MIAMI — Since the day he took over as coach, Al Golden has said the path for the Hurricanes to get back into the national picture starts with winning the ACC's Coastal Division.
Miami now controls the path to that title.
Stephen Morris threw for two early touchdowns, both set up by Virginia Tech special teams miscues, and UM took a major step forward in the chase for a berth in the conference title game by beating the Hokies 30-12 Thursday night before an announced crowd of 37,219 at Sun Life Stadium.
The Hurricanes were outgained 421-347, went 1-for-12 on third down and totaled 3 yards on 12 plays in the third quarter. Somehow, none of that mattered.
"It's critical," said Golden, in his second year at Miami. "Again, I know everybody wants us to be national champions yesterday and get back to BCS games and all that, but the reality of it is the pathway through that is the Coastal. It's almost like we have to re-educate our team. They have to understand, that's how you get there."
Duke Johnson had a 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and finished with 217 all-purpose yards for the 'Canes (5-4, 4-2 ACC), who snapped a three-game slide. The division is hardly a done deal — Miami has conference games left with Virginia and Duke, both on the road.
The Hurricanes lead Duke and North Carolina by a half-game in the Coastal, though the Tar Heels are ineligible for postseason play, including the ACC title game.
FSU (8-1, 5-1), which is idle this week, has a strong lead in the Atlantic Division. If UM and FSU maintain their leads, they would meet in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 1 in Charlotte, N.C.
Logan Thomas had a 73-yard scoring run on a quarterback draw for Virginia Tech (4-5, 2-3), which will have a streak of eight straight 10-win seasons end.
"I don't fault our effort," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. "I fault our execution."
The Hokies and Hurricanes are two of the best teams on Thursday night — a combined 34-8 entering the game, Virginia Tech with a 19-5 mark, Miami 15-3.
And the Hokies were 25-2 in ACC games played in November.
Now, they're 25-3, all three losses coming to Miami.
Virginia Tech ran 82 plays to UM's 58, held the ball for more than 34 minutes, picked up 24 first downs to Miami's 15, and still lost. A blocked punt led to a Miami touchdown and a big return by Johnson set up another.
The 'Canes wore all orange, a pregame surprise to the team by Golden. "I just wanted them to have fun. I think they were excited about it," he said of the uniform switch. "Guess that means we have to keep wearing them."