Hurricanes will kick-off from Hard Rock Stadium at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.

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