Miami keeps season going with 30-12 win

Hurricanes beat Virginia Tech

MIAMI GARDENS – You know Miami football isn't what it once was. But at least thanks to Thursday night you won't have to hear about them disappearing from the face of college football like, say, Virginia Tech.

Miami 30, Virginia Tech 12.

And look out below.

There goes coach Frank Beamer and the rest of the Virginia Tech's proud program down into the black hole of November irrelevance that was Miami's destiny without this win.

The game wasn't pretty in long stretches. It wasn't even pretty good for much of the other moments. But that hardly mattered to Miami because from a practical bent this was its biggest game to date.

Not Notre Dame, for all its history. Not Florida State, for all its rivalry. Not Kansas State with its current No. 2 ranking.

Since Miami won Thursday, it remained on course for its first ACC Coastal Division title and berth in the conference championship game. Just get by 2-6 Virginia next game and the biggie is set up Thanksgiving weekend.

Miami vs. Duke.

"I know everybody wants us to win the national championship yesterday, but the pathway is the Coastal,'' Miami coach Al Golden said. "It's almost like we have to re-educate our team. You get there by going to Charlotte (site of the ACC Championship game).

"Our fan base doesn't really understand that right now. They look at Notre Dame and it's all in or bust. We've got to educate our players."

If it's Duke vs. Miami for the right to go to the ACC title game, it'll come down to Duke vs. Duke. Because again it was the freshman, Duke Johnson, who provided a jolt of what Miami needed Thursday night.

His 81-yard kickoff return in the first quarter set up a Miami touchdown. His 100 yards rushing on 11 carries were a godsend on a night Miami had trouble moving the ball.

No? Miami gained all of three yards in the third quarter. It didn't convert on its initial nine third-down attempts. It was doubled in possession time through three quarters and very nearly in total offensive yardage.

And it still won easily according to the scoreboard, too.

The play of the night was fitting. Virginia Tech was on Miami's 1-yard line, ready to go in for the score in a 20-12 game in the third quarter when quarterback Logan Thomas simply dropped the ball.

Miami defensive tackle Luther Robinson fell on it.

And, just like that, the game swung back Miami's way. That's how the night went. Both these teams spent much of the time proving mightily why they've struggled good parts of the year.

On Virginia Tech's first drive, Miami's Olsen Pierre jumped offside on fourth-and-1 to gift-wrap a first down at the Miami 20-yard line. On the next play, Thomas threw the ball directly to cornerback Ladarius Gunter for an interception.

Up and down. Give and take. That was this game. But instead of wondering what's wrong with Miami today, everyone is asking, "What happened to Virginia Tech?"

The one thing Beamer was known for was his special teams. But Miami blocked a punt to set up its first touchdown, Johnson had the long return to set up the second and Virginia Tech even capped off Thomas' 73-yard touchdown run in ugly fashion.

It missed the extra point.

It hasn't been the best of times for Miami, and it won't be this season. But there's progress being made.

"I feel we grew up [Thursday],'' Golden said. "I'm proud of the effort and the fact that a lot of young guys aren't young anymore."

Duke vs. Miami doesn't sound like a Thanksgiving matchup that will draw all the nation in like Auburn vs. Alabama. And that's fine. Miami isn't at the weight class it once was. Everyone knows that.

That was never what this season was about anyhow.

This season was about Miami trying to develop through the year and carve out a decent season. Winning the Coastal division might not sound like progress. But think of Thursday's game this way.

Virginia Tech is irrelevant right now.

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