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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Virginia Tech Hokies edition

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It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. Let’s review Miami’s 25-24 win at Virginia Tech.

CB Te’Cory Couch celebrates a late-game interception in the win at Virginia Tech.
Tim Brogdon, Miami Athletics

WHEW!!! THAT WAS CLOSE!!!

The Miami Hurricanes earned their 7th win on the year with a hard-fought 25-24 win on the road against the Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday afternoon.

Here’s our game recap from the win by Dylan Sherry

Now, let’s get into The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, shall we?

The Good

  • A win!
  • Finding ways to win!
  • Playing not-our-best-football and still winning.
  • Hey, have I told you we won? And that’s good? Because we did. AND IT IS!!!
  • Mental toughness. Things went wrong. PLENTY wrong. But this team never quit. They never gave up. They never sulked. They continued to play hard and work. And in the end, they won because of it.
  • DE Jaelan Phillips. And absolutely dominant performance from him. 8 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, and many more plays that didn’t even show up on the scoresheet (like multiple times he ran over 2 OL or occupied 3 guys while someone else made a play). Absolutely DOMINANT performance from Phillips today. Massive massive massive game. ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week award soon come.
  • CB Te’Cory Couch. The sophomore earned the start at one corner spot, and he played his ass off today to prove he deserved it. 5 tackles, 0.5 sack, 2 QB hurries, and an interception. And Couch had another pick in his hands on the penultimate play and dropped it. He was all over the place, and like Phillips, his impact was even greater than the numbers would have you believe. Marvelous game from him. Bravo.
  • D’Eriq King in the first half. 16/22 for 144 yards, 10 carries for 24 yards and a TD. It took a minute but #1 finally got things rolling. Sure, Miami trailed at the half, but King was hot and he had the Canes within a point at the break.
  • While his 2nd half wasn’t as good as the 1st, D’Eriq King found a way to get the job done. And here it is. The game-winner: an RPO slant to Mark Pope for 36 yards and the last points of the game:
  • Overall, King finished 24-38 passing for 255 yards and the game-winning touchdown. No interceptions, tho. And, his rushing numbers were quite pedestrian due to the great many sacks Miami suffered today. But he scored on the ground, and that’s helpful!
  • STRIKER Gilbert Frierson. 8 tackles, 2 TFLs, and 2 sacks, the final of which effectively ended the game. The trio of Phillips, Frierson, and Couch really stepped up and were the backbone of this win on defense.
  • WR Dee Wiggins. 8 catches for 106 yards. Made some TOUGH catches today, and helped move the chains when Miami needed the offense to get going.
  • WRs Mark Pope and Mike Harley. They weren’t as explosive as the last couple weeks, but they combined for 10 catches and 101 yards, and Pope had the game-winner, so that’s good!
  • P Louis Hedley. 7 punts for 367 yards (52.7 average). Just massive. Hedley flipped the field time and time again, and his incredible punting backed VT up, and made it hard for their offense to score from negative starting field position. His final punt was downed at the 3 yard line and it was GLORIOUS. And that set the stage for the final defensive stop for the win.
  • K Jose Borregales. 2/2 on FGs. 1/1 on PATs. When he kicked it, it was great. When he didn’t (for various reasons), it was not. But that’s for later in this piece.
  • 26 first downs
  • 386 yards of offense
  • 86 (!!!!) plays of offense
  • 10.6 yards per completion
  • 32:36 time of possession
  • 6 sacks
  • 11 TFLs (VT’s stats site SUCKS so I’m trying to figure out how they count them. I think this is right tho)
  • 86 to 71 plays run advantage
  • 1 turnover forced: Te’Cory Couch’s interception.

The Bad

  • 6/17 on 3rd downs. Just over 33%. Not good enough.
  • 1-2 on 4th down. If you’re going for it, you better make it!!!!
  • Allowed 8 TFLs
  • Allowed 6 sacks
  • Allowed VT, an average team at best, to get out to a 24-13 lead
  • Bubba Bolden’s personal foul penalty, chucking a guy in the back after a huge sack created what would have been 3rd and like 22.
  • Louis Hedley’s — yes, the punter — penalty for pushing BACK at someone who was trying to push kicker Jose Borregales after a field goal.
  • Continuing to start Cam’Ron Harris when it’s clear that Donald Chaney Jr. should be RB1. The run game comes alive when Chaney’s in the game, and he just looks faster, quicker, and more decisive. I think Harris has a role on this team, but RB1 ain’t it.
  • Dee Wiggins had a baaaaaadddddd drop on a an RPO slant that likely would have gone for a touchdown.
  • Wiggins also played small on a pass his direction that hit the trailing defender on the top of the helmet. You can’t wait for the ball to come to you. In spots like that, you have to GO GET THE BALL. And Wiggins didn’t make that effort on that play, which would have been a catch or DPI if he would have. And it was when Miami was trailing in the game, so we needed that. Badly.
  • Multiple dropped interceptions. Bolden could have had 2 but missed them over the middle. Bradley Jennings Jr. had one in his hands late and dropped it. Couch, who had an interception, dropped what would have been ANOTHER interception. Need those, ESPECIALLY the Jennings and Couch ones.

