No. 9 Miami faces Virginia Tech, seeks fourth straight win
The ninth-ranked Miami Hurricanes, who have won three straight games, visit the Virginia Tech Hokies in an Atlantic Coast Conference game on Saturday afternoon at Blacksburg, Va.
Miami, which is a 2.5-point favorite, leads the all-time series, 22-15.
This year, the Hurricanes (6-1, 5-1 ACC) are led by quarterback D’Eriq King, who in Friday’s 44-41 win over North Carolina State became just the third ACC athlete to pass for at least 400 yards and run for 100 in the same game. He is the reigning ACC Quarterback of the Week.
King, who has passed for 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions this year, is third in the conference in passing yards per game (261.6).
Two other Hurricanes won ACC position honors: wide receiver Mike Harley and defensive end Jaelan Phillips.
Harley caught eight passes for 153 yards and two scores. In the past two games, Harley has caught 18 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns.
Phillips had a career-high 10 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one pass deflection.
“We’re proud of where we are,” Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz said of his team’s 6-1 start. “But we’re not satisfied.”
Meanwhile, the Hokies (4-3, 4-2), who beat Miami 42-35 last year, are coming off a deflating 38-35 loss to Liberty.
Aside from the last-second defeat, the Hokies also lost three key starters to injury: running back Khalil Herbert (third in the ACC in rushing), linebacker Rayshard Ashby (second on the team with 6.5 tackles for loss) and tight end James Mitchell.
Their status for Saturday’s game is undetermined.
The Hokies are led by quarterback Hendon Hooker, a 6-4, 230-pound junior who made his first collegiate start last year against Miami, passing for 184 yards and running for 76 in the victory.
Against Liberty, Hooker was nearly a one-man show, completing 20 of 27 passes for 217 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran 20 times for 156 yards and one score.
Hooker was responsible for 373 of the Hokies’ 418 yards.
“We do need to bring along those other guys,” Hokies coach Justin Fuente said when asked about getting Hooker’s teammates more involved in the offense.
Herbert leads the Hokies in rushing with 804 yards and an 8.3 average. He has scored seven touchdowns, one short of Hooker’s team-high eight TDs. But if Herbert is not back from his hamstring injury, that will hamper the Hokies.
Defensively, the Hokies’ bright spot is defensive end Amare Barno, who leads the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and is tied for the top spot with 4.5 sacks.
“I should have led off (Monday’s press conference) talking about Amare,” Fuente said. “He continues to improve.”
A key factor in Saturday’s game could be the health status of Miami tight end Brevin Jordan, who has missed three straight games. In 22 career games, the junior has 85 career catches for 1,025 yards and nine touchdowns.
Jordan’s backup — junior Will Mallory — has played 15 career games and has 34 catches for 549 yards and seven touchdowns. Last week, Mallory had six catches for 78 yards and one touchdown.
Harley, who is eighth in the ACC with 71 yards in receptions per game, could be even more dangerous if Jordan and Mallory are both available.
Diaz, however, commented on Monday about the length of some of Virginia Tech’s defensive backs, particularly 6-3 safety Divine Deablo and 6-1 cornerback Jermaine Waller.
–Field Level Media