CFN Analysis: Virginia Tech-Miami

CFN Staff Writers
Posted Nov 1, 2012

It was not the best of times. It was only the worst of times for Americans who enjoy watching college football. Miami was bad on Thursday night, but Virginia Tech proved to be much worse. Now, Miami and Duke call the shots in the fight for a spot in the ACC Championship Game.

By Matt Zemek
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The anatomy of a season gone wrong; of a team that can't put the pieces together; and of a quarterback who can't shoot straight emerged in gory detail on Thursday, one night after Halloween. The Virginia Tech Hokies, once upon a time, deserved to be seen as "scary" in the positive sense of the term. Now, they're frightening to watch.

Let's give Miami's defense – ranked in the bottom 10 percent of all FBS defenses – credit for stopping three Virginia Tech drives inside its own 5-yard line. Let's give the Hurricanes credit for playing with a get-the-job-done NFL mentality, avoiding the huge mistake and allowing Virginia Tech to beat itself. It's very much worth saying that despite the clown-show brand of ball the ACC Coastal Division has used to torture American eyes this season, Miami was not tabbed by most commentators to win this division – not with black clouds hovering over the program. Al Golden doesn't have a particularly distinguished team on his hands, but it's a team that's getting out of its own way with more consistency than most of the Coastal. North Carolina could make an argument, but the Tar Heels have been a living yo-yo in their own right this year.

You should be able to appreciate the basic truth of this season: Miami has been steadier than a lot of pundits had a right to expect.

Virginia Tech has been steady in one and only one way: Whenever one of its units plays well, the other two undercut it with mistakes. Offense and special teams were the main offenders against Miami, ruining a third quarter in which coordinator Bud Foster's defense allowed just three yards to the Hurricanes. Virginia Tech's repeated forays inside the Miami 5 should have translated to stacks of seven-point scores, but Logan Thomas – the inversion of a clutch quarterback – made the worst possible plays precisely when Frank Beamer's team needed him to play well. The fumble inside the Miami 3 and the overthrow of a wide-open fullback (by four feet) on a fourth-and-one play showed how much Thomas has regressed this season. Thomas has, in so many ways, epitomized the 2012 campaign for the Hokies. Thomas is the foremost face of a Blacksburg autumn that's been drenched in disappointment.

By Bart Doan
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There are a couple kids walking to the park about a mile from home. They cut through "Football Cemetery" to save about 10 minutes of foot time. One kid trips over a newer stone. It reads: "Here lies Beamerball. Born 1987, Died 2012."

For those of us old enough to remember when this was one of the marquee games of the year (okay, it wasn't that long ago), this was a sobering reminder of the ever-changing landscape in college football. The upside was, it was competitive. The downside was that, in a Miami win, both teams looked like they really had no desire to gain victory. Miami's first two touchdown drives totaled a combined 37 yards after a punt block and a long kickoff return, the type of stuff Virginia Tech used to feast on.

The Hokies continued to unravel, playing red zone roulette and getting the bad pull of the trigger inside the Miami 5. You wonder if actual Virginia stole the Hokies' helmets this year.

Stephen Morris of Miami won't knock your socks off, but staggeringly, he looked like the far more polished decision maker than Logan Thomas, who has torched his draft stock more than any other player in college football this season, Honey Badger included (if you're going by pure money lost).

Morris led with his arm on the fourth-quarter drive that knocked Virginia Tech to the canvas. After making a few clutch throws, he then used his hands and legs to get inside the Virginia Tech 10 on a reverse catch and run. The Canes oddly moved one step closer to being in a 50/50 BCS bowl play-in situation. Improbably, that's no lie. It's real... as was this bizarre game.

These aren't your father's Canes and Hokies. Yet, this was the microcosm of two programs going in different directions. If I told you which one was which back in August, you'd have Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Ha-ha'd me out of a room. Such is the nature of college football these days. Every year there's a top 15 "lock" that inexplicably falls off the map in spite of returning so much talent. VT graduates will walk that aisle in 2012.