The Ugly

  • Penalties. Yet again. 8 for 77 yards, and several others that were declined.
  • SEVERAL of the penalties being bullshit calls. Like, factually inaccurate. They objectively did not happen. And yet....
  • Again, every team Miami plays has few to no penalties called on them. Whether it be CLEAR intentional grounding. Or holding so bad jerseys are ripped. Or whatever. They’re simply uncalled. VT had 1 penalty today. Total. Which proves the point.
  • The offensive play calls on the last 2 drives. That would be after a stop and after an interception. 6 plays for 6 yards. Total. Across 2 drives. Where, a single first down on EITHER of those drives wins the game. We should have won it with the ball again this week. But that didn’t happen.
  • Letting VT’s QB run 53 yards untouched for the opening TD. It was a simple inverted veer, but the assignments on defense up front were bad, and the angles by the 2nd/3rd level defenders were atrocious. Woof.
  • The fake FG. I can’t even describe it. It was an ATROCIOUS call.
  • The choice to go for 2 early. Every point was precious today. We could have chased the 2pt conversion later.
  • The playcall on the 2nd 2pt conversion attempt. A throwback to the LT.....that didn’t fool anybody on the defense, and was an illegally touched pass because we threw it forward to him, not backwards, as is necessary for a throwback to a lineman. Terrible.
  • Leaving points on the field. 5 points between not kicking the FG and going for 2 (and failing) twice.
  • Yet another long inactives list. 13 players, including 3 starters and 6-8 contributors. It was so bad that Miami head coach Manny Diaz said the Canes almost didn’t play this game today. They were thisclose to asking for a rescheduling. And let’s stop being coy here: this is due to COVID-19 positivity and/or contact tracing. I don’t know which players fall under which categories, but that’s firmly what’s going on here.
  • Continuing the above point: Miami only played 5 OL today, missing 2 starters up front. And, Navaughn Donaldson traveled and dressed out today, so he would have been the 6th guy to play up front if needed. Miami has very good top-end talent, but not championship caliber depth. We’ve known this and said it for years. Which injuries seem to be under control, COVID-19 does not. And, depending on when guys tested positive or noted for contact tracing with the positive players, these absences could continue into next weekend, when Miami plays against Georgia Tech. So, while we’re still watching Miami Hurricanes football and talking about other teams and other games being postponed or canceled, the Canes are a couple players testing positive or being out due to close proximity contact tracing to joining that list. And that’s ugly, for sure.

Team Grades

Offense: C-

The tempo was good —86 plays I believe is a season high. And there were moments of brilliance from King or Pope or Wiggins. But overall, it was a herky jerky performance, with many points being left on the field against a defense that had allowed 31+ points on 4 previous occasions, including last week to Liberty. Felt like OC Rhett Lashlee got too cute a couple of times, and just picked the wrong play other times. IT was enough to win but it wasn’t good.

Defense: C+

Started bad, but got better. Had 1 turnover but could have had more. Got saved, really, by INCREDIBLE performances from Jaelan Phillips, Gilbert Frierson, and Te’Cory Couch. This was yet-another game where it took until the 2nd half — really the 4th quarter — for the Canes defense to stop reacting and start dictating the rules of engagement. Good enough to win today, but still not the kind of defense we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from Miami recently. Need everybody to step up more.

Special Teams: B

Return game was pretty non-existent, and there was a muffed punt, but Miami recovered. The fake FG was terrible from inception. But the kicking, when it actually happened and wasn’t faked, was good. The punting was incredible. So, all in all, let’s call it a B.

Coaching: C+

Look, I love that this team has a “never say die”/”we won’t quit” mentality. But there’s no reason we should be playing down to the level of our opponent such as we’ve seen these last few weeks. The defense was bad before getting refocused. The offense was up and down. And some of the coaching decisions were quite poor. There’s a lot to like, but there’s a lot to improve on.


7-1 through 8 games. And won a game that was almost postponed due to COVID-19 affecting the roster. That’ll work.

Those are my thoughts and grades. What are yours? Share them in the comments section below.

Go Canes