MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. — Virginia Tech's aspirations of winning the ACC Coastal Division title dissolved Saturday night during a 28-10 loss to Miami, with the Hokies unable to overcome self-inflicted damage in a turnover-plagued game.
The complexion of the showdown between the top teams in the division changed drastically after Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson threw an interception late in the third quarter.
Safety Jaquan Johnson stepped in front of Jackson's pass for his second interception this season, and the Hurricanes scored three plays later on quarterback Malik Roiser's 13-yard run for the final margin.
Virginia Tech (7-2, 3-2 ACC), ranked 13th the College Football Playoff poll, is eliminated from contention for the ACC Coastal crown, losing the head-to-head tiebreaker to the Hurricanes. Virginia is the only school other than Miami that can win the division.
The No. 10 Hurricanes (8-0, 6-0), meanwhile, pushed their unbeaten streak to 13 in a row, the longest active run in major college football, and elevated their standing significantly in the conversation for one of the four berths in the College Football Playoff with a first win this season against a ranked opponent.
"They are a well-coached, tough football team," Virginia Tech Coach Justin Fuente said of the Hurricanes. "We, in my opinion, are too. Our kids played hard. They laid it on the line, played in a hostile environment, and we weren't good enough today to win the game."
The Hokies committed four turnovers, their most this season, with Jackson (20 of 32, 197 yards, two interceptions) responsible for three, and managed 299 yards of total offense. Much of that production came late in the fourth quarter with the outcome in hand as Virginia Tech lost for the second time this season to a ranked opponent.
It also lost to Clemson, then ranked No 2 in the Associated Press top 25, on Sept. 30 in Blacksburg, Va.
A takeaway by the Virginia Tech defense, which allowed 430 total yards, led to Jackson's one-yard run that whittled the deficit to 14-10 with 11:39 to play in the third quarter, giving the Hokies a brief glimmer of hope.
Virginia Tech safety Reggie Floyd set up the Hokies at the Miami 17 with an interception he returned 37 yards. The sophomore leaped as Rosier delivered the ball and secured an acrobatic catch for the turnover with 13:55 remaining in the third quarter.
Virginia Tech collected its third interception when cornerback Greg Stroman broke on a pass intended for wide receiver Jeff Thomas. The Hokies took possession at their 45 but wound up turning it over on downs when on fourth and two, Jackson had no choice but to fall on a muffed snap.
The Hurricanes got the ball at their 49 following the miscue, and two plays later, tight end Chris Herndon caught a 43-yard scoring pass from Rosier for a 21-10 advantage with seven minutes to go in the third quarter.
A 64-yard run by Miami tailback Travis Homer (95 yards on 14 carries) had produced a 14-0 lead with 7:09 left in the first half. Homer ran through a gaping hole in the middle of the field and avoided three defenders on his way to the end zone, providing the late-arriving crowd of 65,326 at Hard Rock Stadium the offensive highlight of the first half.
"I think they executed the game plan, and we didn't," Stroman said. "I feel like they just made some plays, and we should have been in better position, but we'll be alright. We'll regroup from it."
The Hokies got within 14-3 with 2:03 left in the half thanks to place kicker Joey Slye's 50-yard field goal that sailed through the center of the uprights with plenty of room to spare. Virginia Tech had reached the Miami 20, but on third and seven, running back Deshawn McClease mishandled a pitch and fell on the loose ball for a loss of 13.
A turnover foiled another promising drive for Virginia Tech only minutes later. Facing first and 10 at the Miami 18, wide receiver Sean Savoy caught a six-yard pass, but Johnson jarred the ball loose making the tackle, and defensive tackle RJ McIntosh recovered and returned it 35 yards to the Miami 49.
The sequence triggered the first appearance of the "Turnover Chain" on the Miami sideline. McIntosh wore the gaudy 10-karat gold rope adorned with an oversized charm in the shape and colors of the Hurricanes logo, keeping with a tradition started this season after every Miami takeaway.
The chain has become an unapologetic symbol of Miami's resurgence, underscoring the bravado and excess associated with the program's most prosperous stretch during the 1980s and early portion of the following decade.
Even three-time American League MVP Alex Rodriguez, attending the game with girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, got into the spirit by wearing a Hurricanes chain while watching from a suite.
"It's frustrating, especially with the all the hype I guess behind this game and everything it meant, to lose it when you get that close," Jackson said. "I put it on me. At the end of the day I'm the quarterback, so it's my fault."
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