Another weekend, another exhilarating Atlantic Coast Conference road win for the Miami Hurricanes settled in the final minutes.
Quarterback D’Eriq King connected with Mark Pope for the winning touchdown strike with under 6 minutes to play and the defense held in a 25-24 decision for No. 9 Miami on Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium. The Hurricanes won despite being without 13 players, many on the offensive line and defensive front.
Miami (7-1, 6-1 ACC) wins its fourth straight and gets another crucial conference victory on the road after winning a thriller at North Carolina State last week. Virginia Tech falls to 4-4, 4-3 in the ACC.
King was 24 of 38 for 255 yards, the late passing touchdown to Pope and an earlier rushing score. His top target was junior wideout Dee Wiggins, who had eight receptions for 106 yards.
Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker was 18 of 28 for 207 yards and added 59 yards rushing while running back Jalen Holston scored two touchdowns to make up for lead back Khalil Herbert, an American Heritage grad, being limited nursing a hamstring injury.
Without two starters on its offensive line, Miami surrendered six sacks to Virginia Tech, many on crucial third downs throughout the afternoon. UM also had six sacks of its own, defensive end Jaelan Phillips providing 2 1/4 u00bd and Gilbert Frierson with two.
The Hurricanes took their first lead when King found Pope over the middle for the 36-yard touchdown with 5:59 to play.
Cornerback Te’Cory Couch, who got his first start on Saturday, came up with an interception on the following play from scrimmage, but Miami went three-and-out, not burning much time after forcing the turnover.
On VT’s first chance that followed, after Bradley Jennings Jr. nearly intercepted a pass in Hokies territory, Hooker slipped on a third-and-15, forcing Virginia Tech to punt. The Hokies' last drive ended as they tried a final play with three laterals as time expired but were stuffed.
Trailing 24-13 deep into the third quarter, the Hurricanes scored on a Cam’Ron Harris 6-yard rushing touchdown up the middle. Harris finished with 63 yards on 14 carries.
They tried for a 2-point conversion to get within 3, but an odd play in which King threw to offensive tackle Zion Nelson, who wasn’t even reported as eligible, came up short. The Hokies led, 24-19, going into the fourth quarter.
Virginia Tech extended a one-point halftime lead with an 11-play, 74-yard drive on its first offensive series. Jalen Holston carried Miami defenders on a 19-yard rush to the 1-yard line before punching it in on the ensuing play for his second touchdown, which put the Hokies up, 21-13. They added a Brian Johnson 38-yard field goal later in the third quarter.
Down 14-3 in the second quarter, Miami cut its deficit down to 14-13 by halftime.
The Hurricanes got a much-needed touchdown from King on a 10-yard run that got them back within 4. On the play before, King connected with Dee Wiggins for a 20-yard gain on a corner route to the UM sideline. Wiggins impressively came down with it between the Hokies' cornerback and safety on that side, making up for an earlier drop that could have resulted in a touchdown over the middle. Jose Borregales booted a 40-yard field with four seconds left before halftime to make it 14-13.
Virginia Tech scored first on a 53-yard touchdown run from Hooker. It followed a pass interference called on Miami cornerback Al Blades Jr. that quickly advanced the Hokies near midfield on a drive that started on their own 13-yard line following a 58-yard punt from Lou Hedley.
Miami got 3 of those points back on a 42-yard field goal from Borregales before the end of the first quarter and trailed 7-3 after one.
UM missed an opportunity for points on its opening drive. Lining up for what would have been a 47-yard field goal for the reliable Borregales, the Hurricanes instead tried a fake. Needing 3 yards, Borregales came up with just 2 on the run, resulting in a turnover on downs.
Virginia Tech scored again when an 8-yard Holston touchdown run capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive that put the Hokies up, 14-3, in the middle of the second quarter before UM finished the half with 10 unanswered points.
Key players unavailable for the Hurricanes on Saturday included linebacker Zach McCloud, defensive tackle Jared Harrison-Hunte, left tackle John Campbell, left guard Jakai Clark and additional defensive linemen that provide depth when available, including end Jahfari Harvey, a rotational player up front.
Among players they returned was star tight end Brevin Jordan, who had two catches for 22 yards.
Miami returns home to host Georgia Tech next Saturday. The Yellow Jackets had their game against Pittsburgh this week postponed due to both them and the Panthers dealing with COVID-19.
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