After a hectic week that saw Virginia Tech and Justin Fuente part ways, and promote J.C. Price to interim head coach, the Hokies head south to Miami to take on the Hurricanes who have their own cloud of coach on a hot seat hanging over them.
So with that said, here are three things to watch for the Hokies against Miami.
How Does Tech Respond To The Fuente Dismissal
There's no doubt that most of the players got along well with Justin Fuente and had strong relationships with him with many describing the mood as "somber" around the program. This include some public frustration about the decisions from players including captain James Mitchell.
We had two very winnable games left. But I’m glad everyone who don’t put on the pads are happy. Thank you @CoachFuente for all you’ve done for me and my family. We appreciate you.— James Mitchell (@j_mitch82) November 16, 2021
However, the Hokies have shown plenty of resilience before when they've likely felt that their backs were up against the wall and this situation is another one of those.
Sometimes though, making a coaching change can take away some of that outside noise and frustration especially with someone like J.C. Price who has quickly been able to connect with fans through his Thursday press conference with a fan base that is rallying behind their team. Also having a veteran and leader like Tre Turner do whatever it takes to play even if that means driving 12+ hours each way since he can't fly has to also inspire.
If Tech can respond well and fight like they have in the past when their backs against the wall, the Hokies can absolutely get the job done on the road against Miami.
Contain The Tyler Van Dyke To Charleston Rambo Combo
Tyler Van Dyke has rightly earned plenty of praise for his role in Miami's surge of late prior to last week's loss to Florida State, but the guy that has been a little overlooked is Charleston Rambo. The WR who transferred from Oklahoma has been phenomenal of late with three-straight games with 7+ receptions and over 100+ receiving yards in Miami's three-straight wins before only having 6 catches for 95 yards last week which is still quite good.
There's no doubt that Miami is a pass-first team with Van Dyke at the helm and Rambo has been leading that charge helping turn around the Canes' season while also making himself a clear contender to earn an All-ACC First Team spot at WR.
Expect plenty of Jermaine Waller to mark Rambo throughout this game with Dorian Strong likely called upon when Waller needs a break of some sort. Even with the talent that both of those guys bring, Tech will also need to make sure that they get plenty of safety help from Nasir Peoples and Tae Daley.
While Peoples and Daley have been solid overall, they have had some issues and providing that safety help has been one of those. Now whether that's execution or a schematic issue for Justin Hamilton or both isn't exactly clear but is something that Tech will need to have resolved for this game.
No one has been able to slow down Charleston Rambo over the past month so there's no doubt that this will be a challenge but if the Hokies can be the ones to do so, it may finally slow down a Miami offense that hasn't been held to under 28 points since their mid-September loss to Michigan State.
Special Teams X-Factor
Special teams have been an x-factor all season for the Hokies led by Tayvion Robinson who leads the country in punt return yards and is averaging also 15 yards per punt return. While Robinson is a clear contender for an All-American spot, Peter Moore may be a Freshman All-American as he's been great at flipping the field while John Parker Romo has been a very nice surprise for the Hokies at kicker after purely doing kickoffs in 2020.
If Tech is going to go on the road and get the job done, special teams will undoubtedly play a big role in winning the field position and hidden yardage battles that will be crucial for Tech to win.
Robinson has done a tremendous job at setting up the Hokies well and preventing Tech's opponents from flipping the field. While the Hokies haven't always succeeded on taking advantage of those opportunities, there's no doubt that Robinson can prevent the field flips that Peter Moore has been able to get in the Hokies' favor.
Field goals may get underrated some by analytics at times but there's still no doubt that having someone who can make a high number of field goals from 40+ yards is going to make a difference just as Romo has done this season.
If Tech is able to pull off an upset at Miami after a wild week in Blacksburg, special teams will almost certainly be a main reason for it.