Originally created 11/28/01

Hokies praying for snow against Miami

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Unfortunately for No. 14 Virginia Tech, it is expected to be a balmy 40 degrees when top-ranked Miami comes to town Saturday.

Hokies coach Frank Beamer had hoped for snow, maybe a blizzard or a frozen field - anything to slow the Hurricanes, who have rolled over their last two opponents by a combined score of 124-7.

"You just can't catch a break," Beamer said, shaking his head.

Miami (10-0, 6-0 Big East) is 5-5 all time when the temperature is 41 degrees or colder, including 1-2 in the state of Virginia. But the Hurricanes don't expect the weather to hinder their performance Saturday, especially with a trip to the Rose Bowl and a shot at the national title at stake.

"We're not going to let the elements be a factor," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "We could sit here and think of five reasons we shouldn't play well in Blacksburg. We're not going to do that. We're not going to make a big issue of the elements.

"We have a lot to play for. If we can't play in a little cold for three hours and seven minutes, then we don't deserve to go to Pasadena."

Nearly 60 percent of the Miami players are from the Sunshine State, and another 20 percent hail from southern states. The Hurricanes twice played in temperature below 50 degrees this season: at Pittsburgh in September and at Boston College last month.

Miami wasn't dominant in either game.

The Panthers are the only team to lead Miami this season, winning 7-6 for about five minutes in the second quarter before falling 43-21. And the Eagles almost beat the Hurricanes. Miami needed a last-minute interception return for a touchdown to pull off the 18-7 victory.

Nonetheless, the Hurricanes don't expect weather to be a problem against the Hokies (8-2, 4-2).

"Chance of snow or no chance of snow, those are things we can't control," offensive tackle Joaquin Gonzalez said. "Whatever happens, if we've got to play under rain, snow or in a water puddle, we've still got to play them and we're still going to run our game plan. We've just got to get a win."

With little chance for snow Saturday, the Hokies will need to find another way to beat the Hurricanes, who defeated then-No. 14 Syracuse 59-0 and then-No. 12 Washington 65-7 the past two weeks.

Miami leads the nation in takeaways, forcing an average of four turnovers per game that usually set up a flurry of early scores. They have a massive offensive line and a defense that has allowed 7.9 points per game.

"They look like a pro team," said Tech safety Willie Pile, who watched just enough of the Hurricanes during the Thanksgiving break to realize how tough the season finale will be.

With a bye last week, the Hokies have had time to look for weaknesses. The problem is, there doesn't seem to be any.

"Everywhere you look it's a fast guy, athletic guy ... performing," Beamer said.

To beat the Hurricanes, Virginia Tech needs to be perfect, said quarterback Grant Noel, who has been grousing at younger players to stay sharp the entire 60 minutes.

Kevin Jones, Tech's swift young running back who posted 336 rushing yards in the last two games, can't get rattled. The Hokies need to be able to rely on their top-rated defense, a veteran group that has shut out four teams this season.

"We'll try some twists, some blitzes ... all kinds of different stuff until we find something that works," linebacker Jake Houseright said.

Linebacker Ben Taylor said the Hokies will try to stack the line, sending seven or eight people at quarterback Ken Dorsey.

"They may have five huge offensive linemen, but they can't block that many," Taylor said.

That scheme may need to work for the Hokies to slow down Miami's offense and have a chance at salvaging a season that began with Rose Bowl aspirations. The weather may help, too, even though it won't be as daunting as Beamer and the Hokies wanted.

"Our team believes we can win this, especially in Blacksburg," Taylor said.


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