Virginia Tech, Miami down but not out in mediocre ACC

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Hokies, Hurricanes still have plenty to play for

Remember all the preseason hype about the ACC's bevy of talented, experienced quarterbacks? Two months into the season, only EJ Manuel of No. 9 Florida State and Tajh Boyd of No. 10 Clemson have lived up to it.

With most of the rest doing undistinguished work, the league again is mired in mediocrity. Two of the quarterbacks doing their part are Stephen Morris of Miami and Logan Thomas of Virginia Tech, and as a result, their teams have struggled.

But when they meet in at Sun Life Stadium on Thursday night, Miami (4-4, 3-2) and Virginia Tech (4-4, 2-2) somehow find themselves in a high-stakes game. Both still are relevant in the Coastal Division, in which every team has at least two conference losses.

Up next
Virginia Tech at Miami
When » Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Where » Sun Life Stadium,
Miami Gardens, Fla.
TV » ESPN

What shaped up in the preseason as a glamour matchup between former Big East rivals has devolved into a national television expose of the underachieving ACC.

"The season hasn't gone exactly as we'd like it to go," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "But everything in the ACC is still available for both of us. You want to have that opportunity."

Both teams would have preferred that opportunity to come under better circumstances. In September, Virginia Tech was ranked 13th. Entering October, Miami was off to a 3-0 start in the ACC, scoring at least 40 points in each of the wins. But Virginia Tech has lost three of its last four, while Miami has dropped three straight.

Saturday's bye came at a good time for both teams, which enter Thursday's game with a sense of renewal.

"We had a chance to regroup, refocus," Miami coach Al Golden said. "I'd like to see us take a big step here."

Golden is counting on the rest benefiting Morris. After showing flashes in his first two seasons as a backup to Jacory Harris, much was expected. The junior threw five touchdown passes in a shootout win over N.C. State. But after earning a 136.7 efficiency rating in September, he was at 97.1 in October, looking gun-shy in losses to Notre Dame, North Carolina and Florida State.

"I would say his inconsistency at times is more a reflection of the team than it is just Stephen," Golden said. "When you're young and playing a lot of first-year starters or playing a lot of freshmen, it usually translates to inconsistency."

Surrounded by a new cast of receivers and running backs, Thomas has had similar issues at Virginia Tech. After being rated a potential No. 1 overall pick by NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper, Thomas has an efficiency rating of 127.6, ranking 70th in the nation. The 6-6, 260-pound junior already has matched last year's interception figure of 10.

There still is reason for optimism in Blacksburg as Virginia Tech has beaten Miami three straight times, won 25 of its last 27 games in November and is 19-5 on Thursday night.

"[When] there's a lot of energy in the place and a lot of excitement and a crowd that's very much into it, I think most players like playing in that type of situation," Beamer said. "Generally we're playing a really good football team."

But none of those conditions may exist this time.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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Author:

Kevin Dunleavy

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner