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Gameday blog: UM 16, Va. Tech 14 (F)

DOLPHINS STADIUM -- Checking in before kickoff and guess what the Canes are wearing black jerseys! Not. UM is wearing green shirts on white pants. Sorry. I know many of you were hoping for them. But what you should probably be hoping for more is a win. Miami needs this one if it wants to keep its hopes alive of reaching the ACC title game. I'll be here as usual tonight to provide you thoughts and analysis as this one goes by.

SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS...
> Miami starts the opening drive of the second half from its own 30 and moves right down the field and scores. Robert Marve completes a 29-yard wide receiver screen to Aldarius Johnson then finds AJ on a flea-flicker for a 16-yard gain. Marve then moves UM inside the Virginia Tech 7-yard line when he scrambles for 18 yards. But Miami is denied a touchdown and settles a 22-yard Bosher field goal. Rutledge by the way was back in for UM on that series.UM 10, Virginia Tech 7.
> Sam Shields comes through with another huge special teams play, smacking down Virginia Tech's kick returner at the VT 9-yard line. The Hokies' drive goes nowhere. Marcus Robinson sacks Tyrod Taylor -- his second sack of the game. Miami takes over at the VT 35 after a bad punt.
> Miami can't punch the ball into the end zone, but gets on the scoreboard again. Matt Bosher boots a 31-yard field goal with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. Javarris James came through with a huge 19-yard catch. Miami's offense just stalled again inside the red zone. UM 13, Virginia Tech 7.
> Miami's defense is feeling it. Virginia Tech goes with Sean Glennon -- and now he can't move the offense. Marcus Robinson picks up his third sack of the game and Miami has good field position once again.
> Miami kicks another field goal after getting lucky again. Kayne Farquharson recovers the Canes' second lucky bounce and UM turns it into three points with 11:58 left to play. UM 16, Virginia Tech 7.

FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS...
> The Hokies came out trying to confuse UM by switching quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon at quarterback and had some early success. Glennon and Taylor each found receiverDanny Coale for 21 yard and 23 yard gains. But on fourth and 1 at the UM 18-yard line, Sean Spence and Anthony Reddick delivered by stopping Darren Evans shy of the marker.
> UM's first offensive series was forgettable. Two Graig Cooper runs netted 3 yards before Robert Marve's pass to a wide open Chris Zellner for a first down was dropped. Matt Bosher came through though with a 45-yard punt.
> The Hokies started their second drive at the 35 and looked like they had picked up a crucial first down on a third down Tyrod Taylor to Jarrett Boykins pass. But after being reviewed, officials ruled safety Anthony Reddick had knocked it out. Virginia Tech punted and UM took over at it own 24-yard line.
> It was a wild 5-minute, 22-second second drive. But it ended with a touchdown. With offensive coordinator Patrick Nix calling for five wide sets and some unique looking formations, Robert Marve engineered a 12-play drive that required a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty and for LaRon Byrd to recover a Marve fumble on a run at the Virginia Tech 6-yard line. Three plays later, Javarris James plunged into the end zone with 2:36 left in the first quarter. UM 7, Virginia Tech 0.
> The first quarter goes to the Canes, who managed to force Virginia Tech to punt again. The story so far has to be the creative sets Miami is running out of. It's kept the Hokies defense off balance.
> Miami's offense got a huge chunk of yardage on a beautiful 37-yard wide receiver screen to Kayne Farquharson on its next possession. But the drive ended when Graig Cooper was stripped of the football at the VT 43. The bigger loss? Right tackle Chris Rutledge, who limped off the field under his own power on the play. Miami is now down to two backup offensive tackles -- an injured Reggie Youngblood and an inexperienced Matt Pipho.
> Freshman defensive tackle Marcus Forston comes through with a big sack for Miami and Virginia Tech is eventually forced to punt on the ensuing possession.
> Jacory Harris enters at quarterback for Miami and is pinned at his own 8. Miami goes 3-and-out.
> Virginia Tech evens the score with an 8-play, 53-yard drive in 3 minutes, 21 seconds. Tyrod Taylor scores on a 14-yard run. But the key plays on the drive belonged to running back Darren Evans, who eluded a few tacklers on a 13-yard run and then hauled in a 13-yard pass. UM 7, Virginia Tech 7.
> Miami's offense sputters once again. Call it a series of blown opportunities -- starting with the kickoff. Brandon Harris took advantage of Tyrod Taylor's celebration penalty and returned the kickoff to the Virginia Tech 40. But an illegal block penalty on UM wiped it out. Miami started at its own 33. Kayne Farquharson had a chance to make about a 30-yard pass down field on second down, but the ball skidded off his fingertips. Virginia Tech took over at its own 22 after a 37-yard Bosher punt.
> The Hokies move right down the field, getting a 37-yard gain when Jarrett Boykin beats Bruce Johnson down the field and makes a one-handed grab at the UM 26. Freshman defensive end Marcus Robinson comes through with a huge play, sacking Sean Glennon back at the 35. Justin Myer tries a 51-yard field goal and misses it.

