'Canes deliver message to Hokies, nation
Predictions of its demise fueled No. 5 Miami's rage, and the 'Canes unleashed their fury on No. 3 Virginia Tech. No one would dare doubt Miami now, writes Ivan Maisel.
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- They spoke with righteous indignation, the emotion spilling forth, dressing every word in the fire and brimstone of a tent revival.
The message the fifth-ranked Miami Hurricanes gave Saturday night, in their play and in their locker room afterward, went as follows:
How dare you.
The 'Canes humiliated Virginia Tech Saturday night in the Hokies' house, winning 27-7, a final score that doesn't begin to convey the one-sided nature of the victory.
Miami forced six turnovers from a team that had committed only seven all season.
Miami limited Virginia Tech to 167 total yards.
Miami removed Hokie junior quarterback Marcus Vick from consideration for any and all awards for the foreseeable future, except maybe a Purple Heart. Vick completed 8-of-22 passes for 90 yards, threw two interceptions and lost three of the Hokies four fumbles. In Vick's defense, Miami locked down his receivers, and holding onto the ball is difficult when you're hit from behind. Again and again.
"We came in here fifth in the nation," senior offensive tackle Eric Winston said, "and y'all made it out like we were 50th."
The Hurricanes read the stories that predicted a Virginia Tech victory. They filled up their tanks with that fuel. There's no more genial man coaching football than Miami head coach Larry Coker, and even he tried to sound teed off.
"We had a little edge," Coker said. "We took it a little personal. I don't think people gave us much of a chance to win the game here."
Miami's longtime offensive line coach Art Kehoe, a fiery man who has never felt the need to slow down any thought before it reaches his lips -- in other words, the antidote for Coker -- said what the head coach would not.
"Why do people think we're going to come up here and get our asses beat?" Kehoe said. "Don't tell the 'Canes what they can't do. We can do. We're a can-do organization. We've been doing it for a long time. Don't tell me we're going to get our butts whipped. It ain't happening."
So now the BCS can breathe a sigh of relief. With no disrespect meant toward Alabama, three teams and two sidelines are no longer a concern. Texas and USC can continue down the road to the Rose Bowl without controversy.
Unless, that is, you acknowledge that Miami (7-1, 4-1) staged the most dominant victory of any top-five team this season. Unless you figure that, if we had playoffs, you'd rather draw Indianapolis in the first round than the Hurricanes who showed up in Lane Stadium on Saturday night.
Miami played Virginia Tech (8-1, 5-1) without a starting tailback, a starting punt returner, and for a while, a starting quarterback, and still humiliated them. Hurricane tailback Tyrone Moss left the game in the first quarter with a sprained left knee. Punt returner Devin Hester left with a strained hamstring. Quarterback Kyle Wright got his bell rung and missed most of the second quarter.
So sophomore tailback Charlie Jones came in and rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown.
So redshirt freshman quarterback Kirby Freeman came in and finished off Miami's first touchdown drive, a 17-play, 82-yard effort that took 8:18 and made it clear that the line of scrimmage would be controlled by the visitors.
This is the same offensive line that gave up nine sacks in the season-opening 10-7 loss at Florida State. Winston couldn't have been any prouder of himself or his linemates for the improvement they have made over the last two months.
"We played Duke and Temple. Last week (a 34-16 win over North Carolina), we ran the ball on the best rush defense in the ACC. Watching Boston College get stuffed [by North Carolina] today, we realized, 'We can do this. We can do this on everybody.' "
Virginia Tech lost its national championship dream, its unbeaten record, its lead in the ACC Coastal, and, most surprising, its composure. Down 10-0 at the half, the Hokies caved in late in the third quarter. Miami scored on a nine-yard pass from Wright to flanker Darnell Jenkins to go ahead 20-0. A couple of snaps later, Javon Nanton sacked Vick in the end zone, forcing a fumble, and Miami tackle Kareem Brown recovered for a touchdown.
Miami didn't score in the final quarter, but the one-sided nature of the game didn't prevent the 'Canes from throwing into the end zone on fourth-and-14 from the Hokies 24 with 1:35 remaining. It's that kind of rivalry.
The Hurricanes made their statement to the Hokies, to the media and surely to the voters. It's never too early to get in position on the off chance that USC or Texas proves to be human. For all the bravado expressed in the locker room Saturday night, even Winston stopped short of suggesting that the 'Canes should slot into the Rose Bowl.
"You can't do that," he said. "There's something to winning all your games. Ohio State in 2002, winning games by six points. If you win all your games, you deserve to be there. But 11-1 can look pretty good. I've got to believe we're the best one-loss team."
No one would dare disagree.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.