MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Halfway through, it’s Miami that has inside track to being the Coastal Division frontrunner.
Two Virginia Tech special teams gaffes, a sharp showing by quarterback Stephen Morris and big plays by freshman running back Duke Johnson have given the Hurricanes a 20-12 halftime lead at Sun Life Stadium.
Morris has 140 passing yards and two touchdowns and Johnson 146 all-purpose yards on four touches, including an 81-yard kick return and a 65-yard run, for the ‘Canes (4-4, 3-2 ACC).
Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas has 122 passing yards and a career-high 120 rushing yards at the break, keeping Virginia Tech (4-4, 2-2 ACC) close.
The Hokies’ punt team let them down early. A wide snap forced A.J. Hughes to take extra steps before punting it. He never got it off. Rayshawn Jenkins blocked it for Miami, giving the Hurricanes possession at the Tech 16, setting up a Morris touchdown pass to Allen Hurns.
Virginia Tech put together a nice drive coming back, getting a 51-yard kickoff return by Demitri Knowles, but the Hokies stalled out at the Miami 5, settling for a 22-yard Cody Journell field goal to pull within 7-3.
The Hokies’ special teams let them down again, though. Johnson raced 81 yards on the ensuing kickoff before finally being dragged down. Two plays later, running back Mike James wasn’t covered out of the backfield, catching a pass and trotting into the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown to make it 14-3.
The Hokies got on the board again in the second quarter. On third-and-three, Miami’s defense parted down the middle, allowing Thomas to run a career-long 73 yards untouched for a touchdown. Journell missed the extra point, keeping Tech down 14-9.
But Johnson again made an impact, ripping off a 65-yard run to the Hokies 10 to set up a Jake Wieclaw field goal that gave Miami a 17-9 lead.
Wieclaw tacked on a 31-yard field goal on the next drive, one that started at the ‘Canes 4, to make it 20-9.
The Hokies had one final shot at putting up points but managed the clock poorly before the end of the half, having to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Journell that made it 20-12.
Virginia Tech has 284 yards to Miami’s 213.