MIAMI GARDENS — Deshawn McClease’s 3-yard run with 1:03 remaining capped a wild back-and-forth final few minutes and gave Virginia Tech a 42-35 win over Miami on Saturday, in a game where the Hokies wasted a 28-point lead.
Dalton Keene caught three touchdown passes for the Hokies (3-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who went up 28-0 in the first half and led 35-14 midway through the fourth quarter.
That’s before Miami scored three touchdowns in less than four minutes to tie the score — oddly going for a two-point conversion after the second of those scores, then having kicker Bubba Baxa miss an extra point after Deejay Dallas’ 62-yard run with 3:16 left tied the score.
But the Hokies needed only five plays to go 63 yards to take the lead. McClease’s 3-yard run capped the drive, with Keene’s 26-yard catch on third down putting the Hokies on the doorstep.
Miami’s final drive got to the Virginia Tech 10 with five seconds left, but N’Kosi Perry — who was brilliant in relief for the Hurricanes, throwing for a career-best 422 yards and a career-high-tying four touchdowns — had his final two throws to the end zone get knocked away.
The Hurricanes lost despite outgaining the Hokies 563-337. Jeff Thomas had two touchdown catches and 124 receiving yards for Miami, and Brevin Jordan had a TD grab to go along with 136 receiving yards.
It was a wild end to a wild game, one where Virginia Tech forced five turnovers — including one on each of Miami’s first four possessions — and got a strong first career start from quarterback Hendon Hooker. He was 10 of 20 passing for 184 yards and three touchdowns.
The Hokies were two-touchdown underdogs, had lost six of their last seven ACC games and were coming off a 45-10 home loss to Duke.
No matter. They dominated the turnover battle, posted a season-high seven sacks, had the 28-0 lead before Miami’s Mark Pope caught a deflected pass in the end zone on the final play of the half — and then found a way to win after Miami’s huge rally.
Perry relieved starter Jarren Williams and completed 28 of 47 passes. Williams didn’t have any of his seven passes hit the ground — problem was, only four were caught by Hurricanes, the other three by Hokies for interceptions, and he failed to make it out of the first quarter.
The Hurricanes are still off to their worst five-game start since also going 2-3 in 2011, Al Golden’s first season at Miami.
New Miami coach Manny Diaz now has the same record in his first season at the Hurricanes’ helm, and even got booed by the home fans when his face appeared on the giant video screens around the stadium in the second quarter.
Miami was bidding for what would have tied the largest comeback win in school history. The Hurricanes were down 28-0 before topping Boston College in 1999.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies hadn’t been 0-3 in conference play since 1951, back when they were members of the Southern Conference — and avoided falling into that hole. The win also gives a huge boost to the Hokies’ bowl hopes; they have been to a bowl in 26 straight seasons, the nation’s longest such streak, and will need to merely go 3-3 in their final six games (next week against Rhode Island is meaningless for bowl purposes) to extend that run. That’s no guarantee, but it obviously is not as daunting as needing to go 4-2 would have been.
Miami: The Hurricanes had turnovers on four consecutive possessions for the first time since the 2010 Sun Bowl against Notre Dame. Williams hadn’t thrown an interception on any of his first 120 Miami passes (117 this season) before getting picked off on Miami’s first drive, setting the tone for a disastrous start. And the last time Miami had more than five turnovers in a game was 2010 — when it had six, against Bud Foster’s defense at Virginia Tech. Saturday was the last time Foster, who is retiring as the Hokies’ defensive coordinator, will coach against Miami.
Saturday was the first time since Miami’s “Turnover Chain” debuted in 2017 that the Hurricanes did not force a turnover in a home game.
This was the seventh time since 2004 that Virginia Tech forced at least five turnovers. All seven of those games have been road contests for the Hokies — and each of the last three instances have come in the state of Florida (2010 at Miami, 2018 at Florida State).
Virginia Tech: Host Rhode Island on Oct. 12.
Miami: Host Virginia on Friday night.