The Virginia Tech Hokies take to the field on Saturday afternoon at Miami, looking to avenge a 35-point blowout loss at home last Friday night to Duke and attempt to win back the fan base.
Ever since the ugly, lopsided defeat at the hands of the Blue Devils a week ago, fans have taken to social media, voicing their displeasure over the play of the team and the effort put forth by the players and coaching staff.
Despite a monumental $15 million buyout on his contract, the pressure is mounting on head coach Justin Fuente and his staff to turn things around, and to do it fast. The 2-2 Hokies face a 2-2 Miami team on the road on Saturday afternoon, which happens to be another program in transition under first-year head coach Manny Diaz. While the Hurricanes enter the match-up as a 14-point favorite, they aren't without their own flaws, those that can be exploited by the Hokies if the team plays to their ceiling.
With that being said, here are the three keys for the Hokies as they look to take down the Hurricanes.
1. Get Miami's Offense Into 3rd-and-Long
Miami's offense has been better in spots from a year ago, with more consistent quarterback play thanks to the strong start from redshirt-freshman Jarren Williams. Williams has completed over 73% of his passes on the season thus far for 1,027 yards and seven touchdowns to zero interceptions. Despite this, Miami's inability to consistently and effectively run the football have led to third down situations that have not been very manageable. Couple the inconsistent rushing attack with the penalties (Miami is third-worst in the country in penalty yardage at 78.3 yards per game), and you have a recipe for disaster.
As a result, the Hurricanes enter play ranked dead-last out of 130 teams in the FBS in third down conversion percentage. Miami has only converted on 23.3% of their third down attempts on the season.
If the Virginia Tech defense can get off the field and ugly things up into a low-scoring affair, they'll have a shot at keeping things interesting.
2. Put Pressure on Miami QB Jarren Williams and the Hurricanes Offensive Line
Miami's offensive line has been a work-in-progress, to put it nicely. At offensive tackle especially, the Hurricanes have struggled to consistently pass protect, leading to several QB hurries throughout the team's first four games with quarterback Jarren Williams. In addition, Miami has struggled to consistently run the football and utilize lead back DeeJay Dallas.
On the other side of the football, while better than a year ago, Virginia Tech's pass rush has not been able to get home to the quarterback as much as they would have liked through the first four games. It's been an up-and-down effort by the pass rush for the Hokies in the first third of the season.
This can all change on Saturday, with the Hurricanes entering play dead last in the ACC, and 122nd out of 130 teams nationally in rate of pressures allowed. Miami has allowed pressure on their QB on 41.7% of their passing snaps thus far this season.
While the Hokies may not have a top defensive front seven like in years past, Bud Foster's blitzing mentality and play-calling could yield promising results against Jarren Williams and the Miami offense on Saturday afternoon.
3. Find a Way to Run the Football to Take Pressure Off the Passing Game
Virginia Tech's offense has largely lacked an identity through four games in 2019, which can be contributed to poor offensive line play, an inconsistent passing game, and once again, an inconsistent rushing attack. The running game as a whole has not been very good in quite some time for the Hokies, but it could be even worse on Saturday. The Hurricanes enter play ranked sixth nationally in rushing defense, allowing only 59.8 yards per game.
For Virginia Tech, rushing the football has been tough sledding anyway, but getting the job done against this strong Miami front could lead to more opportunities in the passing game that would help the offense out immensely on the road.