Miami's defense pulls out all the stops

November, 14, 2008
11/14/08
12:56
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Miami quarterback Robert Marve wasn't bothered by the quick three-and-out with about three minutes left against Virginia Tech and a precarious 16-14 lead.

Instead, Marve said he felt rather "comfortable" about it.

 
 Joel Auerbach/US Presswire
 The Miami defense spent much of Thursday's game in the Virginia Tech backfield.

Credit the defense for calming his nerves. Virginia Tech wasn't going anywhere.

"I felt like they had that one drive, they scored a touchdown, but besides that, I think they went more backwards than they did forwards," Marve said.

Indeed, on fourth-and-3, the Hokies' final shot on offense, defensive end Allen Bailey surged into their backfield, wrapped up quarterback Tyrod Taylor and threw him down for a loss of seven yards with 1:56 remaining. The play was just one of a season-high six sacks and punctuated a dominant night for Miami's defensive line, as they were able to control one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league.

"We worked on it this off-week," said Miami coach Randy Shannon. "We did some things in practice we needed to work on, just getting the defensive linemen to understand about run-pass. We were always good on third down -- we could get up the field and do those things -- but recognizing run-pass situations, we worked on that for two weeks and I think it really helped us out this week."

Virginia Tech's offense has struggled all season -- the Hokies still haven't had a wide receiver account for a touchdown pass this season. It looked as if they took a major step forward last week, though, against Maryland. In retrospect, it looks like the Terps' defense helped a little more. The Hokies tried everything against Miami -- their 2007 two-quarterback system, their "Wild Turkey" formation with tight end Greg Boone lining up at quarterback, and then their original play of Taylor running the show.

None of it matched up with Miami's speed on defense.

The Hurricanes have shown gradual improvement each week under first-year defensive coordinator Bill Young, whose Kansas defense defeated the Hokies in the Orange Bowl last season.

Virginia Tech had more yards on its last scoring drive (69) than it did in the second half (59). The Hokies had a series of three straight three-and-outs, and Miami responded with a field goal each time. And exactly one week after rushing for a school-record 253 yards against Maryland, tailback Darren Evans was held to 43 yards on 17 carries.

"It was key to what we felt like we had to do," Shannon said. "We knew that coach [Frank] Beamer does a great job of running the football, so we knew we had to come in and shut down the run game and make it a one-sided game."

For most of four quarters, that's what it was.

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