Whether it was blocked punts, long returns, missed field goals or costly turnovers, Coach Frank Beamer’s calling card was shredded once again and the Hokies were left to ponder a 30-12 loss to Miami in which they ran more plays, gained more yards and held the ball longer than the Hurricanes.
The defeat dropped Virginia Tech (4-5 overall, 2-3 ACC) below .500 and guarantees its run of eight-consecutive 10-win seasons — the longest active streak in the country — will come to an end. Perhaps more importantly, Miami now holds the tiebreaker over the Hokies in the race to represent the Coastal Division in the ACC championship game.
Virginia Tech, meanwhile, must win two of its final three games just to become bowl eligible for the 20th straight year.
“It’s a team game and we’re just not quite clicking,” Beamer said. “I think everyone’s trying as hard as they can, but it’s really frustrating. It’s very disappointing. I know our fans are disappointed and I’m disappointed in the fact that we’re disappointing them.”
Quarterback Logan Thomas finished with a career-high 22 rushes for 124 yards and a touchdown, but he struggled throwing the ball. The redshirt junior completed just 19 of his 37 passes for 199 yards and had three turnovers, including a fumbled snap at Miami’s 3-yard-line late in the third quarter with the Hokies down by eight points.
It proved to be Virginia Tech’s best scoring chance of the second half, especially after Thomas overthrew wide-open fullback Joey Phillips on a fourth-and-one play early in the fourth quarter. Miami’s Duke Johnson then put the finishing touches on a bizarre victory with a seven-yard touchdown run with just more than seven minutes remaining.
Johnson led the Hurricanes (5-4, 4-2) with 219 all-purpose yards on just 14 touches. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris passed for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
Thomas refused to speak with reporters after the game for the first time in his career.
“We’re so used to winning here, it’s kind of a weird feeling being . . . under .500 now,” linebacker Jack Tyler said.
Virginia Tech and Miami entered Thursday’s nationally televised affair well aware that the winner would take control of their division and be in position to earn a berth in the conference championship game next month. But if the Hokies were looking to make a statement early, they sure didn’t play like it.
After driving Virginia Tech into the red zone on the opening possession, Thomas tried to finesse a pass to Phillips on a wheel route and Miami’s Ladarius Gunter intercepted the throw. Combined with a late fourth-quarter interception, Thomas now has more picks this year (12) than he had all of last season.
Virginia Tech’s once-vaunted special teams made the situation worse. First, freshman A.J. Hughes bobbled a wide snap on a punt and Miami’s Gabe Terry blocked the late kick, setting the Hurricanes up at the Hokies’ 15-yard line. Two plays later Morris hit wide receiver Allen Hurns for a 15-yard touchdown pass that staked the Hurricanes to a 7-0 lead.
Wide receiver Demitri Knowles appeared to get the Hokies back on track, returning the ensuing kickoff 51 yards to set up a 22-yard field goal by place kicker Cody Journell. But Beamerball failed Virginia Tech again moments later.
Johnson took the next kickoff 81 yards, and the Hurricanes soon capitalized when Morris hit running back Mike James for a 16-yard touchdown catch. When the first quarter ended Virginia Tech had out-gained the Hurricanes 129-36 and had the ball for 12 minutes 31 seconds. But they were behind 14-3 on the scoreboard because for the third time in four games Beamerball ended up costing the Hokies points.
Virginia Tech’s offense didn’t help the cause, even though Miami’s porous defense — which entered Thursday on pace to be the worst in program history — was on the field for more than 34 minutes. Aside from a 73-yard touchdown run by Thomas early in the second quarter, the Hokies once again sputtered when it mattered most.
Virginia Tech drove the ball into the red zone four times Thursday, but got just six points and two turnovers out of those trips. The Hokies also had two other possessions end inside Miami territory without any points.
Even though Virginia Tech’s defense held the Hurricanes to just three yards in the third quarter, it meant little with the Hokies looking sloppy in every other aspect of the game.
“When it looks tough, that’s when you really see what people are made out of,” Beamer said. “And things are really tough right now.”