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Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Gut-check time for Virginia Tech, Miami

By Heather Dinich

There is no better example of Virginia Tech’s resiliency than what the program accomplished in 2010, when the Hokies started out 0-2 with a shocking loss to James Madison and then reeled off 11 straight wins to capture the ACC title and earn a trip to the Orange Bowl.

Virginia Tech has been down, but the Hokies are rarely if ever truly out under coach Frank Beamer.

In 2011, Virginia Tech lost at home in convincing fashion to Clemson, but then won seven straight to get back to the ACC title game. Last year, Virginia Tech dropped to 4-6, but won its last three games to finish with a winning record. This season, Virginia Tech started with a loss to Alabama and responded with six straight wins to become bowl eligible in mid-October.

Stephen Morris, Shayon Green
Stephen Morris says the Canes can't allow last Saturday's loss to the Seminoles to linger.
Now, after back-to-back losses to Duke and Boston College -- two of the most unheralded programs in the ACC -- the Hokies are tasked with another tough turnaround. Virginia Tech will travel to Miami this week, its second straight road trip, for a game that will either keep the Hokies in the Coastal conversation or make them spectators as Miami maintains its lead in the division race. While Virginia Tech has built a reputation in recent years for its comeback character, it was called into question last week after the loss to Boston College. Those within the program, though, insist this is the same old Virginia Tech -- the one you can count out when the stakes are the highest.

“I definitely believe we have that same type of character and bounce-back mentality,” junior rover Kyshoen Jarrett said. “It’s just what we do, and when you have such a great coaching staff … defensively, you have coach Bud Foster. That’s what he instills in us, taking pride in what we do, and most importantly having fun. Offensively, we have new coaches, but you can see during practice that’s what he demands from his offensive unit as well. If we can click on all cylinders, we’ll dominate more than what people expect us to. Sometimes it doesn’t always go like that. That’s football, that’s life. But we’ve got to continue to keep striving for greatness.”

Problem is, Miami is trying to do the same thing . And both teams still have everything to play for.

Not only did Miami lose an emotional game to rival Florida State last week, but the Canes also lost their top offensive player, Duke Johnson, for the rest of the season with a fractured ankle.

Regardless, Miami is the only team in the division with just one ACC loss, and the only team that can clinch the division title by winning the rest of its games.

“The mentality right now is don’t let Florida State beat you twice,” Miami quarterback Stephen Morris said. “We’ve just got to focus on Virginia Tech right now. Obviously that game hurt, we wanted to win, but we have a lot to learn from it, and I think that’s the best part about it. In order to get back into that stage, we have to take care of a lot of little things.”

Miami is ranked No. 11 in the latest BCS standings -- which doesn’t bode well for Virginia Tech. The program is 4-28 overall against top-15 opponents and 4-13 under Beamer. When Virginia Tech is unranked, and playing at a ranked Miami team, the Hokies are 0-4.

Then again, Virginia Tech is also 19-4 in ACC road games against Coastal Division opponents.

“We still have very high motivation inside our locker room,” Jarrett said. “We’re still excited about the season. We know we still have a lot ahead of us. This is the game it’s going to come down to. That’s how we want it.”

And that’s how Miami is expecting the Hokies to respond -- just like they always have.

“They’re never really down,” Morris said. “They’re always a great team. When you have a defensive coordinator who’s been there for so long, and everyone is comfortable in that system, they’re experienced, they’re veterans. It’s obviously going to be a huge test for us. They’re always going to play hard against us. It’s a big Coastal game for us. It’s important.”

It's bounce-back week in the Coastal -- for one of them.