‘It's Still A Big One'

It's happens all the time. A team prominently figuring with others in national title contention goes down hard and is suddenly perceived as being out of the race for any championship. Just ask the No. 11 Virginia Tech Hokies (6-1) - the Miami Hurricanes' opponent Saturday night at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia.

With a firm grip on the No. 3 spot in the national polls as they arrived on Mountaineer Field in West Virginia, all the Hokies needed was a victory over the Mountaineers in an otherwise lackluster middle-of-the-week affair to secure their positioning before welcoming the Hurricanes for a tilt filled with National Championship implications.

Only they couldn't get the job done as West Virginia dominated the Hokies from start to finish in a 28-7 victory, and with it Virginia Tech tumbled out of the top-ten in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches' polls.

Now, a couple days before kick-off against UM (7-0), the popular notion bouncing around – among fans and national and local media - is that the Hokies are dead in the water as a result of their performance at West Virginia.

But a single slip-up in Morgantown should be no reason to count out the Hokies, according to players and coaches on both sides. Their argument? Virginia Tech, along with Miami, ranks either first or second in nine team categories in the Big East, while the Hokies still have the services of an explosive quarterback and running back in Bryan Randall and Kevin Jones, respectively. Throw in a defense that is second in the conference, allowing 300.3 yards a game. So four solid quarters of football from the Hokies on Saturday and the Hurricanes could be the team on the outside looking in.

"It's still a big one there's no question about that," said University of Miami coach Larry Coker, as the Hurricanes will attempt to win their 40th consecutive regular season dating back to Sept. 23, 2000. "The fact that they lost might even make them a more dangerous football team. I'm sure it's going to loud and their players are going to want to bounce back. It's too early to count them out. There's just too much football to be played at this point."

Despite being plagued by poor run stopping – 264 rushing yards allowed - and an inconsistent offense – 65 rushing yards of their own - the Hokies still possess the Big East's leading scoring offense, averaging 40.0 points a game, and second-best unit when it comes to third-down conversions. Defensively, Virginia Tech is second in scoring defense (allowing 16.7 points a game), and second in pass defense (allowing 186.4 yards a game).

"I don't know of anybody on our football team that is taking them lightly," said Coker. "But if they are we're going to be in big trouble. They have outstanding football players on both sides of ball, that's for sure."

Starting with some of those guys on offense. The 6-0, 222-pound Randall, who beat Michael Vick's younger brother Marcus for the starting quarterback role in spring practice, has been effective so far this season despite having three fumbled snaps, which he recovered, in the loss at West Virginia. Against the Mountaineers, Randall was held to14-of-22 for 146 yards and was sacked four times.

Vick, second in the league with a 143.8 pass efficiency rating, has completed 64.7 percent (86-of-133) of his passes this season, while throwing for 1,042 yards and nine touchdowns. Jones was held to 57 rushing yards on 11 carries. To make matters even worse the Hokies turned the ball over four times and the team's offensive line failed to get into a rhythm.

"A lot of things factored in," said Randall. "You can't win them all."

But the Hokies will need to fix whatever did go wrong before taking on the Hurricanes, who appear to be hitting a stride at the right time. Miami's offense compiled 600 yards of offense in their most recent performance, Oct. 18 against Temple, and was also stingy on offense. The Hurricanes have the top ranking scoring and pass defense in the Big East.

"You can't blame it on this guy or that that guy," says Randall. "We all had a bad day against West Virginia. That's really all there is to it."

Randall also knows that could all change in a hurry.

"If we go out and take care of business against Miami then nobody will remember what happened against West Virginia," said Randall.

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