BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech’s defense demanded more noise, always more noise, from Lane Stadium on Thursday night. It asked after Tremaine Edmunds sacked Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya for the seventh time, then asked again when Kaaya’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
By then, with less than six minutes remaining, the inevitability of the Hokies’ win was plain; the only question was the margin of victory. About three minutes later, quarterback Jerod Evans provided the answer with a 34-yard touchdown run to seal the 37-16 victory in front of 63,507. Then came even more noise.
The highly anticipated matchup turned out to be the Thursday night Virginia Tech (5-2, 3-1 ACC) and its fan base needed. After an upset loss at Syracuse on Saturday left fans second-guessing the team they had just begun to believe in again, Hokies fans were placated with a dominant performance on national television.
“We did a good job of putting that last game behind us,” senior Sam Rogers said.
The Hurricanes (4-3, 1-3) dropped their third straight.
Both defenses were thin because of injury, with Miami’s unit missing four starters — two ends, a tackle and a cornerback. Starting linemen Ken Ekanem and Nigel Williams were out for Virginia Tech.
But Kaaya, Miami’s standout quarterback, also had a shaky offensive line. Although he completed 23 of 38 passes for 323 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, he was sacked eight times. Bud Foster’s defense, working on a short week, had a splashy night.
Edmunds led the team with 10 tackles, and his brother Terrell had seven. Woody Baron had a season-high six tackles. Freshman Trevon Hill had a career-high five tackles in his first start after returning to Blacksburg on Tuesday following the death of his grandmother.
“Those were some guys who had not maybe played as many snaps prior to this game that, you know, we talked early in camp that that’s going to happen,” Foster said. “. . . I thought our kids responded really well to the challenge and stepped up to the opportunity.”
Foster’s plan was to “make Miami one-dimensional.” The Hurricanes gained just 42 yards on the ground in 29 attempts. They lost 57 on sacks.
Virginia Tech’s offense, in turn, outgained Miami 523 to 365. Evans completed 21 of 33 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 98 yards on 13 carries, including the game’s final score.
Evans found other options as Miami kept a close watch on the Hokies’ best receiver, Isaiah Ford. Ford had just four catches for 46 yards, while Rogers, Bucky Hodges and Cam Phillips filled in with at least 60 receiving yards each.
Like Foster with his defense, Coach Justin Fuente was pleased his offense was able to adapt.
“Our general philosophy is that we should be able to take whatever the defense gives us,” Fuente said. “If that means that Cam gets catches or Bucky gets catches or we have to run the ball more, whatever it is, you got to feel good about those other guys if you’re having a hard time getting the ball to Isaiah.”
Just five days after its struggles in Central New York, the Hokies’ defense set an early tone when Hill, starting in place of Ekanem, sacked Kaaya on the Hurricanes’ second snap. Then Fuente’s offense got three first downs in its first four plays before Joey Syle nailed a 47-yard field goal, his longest of the season.
The teams then traded field goals before Rogers widened the gap.
With 6:42 left until halftime and Virginia Tech on its own 41 after a Miami penalty, the 5-foot-10 fullback hopped to grab Evans’s pass up the middle, then turned and broke four tackles on his way to the Miami 7. That set up Hodges for a seven-yard touchdown catch to put the Hokies ahead 13-3.
Virginia Tech was in control for the majority of the first half against a Miami team licking its wounds after close losses to Florida State and North Carolina.
Still, Kaaya found a way to resemble one of the most talented quarterbacks in the ACC. His most impressive flash was Miami’s final drive before halftime, when the junior showed his mental strength in addition to his arm.
Facing near-constant pressure behind an overmatched offensive line, he lofted a beautiful 39-yard pass to Ahmmon Richards for a first down. A play after being sacked by Baron, he found Stacy Coley up the sideline in double coverage for a 15-yard gain to the Virginia Tech 25. Another perfectly spun pass got Miami its first touchdown of the evening with 19 seconds until halftime. Kicker Michael Badgley missed the extra point, and the Hurricanes entered the locker room trailing 16-9 but with momentum.
The Hokies’ defense changed that by forcing Miami into a three-and-out on its first possession of the second half, and Hodges finished the Hokies’ subsequent drive with a 12-yard touchdown catch from Evans to make it 23-9. Rogers added another touchdown with a 13-yard pass to Steven Peoples, another unexpected contributor on the night.