Photo Credit: ACC Media
After suffering a shocking loss to Liberty last week, Virginia Tech is looking to bounce back this week, but are facing a formidable opponent in #9 Miami that knows a loss takes them out of the ACC Championship race. With that said, here are our keys to the game for the Hokies against the Hurricanes.
Contain D'Eriq King
King is starting to emerge as a sleeper Heisman contender if he can have a strong finish to the season as he has 1,828 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, and only 4 interceptions with a 6.37% completion rate while rushing 406 yards and 2 touchdowns in only 7 games this season. King is as good of a QB as the Hurricanes have had in years and is a major reason why Miami is a top 10 team in this crazy season.
King is a pass-first dual-threat playmaker that the Hokies have to try to find a way to make sure that his rushing really isn't an option. That's much easier said than done and given what we've seen from Tech's defense to date, seems like a major question mark. What doesn't help is the fact that Rayshard Ashby may not be 100% this week with Dax Hollifield struggling as well.
Tech also will have to tackle better at all levels with King and his passing weapons giving the Hurricanes plenty of talented weapons led by star TE Brevin Jordan. If the Hokies don't improve their tackling this week, they are going to have more issues with King and company having the talent to shed plenty of poor tackle efforts.
Be Aggressive Offensively
This game has all the makings of a shootout especially with the prowess of D'Eriq King and the defensive struggles of Virginia Tech. For the Hokies, that will require them to be more aggressive in a multitude of ways.
Some of that involves playcalling that embraces the big play nature that this game could bring especially with a Miami defense that has had their own struggles as well. Pushing the ball down the field with guys like Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson should be a greater priority especially given the clear success Tech has had with Tre Turner really finding his rhythm in recent weeks.
Additionally, Tech has to prioritize touchdowns over field goals and maybe go for it more on fourth and short situations even when it comes at sacrificing field goal opportunities. The Hokies have shown plenty of ability at converting in short-yardage situations with a great offensive line to lead the way even if Khalil Herbert were to not be available due to hamstring issues.
If Tech isn't willing to be aggressive on offense including some bold risks, it could cost them in a game that seems poised to be a shootout between two high-powered offenses.
Bring The Energy Early
Virginia Tech's losses this season have a common thread of bad starts whether that's going down 21-0 at North Carolina, the slow first half at Wake Forest, or an early 14-3 deficit against Liberty. Meanwhile, some of their best wins against N.C. State and at Louisville have involved fast starts.
There's a pretty clear trend with these slow starts being costly for the Hokies even against Liberty where Tech did claim a halftime lead but struggled coming out in the second half. Those slow starts have also been a bad indicator for the intensity that the Hokies are bringing to the table in some cases with the UNC game being the lone example of when Tech really were able to kick themselves in gear.
The intensity that Tech brings has obviously been a talking point after last week's lackluster game with whatever was being sold not grasping and the program getting caught looking ahead. Of course, facing a top 10 team and facing Miami should be more than enough motivation, but Tech bringing the energy they need to win is not something that can be taken for granted.
We should get a good idea if Tech is going to have a chance at taking down #9 Miami early because if they bring the same level of intensity and focus that they had last week, this one will be a long, ugly game for the Hokies.