UM Football News & Notes: 11/17

With the exception of Florida State, no opponent is more familiar to Miami than its next one: Virginia Tech.

The two teams were rivals when they both were in the Big East, and their rivalry has continued since both moved over to the ACC in 2004.

Both are members of the Coastal Division, which means they play each other every year and have since 1992. Only the Florida State series, continuous since 1969, dates back further.

"Virginia Tech has always been known as a tough football team, even in the Big East conference in the old days," coach Randy Shannon said. "I think this will be a great rivalry between both teams because we know each other so well."

The two teams are at the top of the division standings, but with a 6-0 conference record, the Hokies have a huge advantage over the Hurricanes, who are 5-2 in league play.

Essentially, the Hokies can lose to the Hurricanes and still win the division and play in the conference championship game by beating Virginia the next week.

The Hurricanes, conversely, must beat the Hokies and then hope the Hokies lose to the Cavaliers.

If the Hurricanes are to have a shot at getting that win, they are going to have to keep Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor under control. Taylor is an accurate thrower (61.2 percent) and has only four interceptions on the season.

Like his predecessors Bryan Randall, Marcus Vick and Michael Vick, he can win with his feet as well as his arm. He is the Hokies' second-leading rusher with 581 yards.

But he has become more patient in his senior year.

"He's still a runner," Shannon said. "But he's a thrower-runner. He gets out of the pocket to throw. He gets you to come up and then he throws the football.

"He got us like that last year. He got outside the pocket, and guys come up and he dumps it off to the fullback for 10 yards and the guy runs for another 10 yards, and the next thing you know, they've got a 20-yard completion.

"We've got to make sure we do our job in the pass rush lanes and also keeping guys in front of him."

The game will wrap up the conference portion of the schedule for Miami, which is 7-3 overall. Its regular-season finale is at home against USF the following week.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Miami dominated the series against Virginia Tech in the early going, winning the first 12 meetings. But then the Hokies won the next five, including an overtime win in 1998. Over the last 10 meetings, the teams are 5-5 against each other.

--Coach Randy Shannon is 1-2 against Virginia Tech. Coach Frank Beamer is 10-9 against Miami.

--Both teams like to run the football. Miami is averaging 185.8 yards per game rushing and is holding foes to 166.4. Tech is running for 208.5 yards per game and is limiting opponents to 155.1. They are Nos. 1 and 2 (Miami 147.9, Tech 188.0) in pass defense in the ACC.

SERIES HISTORY: Miami leads Virginia Tech 17-10 (last meeting, 2009, 31-7 Virginia Tech).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Hurricanes have cranked up their ground game in recent weeks and are up to 185.8 yards per game rushing for the year, good for fourth in the conference. But they have topped the 200-yard mark in four of their last five games with 224 against Duke, 225 against North Carolina, 179 against Virginia, 218 against Maryland, and 277 against Georgia Tech. QB Stephen Morris has been very effective in his two starts, going 28 of 48 passing for two touchdowns. Both of his interceptions came against Maryland in his first start.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Miami is second in the ACC and 19th in the country in total defense, giving up only 314.3 yards per game. The Hurricanes are third in tackles-for-loss (8.40 per game) with LB Sean Spence (1.25 per game), DE/DT Allen Bailey (1.10), and LB Colin McCarthy (1.0) leading the way. Bailey also has seven sacks to lead the Hurricanes. After struggling with only 14 picks the last two years combined, the Hurricanes have 16 this season, tied for sixth in the country.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If we can hit the quarterback and stop the run, our chances grow greatly in winning football games at the University of Miami. If don't have a chance to hit the quarterback or stop the run, it's going to be one of those games we struggle in." -- Coach Randy Shannon, assessing the upcoming game against Virginia Tech.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Virginia Tech at Miami, Nov. 20 -- The Hokies come into the game having won their last eight games since beginning the season with losses to Boise State and James Madison. That puts them in a position to clinch the Coast Division's berth in the ACC championship game with a win over either the Hurricanes or Virginia the next week.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Keep Tech QB Tyrod Taylor under control. The last time the Hurricanes faced a threat like Taylor, who can run or pass, they lost to Ohio State and Terrelle Pryor in the second game of the season. Miami's offensive line needs to keep the pressure off QB Stephen Morris, who has yet to face a defense the caliber of Tech's.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

WR Leonard Hankerson -- Hankerson definitely has become the go-to guy for the Hurricanes with 51 receptions for 879 yards. He ranks second and first, respectively, in the ACC in those categories, and is far ahead in touchdown catches with 11. He is currently tied for the school record in touchdowns with Michael Irvin.

LB Sean Spence -- Spence has the quickness and tackling ability to play the role of "spy" in the defense, concentrating on keeping Taylor contained. He leads Miami in tackles with 82 stops, 13.5 of them for losses.

DT Micanor Regis -- Regis has very quietly had an outstanding season up front. Six of his 28 tackles have been for losses, three of them sacks, and he has an interception to go along with them.

ROSTER REPORT:

--QB Jacory Harris (concussion), it appears, will miss his third consecutive game. He is considered day-to-day but has not been cleared by the team's medical staff.

--TE Asante Cleveland, who had three consecutive starts before missing the game at Georgia Tech, also is day-to-day with a concussion.

--Senior TB Graig Cooper is in third place in school history in all-purpose yardage with 3,741 yards rushing, receiving and returning. He trails only Santana Moss (4,394) and Ottis Anderson (4,265).


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