PREGAME
THE KEYS TO THE GAME
> Win the battle at the line of scrimmage:
OK, so this one goes for every week and every game. But in this game, it means everything. Miami is at an obvious disadvantage tonight. Jason Fox will not be playing and his starting streak of 22 games at left tackle is over. But the end of Fox's streak isn't what you should be concerned with. It's the Canes winning streak. Virginia Tech is one of the most physical teams in the country, year in and year out.

Du_virginiatech_logoThe Hokies want to stop the run on defense (they did last year holding UM to -2 yards). And they want to pound the football down the throats of the Canes on offense. And before last week's win against Maryland, I would have favored the Canes in this battle. But the Hokies won me over with the clinic redshirt freshman Darren Evans put on by rushing for a school-record 253 yards. We all know Miami's defense has played well of late. They are doing better on third down defense (opp. have 24 percent conversion rate in UM's last four wins) and of shutting opponents out in the second half. But the tackling is still a bit suspect, especially in the secondary. UM cornerback Chavez Grant talked this week about the increased focus of Miami's corners to be involved in the run defense against the corners. They'll have to prove they can do it this week.

> Be aware of the Wild Turkey: OK, so Virginia Tech has its own version of the Dolphins' Wildcat offense. It isn't as fancy. Basically, 6-3, 280-pound redshirt junior tight end Greg Boone lines up in the backfield and runs the football. But the Canes ought to keep their eyes open this week for a new wrinkle. Virginia Tech's receivers have yet to catch a touchdown pass this season. What better way to get a guy wide open than on a trick play.

> Beat the Hokies on special teams: Normally, this would sound like an impossible task. But Beamer Ball isn't what it used to be. The Hokies have had two kicks blocked and had three kicks returned against them and are giving up nearly 18 yards a return on punts. This is the night for Travis Benjamin and company to cash in and give the offense some good field position. Benjamin, who fumbled two weeks ago at Virginia, said he's over his mistake. Let's see him prove it. Also, while the Hokies have struggled defending returns, they've still done a good job blocking them. They've got five blocked kicks. So protection will be key.

MARKET WATCH
Buy 'em
> Dedrick Epps, tight end: He didn't catch a pass against Virginia and has a combined three catches in his last three games combined. But he's going to break out tonight. The Hokies are going to bring the heat tonight with Jason Fox out. Look for Epps to catch a lot of short passes and to make some moves to pick up yardage for this Canes offense.
> Glenn Cook, linebacker: He's the leading tackler on the team and going to be the primary workhouse tonight again. Virginia Tech is going to try and run right at Miami. Cook can either have a huge day or a horrible one. I think he has a good one.

On the bubble
Reggie_youngblood> Reggie Youngblood, left tackle: He'll be the guy getting circled the most during tonight's telecast. With Fox out, he's the guy who has to step up and deliver. Reggie came to UM as the No. 2 offensive tackle in the country. Miami needs for him to play like it tonight.
> Chris Rutledge, right tackle: Chris has played in a rotation his entire career. Tonight, he'll get the majority of snaps at right tackle and will have to step up his game if Miami's going to win this one. Matt Pipho has all of about 25 snaps in his career. He'll play some too. But the burden will fall on Rutledge to deliver.

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