Miami News & Notes (10/5)

After going 2-1 against non-conference foes on a three-game homestand, Miami gets back into ACC play for its next two outings, starting with a trip to Virginia Tech.

It would be difficult to come up with a more challenging contest for the Hurricanes, who lost their conference opener to Maryland on the road more than a month ago.
Miami coach Al Golden rates Tech's Lane Stadium as one of the three toughest places to play that he has experienced as player at Penn State, then as an assistant at Virginia, Boston College, and Penn State, and finally as head coach at Temple.
The team on the opposite sideline has a lot to do with that, of course. Tech has been the highest-ranked ACC team in the final AP poll in six of the seven seasons it has been a member of the conference. The Hokes were preseason favorites to win their division again this season.
But how Miami handles its end of things will be decisive as well. The Hurricanes have let the game get out of hand in their last two visits to Blacksburg, and the results were Hokie routs by 30 and 24 points.
"I think when you play a game of this magnitude in that kind of environment, you've got to be mentally tough," Golden said. "That's No. 1. No. 2, you have to control the variables that you can control.
"You can't control the noise, but you can control your shifts and motions and checks and how much you rely on things audibly.
"And you really have to finish everything. You've got to be a tough, physical football team and be in good condition and finish things.
"So, again, we're going to find out. We're going to find out how mentally tough we are and how unified we are."
The game will be the first of back-to-back road outings for the Hurricanes, who next go to North Carolina. That means they will have played the first three of their ACC games on the road.

--The game at Virginia Tech is the first of three crucial conference games for Miami, all against ACC Coastal Division foes. After the Hokies, the Hurricanes play North Carolina on the road on Oct. 15, and they are back home against Georgia Tech on Oct. 22. Virginia Tech (0-1 in the conference) was picked to win the division followed by Miami (also 0-1 in the ACC), North Carolina (1-1), and Georgia Tech (2-0).
--Statistics can by skewed in college football because of the quality of opponents some teams face. But the numbers that stand out in the Miami-Virginia Tech matchup do not bode well for the Hurricanes. Tech is rushing for 196 yards a game, second in the ACC only to Georgia Tech's triple-option attack, and Miami's run defense is yielding 202.2 a game.
--Most of Miami's success against Virginia Tech came before the two teams moved from the Big East to the ACC. The Hokies have won five of the seven meetings since the two began playing in the ACC and six of the last eight overall.

SERIES HISTORY: Miami leads Virginia Tech 17-11 (last meeting, 2010, Virginia Tech 31-17).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Miami has become more run-oriented this season, though RBs Lamar Miller and Mike James have been contending with nagging injuries in the last couple of games. QB Jacory Harris is taking better care of the football and has only three interceptions against six touchdown passes. WR Travis Benjamin leads the receivers with 15 catches despite missing the opener because of a suspension.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Miami's linebacking corps was considered a liability because of its lack of depth, and that depth just took a hit with the season-ending injury to Ramon Buchanan. The Hurricanes made an adjustment up front when they moved Adewale Ojomo from end to a tackle spot in an effort to shore up the run defense. He's not big, but he is strong and quick. Junior FS Ray-Ray Armstrong will make his season debut after serving a four-game suspension for his role in the booster scandal, and that will bolster the defense.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They all hated us." -- Coach Al Golden, asked what he considered the three toughest places to play -- Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium, Syracuse's Carrier Dome, and Miami's old Orange Bowl -- had in common.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Miami at Virginia Tech, Oct. 8 -- The Hurricanes get back into ACC play at a place they haven't had much success recently. The Hurricanes lost 31-7 at Blacksburg in 2009 and 44-14 in 2007. Tech is coming off a rare loss at home (Clemson 23-3) that dropped the Hokies to 4-1 on the season and 0-1 in the ACC.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Defend the run. Tech TB David Wilson leads the ACC in rushing (128.0 yards per game), but QB Logan Thomas is completing only 56.8 percent of his passes and has thrown five interceptions in 132 attempts. The offensive line and backs must provide protection for QB Jacory Harris from Tech's outstanding pass rushing ends.
HB Lamar Miller -- Miller has been contending with a sore shoulder but has posted a triple-digit rushing game in every outing this season. He is the league's No. 2 rusher (127.8) and has the speed to score from anywhere on the field.
WR Travis Benjamin -- The senior missed the opener because of a suspension and got off to a quiet start against Ohio State, but he has come on nicely in Miami's last two games. He has 12 receptions for 157 yards in that span and also returned a punt 44 yards against Bethune-Cookman.
LB Sean Spence -- Spence leads the Hurricanes in tackles with 28 even though he was suspended for the opener. He has five tackles for loss and two sacks.
--Senior LB Ramon Buchanan, injured against Bethune-Cookman in Miami's last outing, has had knee surgery and is lost for the season. He had 18 tackles on the year with two for losses. He also was credited with a blocked kick against Kansas State, Miami's first since 2004.
--Freshman LB Denzel Perryman, who has 16 tackles in a backup role, is the early favorite to step in for Buchanan.
--Junior FS Ray-Ray Armstrong will be on the field for the first time after serving a four-game suspension. He is expected to play about 30 plays on defense plus special teams. He was third on the team in tackles last year (79) and had three interceptions.
--Freshman WR Phillip Dorsett has leg and ankle injury issues that could affect his availability against Virginia Tech. He was not in uniform for the second half against Bethune-Cookman.

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