82F Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
Miami-Virginia Tech Preview
Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas shouldered much of the blame for the offensive letdown in his team's ACC opener last weekend.
His slow start has made running back David Wilson's numbers all the more impressive.
After failing to record a touchdown in their last game, the 21st-ranked Hokies try to get back on track Saturday when they host Miami.
Virginia Tech (4-1, 0-1) took advantage of a soft non-conference schedule, averaging 34.8 points and 430.3 yards. For Thomas, the slate provided the first-year starter an opportunity to gain some confidence.
However, Thomas and the Hokies took a big step back in their 23-3 home loss to No. 8 Clemson on Saturday. He threw an interception on Virginia Tech's opening drive and finished with 125 passing yards while being sacked four times.
"They kept me on my toes, didn't give me a chance to get a good feel for the game," said Thomas.
Coach Frank Beamer said the team needs more from Thomas to keep defenses honest. Thomas has been intercepted five times while throwing just four TD passes and is completing 56.8 percent of his passes. The Hokies rank 87th in the FBS in passing yards with 199.8 per game.
Although Thomas' inconsistency has allowed defenses to focus more on Wilson, the junior hasn't been hurt by that. He had his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season Saturday, finishing with 123 on 20 carries.
Wilson ranks sixth in the FBS in rushing yards per game with 127.8, barely ahead of Miami's Lamar Miller, who has the same average over four games.
While the offense tries to regain its footing, the defense will try to adjust to playing without starting tackle Antoine Hopkins, who suffered a torn ACL last weekend. He has eight tackles and two sacks this season.
"This thing is far from over," Beamer said. "(Saturday) is a real important game. There's no question we need to improve as a football team. But this thing is far from over."
Wilson figures to get more carries against a Miami defense that is giving up 202.3 yards rushing per game, which ranks 105th in the nation. The Hurricanes have surrendered 484 rushing yards over the last two games.
Miami (2-2, 0-1) is coming off a 45-14 win over FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman on Saturday. Miller ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns while Jacory Harris completed 12 of 17 passes for 175 yards and two scores.
Miller has rushed for over 100 yards in all four games. The last Hurricanes player to do so in five consecutive games with Willis McGahee in 2002, but Miller could struggle against a Virginia Tech defense that is second in the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 58.2 yards per game.
Even if the Hurricanes aren't able to get Miller going, they feel confident in Harris. He has thrown for 570 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions after he was suspended by the NCAA, along with seven teammates, for the season opener against conference foe Maryland.
"He is playing winning football, and we are excited about the direction he is going," coach Al Golden said. "We went through hell and back in the last five weeks and now that is done. Now we are in the ACC tournament."
Miami will be without starting linebacker Ramon Buchanan and defensive tackle Marcus Forston, both of whom suffered season-ending knee injuries in last Saturday's victory. The Hurricanes, though, will get a boost with the return of safety Ray-Ray Armstrong, who finished serving his four-game NCAA-imposed suspension for receiving improper benefits during his recruitment.
The Hurricanes have dropped two straight and six of eight against Virginia Tech, including a 31-17 defeat last year despite Miller's 163 rushing yards.
"We're ready to go into Virginia Tech," Harris said. "They're a great team, but we can't wait."