Logan Thomas finally put together the type of game that Virginia Tech Hokies fans have been hoping from him for his entire career.
Thomas accounted for more than 400 total yards, Trey Edmunds rushed for four touchdowns and the Virginia Tech defense clamped down against the run, as the Hokies scored a dominant 42-24 victory over Miami at Sun Life Stadium.
Even with the Miami skies unleashing a torrential downpour on this sloppy Saturday night, Thomas was as good as he's ever been. The rain had no effect on Thomas' passes, as the senior quarterback completed a season-high 80.6 percent of his throws.
He hit Joshua Stanford on a 32-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to give Virginia Tech a 28-14 halftime lead and had another TD in the third quarter to Willie Byrn from 48 yards out. Byrn's touchdown was ultimately awarded to Demitri Knowles, who recovered the completed pass in the Hurricanes end zone to extend the Hokies' lead to three scores.
Despite coming in ranked 11th in the country and holding home-field advantage, Miami looked like a overwhelmed underdog from the outset. The Hurricanes took a 7-0 lead on an 81-yard pitch and catch from Stephen Morris to Stacy Coley with 11:35 remaining in the first quarter, but it would be one of just a few positives on the day for the Hurricanes.
Edmunds scored the first of his four scores less than four minutes later, and the Hurricanes never held the lead again. After giving up more than 23 points just once all season coming into Week 10, Miami has now given up more than 40 in each of its past two games. Once hopeful for a BCS bowl berth, the Hurricanes have been outscored a combined 83-38 in losses to Virginia Tech and Florida State.
Playing without star running back Duke Johnson, who is out for the remainder of the year with a broken ankle, Al Golden's team may be in for more struggles if it can't find an acceptable replacement. The Hokies held Miami to just 28 yards on 24 carries, with the Hurricanes having only one carry longer than 10 yards all day. Dallas Crawford struggled mightily in Johnson's stead, gaining 37 yards on 10 carries—nearly all of which came on a 35-yard scamper.
Crawford's two-yard touchdown in the second quarter, which brought Miami within one touchdown of the Hokies at 21-14, was about the only positive result the Hurricanes running game could muster, with Virginia Tech shooting gaps and swarming to the ball on nearly every attempt.
The struggles in the run game will obscure a solid outing for quarterback Stephen Morris, who threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns. In addition to his connection with Coley, Morris found Allen Hurns for an 84-yard touchdown in the third quarter to make the score 35-24 and keep the game in reach.
But as they did all game, the Hokies quickly had an answer. Thomas engineered a 10-play, 75-yard drive on the subsequent possession that culminated in a one-yard touchdown run from Edmunds. The freshman back led all ball-carriers with 74 yards on 14 carries, with Virginia Tech rushing for 183 yards as a team.
J.C. Coleman received a game-high 22 carries for 68 yards, and played an integral role in the Hokies' game-icing drive. Coleman ran the ball 14 times on a 16-play drive, and Thomas and Co. took more than nine minutes off the clock in their final possession, which culminated in a turnover on downs at the Miami 3-yard line with less than two minutes left on the clock.
It was indicative of the Hokies' entire night. They made no false movements, no mistakes and had no trouble moving the ball.
Having been upset by Duke and Boston College in consecutive games coming into Saturday, Frank Beamer's squad came through at a critical time. Beamer, once the architect of eight straight 10-win seasons in Blacksburg, has seen his program take a precipitous fall over the past two years—with many highlighting his loyalty to Thomas as the root of their struggles.
That may be the case. For one sloppy night, though, Thomas was as clean as he's ever been.
Logan Thomas (QB, Virginia Tech): A
Thomas will never develop into Cam Newton 2.0. That much we know now that his sample of poor performances far outweigh the sample of solid outings.
But games like this are the reason some folks were so bullish on him coming into last season. Thomas was brilliant through the air and solid on the ground against a Miami defense that spent all of 2013 carrying its mediocre offense. The senior signal-caller was accurate with his passes despite the horrible conditions and avoided an interception for just the fourth time this year.
Now, it will be interesting to see whether Thomas can keep it up. NFL scouts will be laser-focused on him going forward, looking for any gleams of potential that could make him an attractive late-round candidate in May. He gave them one on the national stage.
Let's see if he can make it two.
Stephen Morris (QB, Miami): B+
All things considered, it's hard to complain too much about Morris' performance. The oft-maligned Hurricanes quarterback wasn't excellent by any stretch, but he was good enough that on most weeks this team would have skated to an easy win.
Morris was able to strike huge gains down the field and, like his counterpart, avoided throwing the ball to the other team. But with Duke Johnson out of the lineup and Thomas playing well, Morris got no help from his running game or his defense—the two units that carried him all season. Instead, he was left trying to throw a slippery ball to receivers struggling to keep their footing and only having sporadic success.
The Hurricanes were boom-or-bust, but unfortunately the latter came up far too often. Still, very little of the blame rests on Morris' shoulders.
Joshua Stanford (WR, Virginia Tech): A-
Talk about building toward the future. Stanford, a lightly-touted recruit in the Class of 2012, has slowly worked his way into an increased role as the season has gone along, and it's paid off of late.
After not having more than four catches or 59 yards over the Hokies' first eight games of the season, Stanford has combined for 13 grabs and 278 yards in the last two weeks. Stanford is showing a solid rapport with Thomas, running crisp routes and getting open for intermediate passes.
Thomas of course won't be around next season, and the Hokies' quarterback situation is far from settled. If Stanford continues stringing 100-yard efforts together, though, the transition from Thomas to whomever takes over the reins won't be as hard as expected.
Allen Hurns (WR, Miami): A
Four-catch nights don't usually make wide receivers swoon, but Hurns did about as much as one could possibly do with his grabs. The senior receiver finished with 142 yards, including his huge touchdown in the third quarter. Three of his four grabs went for more than 20 yards.
Despite the Miami passing attack being inconsistent at best all season, Hurns has done a nice job establishing himself as a big play threat. He now has three touchdowns of at least 69 yards this season and three 100-yard games where he's caught four passes or fewer.
Playing in his next to last game at home, the result on the scoreboard was as disappointing as his individual performance was thrilling.
Miami will attempt to avoid a third straight loss next week when it travels to Durham for a matchup with Duke. Long the doormat of the ACC, the Blue Devils are 7-2 on the season and may be ranked inside the Top 25 come next Saturday.
Virginia Tech should be able to make it two straight wins when the Hokies host Maryland. The Terrapins have lost four of five games in ACC play.
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