Miami’s October nightmare continues.
Playing its second game in five days, the Hurricanes dug themselves a first half hole – in the form of a 13-point deficit – and was never able to fully climb out as UM fell 37-16 to host Virginia Tech Thursday night in front of a raucous capacity crowd at Lane Stadium.
Miami (4-3, 1-3 ACC), lost to North Carolina this past Saturday and fell even further down in the ACC Coastal standings by losing to the Hokies (5-2, 3-1) Thursday night, cut their deficit to seven on two different occasions – 16-9 right before halftime and 23-16 midway through the third quarter – but they would never get closer than that.
Virginia Tech took a 30-16 lead late in the third quarter with a 9-play, 75-yard scoring drive capped by a fullback-to-fullback double pass from Steven Peoples to Sam Rogers then the Hokies completely put the game away with a 34-yard touchdown scamper by quarterback Jerod Evans with 2:45 left in the game.
Like any veteran coach would do, UM’s Mark Richt took responsibility for the team’s performance Thursday night.
“[It] start[s] with me. We just didn’t do a good enough job,” Richt said when interviewed on the 560 WQAM postgame show. “There are a lot of areas that just didn’t get it done. It starts with me. It starts with me offensively. There are things that didn’t go right in every area of the game…not enough good to put ourselves in a position to win this thing.”
Canes quarterback Brad Kaaya, who has been the recipient of much scrutiny through Miami’s two previous losses, looked a bit better Thursday. When given time, Kaaya was able to find receivers and make the impressive throws that had him in the spotlight originally.
The junior signal caller finished the game 23-of-38 for 323 yards with two touchdowns and a second quarter interception. Eight different receivers caught passes for the Hurricanes, Braxton Berrios and Chris Herndon each caught touchdowns and freshman Ahmmon Richards finished with a team-high 78 receiving yards.
Where Miami crumbled was across its offensive line. The group, which has seemed to regress as the season has worn on, allowed Kaaya to be sacked eight times – not including the other dozen times he was knocked down while throwing the ball – and only paved the way for a total of 42 rushing yards.
Virginia Tech, on the other hand, was able to find holes in Miami’s defense throughout the night. The Hokies tallied up 523 total yards of offense – racking up 28 first downs in the process – and took full advantage of an injury-depleted and fatigued UM defense.
Virginia Tech’s Trayvon Mullen ran for a game-high 131 yards on 18 carries. Evans was 21 for 33 with 233 passing yards and threw a pair of touchdowns – both to 6-foot-7 receiver Bucky Hodges.
Though it gave up a season-high 37 points, Miami’s defense played valiantly despite having to play as many as five freshmen on the defensive unit Thursday.
Richt offered up praise to the young players.
“We didn’t tackle as well in the second half as we did in the first half. We are wounded on that side of the ball pretty good,” Richt said on the postgame show. “At times, we had five true freshmen in at the same time. That bodes well for the future, but doesn’t [necessarily] now. I’m not by any means blaming the freshmen. They’re doing a great job. But there definitely were some breakdowns defensively we’ll see on tape.”
The injury bug continued to take chomp down on the Hurricanes Thursday. Having already listed defensive tackle Gerald Willis (knee), defensive end Scott Patchan (knee), defensive end Demetrius Jackson (knee) as “out” for the game; defensive end and sack leader Chad Thomas along with sophomore cornerback Sheldrick Redwine also did not travel with the team.
Worse yet, senior safety Rayshawn Jenkins left the game in the third quarter with what appeared to be a significant ankle injury. Jenkins injured himself while attempting to make an open-field tackle. He was unable to put any weight on the leg as he was helped off the field.
Riding a three-game losing streak, the Canes will have an extra few days to get healthy and regroup as they will travel to 2-5 Notre Dame on October 29th.
Berrios said that the team must avoid getting down early if things are going to turn around for the Canes.
“When we get down, we try to turn things on – that shouldn’t be the case at all,” Berrios said on 560’s postgame show. “We have to come out firing. We have to figure something out. I have no doubt we’re going to. We need to end October with a win…it’s imperative.”