Four Down Friday: Miami Is Not Back And Virginia Tech Might Miss A Bowl

The Hokies and Hurricanes battle for the title of “who will be sub-.500 after Saturday”.

[Mark Umansky]

When the 2018 ACC football schedule was released, and Miami at Virginia Tech was scheduled for late November, ESPN executives probably licked their chops.

All the makings for a marquee matchup were in place. Miami rode a wave of momentum to a 10-0 start last season, hopeful it'd carry through to 2018. Virginia Tech won 19 games over Justin Fuente's first two seasons in Blacksburg. ACC Media pegged the Hurricanes and Hokies to finish Nos. 1 and 2 in the Coastal, respectively. With the game scheduled in late November, it could serve a play-in game for the ACC Championship.

Unfortunately for both fans and executives alike, that is not the case for Saturday's game.

Instead, 4-5 Virginia Tech hosts 5-5 Miami. Both teams have been eliminated from the Coastal divisional race. The luster of this matchup has dulled significantly.

First Down: Virginia Tech Defense Down Another Man

When Houshun "House" Gaines went down against Pittsburgh, it didn't look good. The redshirt junior rolled on the turf, and clutched his knee. Those who assumed the worst were correct to do so.

Bud Foster said Gaines tore his ACL during his post-game press conference last Saturday, and Justin Fuente reaffirmed the diagnosis on Monday afternoon.

"Just confirming House is out for the year with a knee injury," said Fuente. "House plays extremely hard and will be missed. But he'll be very quickly on the road to recovery and we're looking forward to having him back out next year."

Gaines went through the gauntlet this season. His mother passed away on October 1st.

"It's been a several-week situation, I guess you could say," Fuente explained at the time. "I do believe that House has found some refuge with his teammates and his coaches."

He played in the Notre Dame game on October 6th, just five days removed from the loss. He stepped up as one of the few remaining veteran defenders on this version of Virginia Tech's "Lunch Pail Defense". He racked up 22 total tackles, 5.0 for loss, and 4.5 sacks over 9 games this season.

For Gaines to tear his ACL is brutal. Not only the injury itself, but the timing of it as well.

"You feel for him," noted defensive line coach Charley Wiles. "An injury like that, it's like Vinny [Mihota] getting hurt last November. It kind of gets you in a bad time. Obviously, a blow to our football team, a blow to him, he's been through a lot with his mom. And then, it's a little closer to next fall, to have him ready to go. I think being a little bit of a smaller, Vinny was a little bit bigger, I think he [Gaines] will get over it a little bit quicker hopefully. House is handling it well. I know what we're doing, it means a whole lot to him. I hate it for him. Injuries happen, unfortunately."

Gaines' teammate and fellow lineman Tyjuan Garbutt reflected on how much Gaines means to the team, and him specifically, on Tuesday afternoon.

"As a team, that's one of our biggest blows we've took," said Garbutt. "He's a great teammate. He's always been a type of motivator, especially for a guy like me. He's a role model on the field definitely. Funny guy off the field. Somebody who really leads us and helps us younger guys. He brings energy just by his personality and his character."

And as the injuries continue to stack up for the Hokies, the mantra stays consistent. Next man up.

"It's not fun not getting off the field," said Wiles. "Not fun not stopping people. But it's a challenge as part of this process right now. We knew we were going to be young. We did have Ricky coming back, [Trevon Hill] as mentioned earlier, Vinny and his ACL took him a while, just little problems there getting everybody back. But then you lose some of your depth, some of your starters. It's just part of it. We've been fortunate to stay healthy, this is probably the most injuries I've seen in my 23 years it seems like. But that's, you know, when you're young and you lack depth in areas, it seems like that sometimes where you're attacked. And you end up losing guys in those positions. But, again, it's part of the game. We've got to find ways to overcome that as a football team, as a defense, and step up. One thing about it, nobody quit. Trust me. Ain't nobody quitting. Nobody is laying down. We're improving. Trust me."

Second Down: Offensive Offense

Virginia Tech's defense is playing at an uncommon level. The Hokies are unaccustomed to ranking near the bottom in total defense (No. 105) and scoring defense (No. 87) at this point in a campaign. Advanced stats tells the same story. However, a myriad of injuries forced inexperienced defenders into action. That at least explains some of the circumstance around the defensive shortcomings.

On the offensive side of the ball though, there aren't many injuries and the youth excuse doesn't ring as true. There are young players getting significant run, but they were expected contributors.

So whether it's the execution or the playcalling, Tech's offense is struggling down the stretch. The Hokies scored over 30 points just three times this season. Twice against FBS opponents. Since October, the Hokies' points production has been mired in the twenties. Over that stretch, Tech faced scoring defenses ranked No. 15 (Notre Dame), No. 108 (North Carolina), No. 69 (Georgia Tech), No. 49 (Boston College), and No. 81 (Pitt).

"Well I certainly would like to be [farther ahead]," said Cornelsen. "Absolutely. I think, as we look at our group, and we look at the number of freshman and true freshman and sophomores that are still playing for us, there's nothing that replaces the experience of practice and games. We're definitely not where we want to be. I don't know if any of us had a specific formula or what it was exactly going to look like this year at what point in the season. When you're struggling, and you're not winning as much as you want to, then you probably don't feel like you've progressed like you've wanted to. The thing this group has continued to do is they're together and they're doing what we're asking them to do. We see guys getting better. And we're not executing like we need to be at times. We've still got to find another notch, another level, of concentration and effort in practice at times. More importantly, and most of all, in the games, we've got to go perform better. And get them to do that. That's kind of where we're at."

Cornelsen said the buzzword again. Execution. It hasn't been up to the coaching staff's standards. Fine. But the question of what the coaches could do to improve that looms large on their shoulders.

"You try everything you can," explained Cornelsen. "You look at your scheme, sometimes it's scheme. You need a better scheme. You need something that fits your guys better. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes the problems are random and a guy did it just right all week and then something happened in the game and it didn't go like you wanted it to. The first thing that we ask our players to do and us as coaches do, is 'you look in the mirror and you figure out how can I make this better?' For coaches, you try to figure out how to scheme it better and how to coach it better and help your players understand it better. We hope we're getting the same thing from our players and we've been pleased with the way those kids have responded week to week. It's not easy, you know, of pouring everything we've got into a game and losing. And having to pick yourself back up the next day and start over again. They've been resilient and that's what they've tried to do. We've been proud of them for that. We've got to keep bringing them on, put them in as good of a situation as we can and try whatever we need to. Different things in practice, different schemes, just got to keep pushing along."

Hope you were ready to read a lot of coach speak.

Fuente mentioned on the ACC teleconference that Deshawn McClease practiced on Tuesday, but is still day-to-day. Cornelsen noted freshman Caleb Steward might fill in if McClease can't go on Saturday afternoon.

"Yeah, Caleb has been kind of repping with us the last couple weeks," explained Cornelsen. "He's getting himself in position, that if we need to use him, he knows what to do. It's been good to get him back with us and watch him develop a little bit. He's done a nice job. He's still got a long ways to go."

Third Down: 12th Game Deja Vu

Just to jog everyone's memory. Florida State rescheduled and won a 12th game last year to become bowl eligible and keep their "bowl streak" alive. And now, the Hokies are staring down the same situation. Although, their bowl streak is legitimate.

"We've got interest in all of the scenarios," said Fuente. "As you guys and gals know, there's a lot to all that. Whit has done a great job of keeping me up to date on what's going on, and we're continuing to work our way through it. Do we have interest? Certainly. We have interest in all of the potential scenarios in what could happen and all of the moving pieces that come about that don't have anything to do with the football team but have everything to do with everybody on the outside. That's a pretty vague answer, but yes is the answer. We've got interest and we're still trying to figure it all out."

Virginia Tech has not scheduled another opponent for early December. Southern Miss, a possible option, announced on Wednesday they wouldn't play a makeup game. Nearby Marshall had its matchup against South Carolina canceled due to Hurricane Florence, and it hasn't scheduled a 12th game. But don't worry, the last time that Marshall played in Lane Stadium, it definitely wasn't a close game or anything.

Fourth Down: Miami FAQ:

What has Miami done so far this year?

Miami has somehow made the turnover chain more annoying, was blown out on opening weekend, started a quarterback controversy, and lost to UVA.

This is not last year's Miami team. Those Hurricanes were obviously legitimate and didn't string together 10-straight wins off of a generous schedule and back-to-back hyped up home games. No way that would have happened. This down season is completely unexpected.

Any particular Miami player to watch?

It seems like the obvious answer here is N'Kosi Perry. The redshirt-freshman quarterback has been named the starter multiple times this season, flip flopping with Malik Rosier. Perry has appeared in eight games so far this season, throwing for 866 yards on a 54% completion rate. Rosier on the other hand has 1,007 yards and a 53.5% completion rate on the season. Both QBs have five interceptions on the year, but Perry has 11 touchdown passes. Rosier only has 6.

Perry was the starter last Saturday in the Hurricanes' loss against Georgia Tech. He played the entire game, and yes, that came as a surprise to the Miami fan(s) in attendance. Mark Richt hasn't done a great job of managing Miami's offense this season. One might even say that Mark Richt has lost control of the quarterback situation.

Who wins and why

Virginia Tech will start its 20th different player on defense this week. The Hokies' offense is limping down the field each drive. Play calling by Cornelsen is mediocre, at best. Execution by Virginia Tech's offense is lacking. Tech's defense is seemingly trying to see if it can somehow give up more rushing yards than the week prior. Things are not great in Blacksburg.

Until Virginia Tech shows that they're capable of winning a game against an FBS team in Lane Stadium this season, there's no reason to pick them. Miami wins.

Comments

Everyone seems to be down on the Hokies right (with reason), but that makes us underdogs and that has always been a spark for the Hokies. Let the spark become an explosion! Go Hokies!

Ut Prosim Ad Dei Gloriam

but that makes us underdogs and that has always been a spark for the Hokies

Except for all the recent games we've been playing in where we're underdogs

Hokies win 31-7. Defense feeds on a bad Miami offense as Farley has 2 Int, 1 returned for TD. Somebody has to be the optimist.

I hope the boo birds come out this weekend if Tech is losing.

Someone needs to hold this team accountable....it sure isnt the coaching staff.

I never boo my own team.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

I never boo college kids.

Eh, too strong on second thought.
Removed.

"What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

I will if they do something like punch someone or intentionally try to injury another player.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

*cough*JORDANZUMWALT*cough*

Thanks for ruining my Friday

Gobble Till You Wobble

I'll point out as I always do when this is brought up: objectively, his hit was legal and clean. This is the hill I choose to die on.

And you will die there because you're wrong.

Even if you are right it was still questionable and it shouldn't have happened.

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Braxton Burmeister, Ryan Willis, Josh Jackson, Jerod Evans, Michael Brewer, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

That's what I mean below by booing dirty players. I won't boo the team but if one of our guys tries to roll someone's ankle or throws an elbow like that D3 basketball player earlier this week? Yeah, I'll boo him for being dirty and for hurting his teammates.

You'd make a terrible Philly sports fan.

"What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

I always figured that the fans were booing the coaches, not the players. Like when we try to run the ball for four consecutive three and outs to start the second half when it just flat out isn't working. The players did what they could with the call they got. So boo the coaches. I'll boo a coach, don't @ me.

I don't boo my team, my alma mater, or young men who are trying hard. Never

What if it's a Mike London coached young man that attends UVA and fakes an injury to slow down a Hokies offense that's inside the 5?

Good fans don't boo their team; boo bad sportsmanship, boo the refs for bad calls, boo dirty players, but don't ever boo your team.

I'm a Philly fan and I'm not on board with this, they're just kids

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Braxton Burmeister, Ryan Willis, Josh Jackson, Jerod Evans, Michael Brewer, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

I wish all this anti boo sentiment existed when Glennon played.

