Canes set to invade Blacksburg

The Hurricanes (2-2) are ready to take on 17th-ranked Virginia Tech on the road tomorrow.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/8/11
SITE: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.
SURFACE: Grass
TV: ABC
SERIES: Miami leads 17-11 (last meeting, 2010, Virginia Tech 31-17)
RECORDS: Miami 2-2, 0-1 ACC; Virginia Tech 4-1, 0-1 ACC
POLLS: Virginia Tech (No. 21 AP, No. 17 USA Today)

KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Miami: 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.

-- For Virginia Tech: Have early success on offense. The unit took a hit in confidence in the loss at Clemson and also caused unrest among fans. The defense needs to slow Miami's running game and get pressure on QB Jacory Harris, forcing him to make ill-advised throws, which he has been known to do.

SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
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.

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.

After Virgnia Tech's poor offensive performance last week against Clemson, the 30th-row quarterbacks are out in full force this week. Among other criticisms, the play-calling stunk, QB Logan Thomas isn't ready and the offensive line couldn't block air. On some level, all of the above were true, but that doesn't tell the whole story. It's hard to narrow the problems down to one or two when just about everything goes wrong, as was the case against Clemson. Suffice it to say the Hokies must improve across the board to score points on Miami.

A few big plays aside, Tech did well enough on defense to win last week. Clemson managed just 323 total yards, almost 200 under its average, and had to punt eight times. One thing the Tigers did was get some good matchups on their big plays, something future opponents will try to exploit. It will be interesting to see how coordinator Bud Foster plays it this week as Miami is the first pro-style offense the Hokies have played. Can an all-sophomore and freshman line hold up against the huge O-line of the Hurricanes?

FAST FACTS:
Hurricanes: 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 augur 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. ... 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.

Hokies: Many picked the Hokies and Hurricanes to finish 1-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division. After this one, the loser will be 0-2 with almost no chance to play for an ACC title in December. ... Virginia Tech has mounted a consistently strong pass rush, ranking 10th in the nation with three sacks per game. Even in the loss to Clemson, when it managed just one sack, it constantly hurried QB Tajh Boyd and forced him into 13-of-32 accuracy. ... Tech has a scoring streak going against Miami. The Hokies have scored in nine consecutive quarters against the Hurricanes. ... Senior CB Cris Hill has gotten the most playing time of his career and has accepted the challenge. Hill has already broken up five passes in five games, two more than he had in his first three seasons. ... Junior CB Jayron Hosley has three interceptions for the year and 12 in his Tech career, tying him for seventh on Tech's all-time list.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Hurricanes:
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.

Hokies:
RB David Wilson -- The only bright spot offensively last week, Wilson rushed 20 times for 123 yards. Given that the Hurricanes are ranked a pitiful 104th in the nation against the run, it only makes sense that the Hokies get him about 25 touches, especially with the passing game struggling to find a groove.
DT Luther Maddy -- The backup to Antoine Hopkins, Maddy is in line to start after Hopkins wrecked his knee in the loss to Clemson. Like fellow freshman Corey Marshall, Maddy has progressed faster than expected, but can he stand up against one of the league's top offensive lines?
ROV Eddie Whitley -- Despite registering 10 tackles and winning the coaches' defensive player of the game against Clemson, Whitley got beat for a key TD in the third quarter. See if Miami tries to isolate him against a tight end or a slot receiver to produce a big play. If so, Whitley must be more aware than he was on the play against Clemson.

INJURY WATCH:
Hokies:
DT Antoine Hopkins (knee, out), WR Marcus Davis (foot, probable), QB Logan Thomas (shoulder, probable).


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