Virginia Tech, Miami playing for bowls amid upheaval
The Miami Hurricanes and Virginia Tech Hokies — both with identical 5-5 overall records and 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference marks — will attempt to become bowl-eligible when they meet on Saturday night in Miami Gardens, Fla.
The Hokies will be doing it without coach Justin Fuente, who departed via mutual agreement Tuesday after six seasons. Co-defensive line coach J.C. Price will run the team for the rest of the season.
“It’s bittersweet,” Price said Thursday. “I just want to do my best for these kids. These kids deserve to go out a winner.
“Our story is not written. The book’s not finished. What’s it going to say? We’re going to finish writing it the next two weeks.”
As the Hurricanes play their final home game of the season, coach Manny Diaz is hoping to avoid the fate of athletic director Blake James, who was fired this week. Diaz is focused on improving his 19-15 record at Miami.
“The mission this week is to beat Virginia Tech,” he said. “That’s all we can control. I think because of that mentality, our team has been pretty resilient over the course of the year.”
Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, a redshirt freshman with just seven starts to his credit, will try to continue his hot streak on Saturday.
Van Dyke has passed for more than 300 yards in four straight games, throwing 14 touchdown passes and three interceptions in that span. His four TD passes last week were not enough as Miami lost 31-28 to its biggest rival, Florida State.
Leading by five points with less than one minute left, the Hurricanes allowed the Seminoles to convert a fourth-and-14 into a first down with a big pass play.
“That fourth-and-14 will haunt me forever,” Diaz said.
On Saturday, the most intriguing matchup could be Miami’s 16th-ranked passing offense and Virginia Tech’s 15th-ranked pass defense.
The Hokies are coming off a 48-17 win over Duke.
Running back Malachi Thomas got injured during the game, so it remains to be seen whether or how much he plays against Miami. Thomas is Virginia Tech’s second-leading rusher with 382 yards and a 5.0-yard average.
The Hokies’ leading rusher is Raheem Blackshear, who has 542 yards and a 5.4 average. He also leads the team with five rushing touchdowns and 765 scrimmage yards.
Blackshear is the reigning ACC Running Back of the Week. He scored two TDs against Duke, rushing for 117 yards and catching two passes for 40 yards.
Virginia Tech’s biggest advantage on Saturday may be with quarterback Braxton Burmeister. He will face a Miami pass defense that ranks 120th in the nation, allowing 270 yards per game.
Burmeister has completed 54.5 percent of his passes for 1,710 yards, 12 TDs and four interceptions.
His top two targets are Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson. Turner has 35 catches for 631 yards and two TDs. Robinson has 39 catches for 445 yards and four TDs.
For Miami, Van Dyke is completing 61.6 percent of his passes, and he has 19 TD throws and six interceptions.
Miami’s other big playmakers are running back Jaylan Knighton (724 scrimmage yards and eight TDs in just six games) and wide receiver Charleston Rambo (64 catches, 955 yards and five TDs).
–Field Level Media