I remember his senior day in Lane they booed him so bad they put Tyrod in and the place cheered. Felt bad for the guy then

I'll still be there cheering but planning to focus on beers, grilling, and cornhole Saturday. The game is now secondary, because it will be the least fun part of the weekend.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Malik Rosier play a lot early and run the read option. They caught us pretty good on this last year and we're having a hard time stopping the run. Hopefully we're ready for them and win in a shoot out. Go Hokies!

They'll figure out who we prepared for, if they haven't already, and play the other guy.

Do you mean their offensive coaches will review film and gameplan in-order to maximize your strengths and exploit the opponents weak spots??? (I think the biggest task for opposing OC this year is deciding which weakness they want to exploit, unfortunately).

I too, expect to see alot of Rosier runs, lots of Homer/Dallas and not throwing the ball much unless they have to. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a QB sweep similar to GT's in both of the next 2 games.

What do I expect from our offense..? More of the same (in ever literal sense of the word). Followed by long, meandering coachspeak passages that say nothing but largely defect any real insight into why we can't put points on the board.

Exactly. We stink bad, record setting bad. Let's not kid our selves here. How can Cornelsen use the youth excuse on offense? If it is not youth then it is execution. God, we are just plain horrible - coaching, execution, players, level of performance, ability, etc. Just all around bad right now...

What is the excuse next year when the same "youthful" guys are R-F, S, R-S and Juniors and they still haven't progressed? Are all of Frank's last year recruits that much more terrible? These young players have regressed this year outside the linebackers. And what does that mean, our coaches either stink, can't recruit and develop good 3 stars, people are just giving up, plain suck, are not ready or have no place even being on the field b/c of injury. We cannot attribute this fully to the guys on the field.

These coaches deserve criticism just like anyone else in any organization. If your team sucks and lays down, well guess what, who is leading the team and will get a shit review, the team lead = coaches.

Wake up folks...These players are just not as Hard, Smart and Tough as those around in Year 1 or 2 of Fuente. Is this really execution and youth or the people all around now present in the program???

I become less and less impressed and more and more frustrated every time I see Fuente's non-apologetic press conferences with a slight annoyance present on his face. You do not deserve to be annoyed; your team suks and you need to lead and win some games first at VT.

I am a realist and massively faithful VT fan. I am also NOT a player and coach stinking apologist who says you have to be positive all the time and cannot criticize poor leadership and performance (coaches and players). If you want to show up or watch a game and blindly root for crap, go ahead, and I hope your positive vibes will make this sinking ship float again.

What is your proof that players have "regressed."

I think a lot of people are using "regressed" in the place of "inconsistent." Have players become worse since the beginning of the season, absolutely not. Do players play worse at times late in the season than they do early in the season, of course.

Plenty of reasons for that, but to say the players have regressed is simply not true.

Always choose joy.

Hell, who am I kidding- FUCK MIAMI.

While I have my own thoughts and opinions on what is going on this year, it doesn't take away the fact that I will be screaming my lungs out for us to beat those Hurricant's. No reason why we shouldn't beat them and it doesn't take away from the fact that these next two games are about our pride as a program against our rivals too

Screw them and LET'S GO HOKIES!

My goal tomorrow is to be so drunk by kickoff that I don't care how the game plays out....

"I have a PLAN. You just need to have a little goddamn faith, Whit. I just need. more. MONEY." - Justin van der Linde

330 kick off. You should be able to take care of that easily. Cheers

Here's to hoping our defense can hold their offense to under 28 points and give us a chance to win.

The more this season goes along the more I am hoping to see HH or QP2 get more significant playing time, probably more HH based on readiness. Willis is a gutsy player has a live arm, but he only has 1 year left compared to 3 for HH and JJ and 4 for QP2. I am willing to bet on Fuente going with the long term play here, so hoping to get more game film on HH and QP2 to make the decision with more data points.

Yeah.... no Fuente values experience and game management above raw talent. He will play who he thinks can control the game the best and as much as I'm on the QP hype train its not him or HH right now

AHEM

FOUR DOWN FRIDAY: MIAMI IS NOT BACK BAK AND VIRGINIA TECH MIGHT MISS A BOWL

FTFY

Hokies United l Ut Prosim

i was so drunk last week in our loss last week that I actually just wanted to forget about VA Tech football.

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