A tailback finally showed a pulse as Tony Gregory bounced outside for a 20-yard gain. Logan Thomas converted two third downs, the first on an improvised run, the second on a read option. Marcus Davis briefly emerged, catching a 24-yard strike from Thomas.
And the defense, bless their overworked hearts, allowed nine inches per play. Not yards, inches!
“We were dominating the game at that point,”
Dominating and losing.
Indeed, the worst Hokies team in two decades – we can all agree on that, yes? – owned many statistical advantages against the Hurricanes. But in the season's most important game, with five extra days to prepare, Tech came up small, falling 30-12.
"It's very frustrating, very disappointing," Beamer said, "and I know our fans are disappointed. … We're trying to get this thing right. Just got to keep hanging in there and it's going to turn around."
Not this season. After gift-wrapping control of the
That's quite the letdown for a program spoiled by eight straight 10-win seasons and five conference championship game appearances in the last seven years.
"We're so used to winning here," linebacker Jack Tyler said. "It's kind of a weird feeling."
Thursday's third quarter was particularly weird.
The Hokies outgained the Hurricanes 107-3. They had a first-and-goal at the 5 on one drive and a first-and-10 at Miami's 30 the next.
But they scored no points.
Cody Journell missed a 47-yard field goal attempt, ending a streak of 12 straight makes that dated to the season-opener. Worse, on third-and-goal from the 1, Thomas fumbled the snap, and Luther Robinson pounced on the ball, preserving Miami's 20-12 lead.
"You really feel like if you can get the game tied up that you've got the momentum," Beamer said.
The Hokies treated momentum like radioactive waste.
They drove into the red zone on the opening possession, but Thomas short-armed a pass toward fullback Joey Phillips that Ladarius Gunter easily intercepted.
Tech trimmed Miami’s lead to 7-3 but allowed
Thomas raced 73 yards untouched for the Hokies' first touchdown, but Journell missed the point-after.
A.J. Hughes' punt pinned the Hurricanes at their 4, but Stephen Morris promptly completed passes of 13, 11, 30 and 26 yards, leading to a field goal.
Tech drove inside Miami's 5 in the waning seconds of the first half, but curious clock management and play calling forced the Hokies to kick a field goal on second down.
"I was waiting for them to stop the clock to measure or give us a first down," Beamer said of a second-and-2 Thomas run that started with 59 seconds remaining. "The clock's going to stop either way. Well the clock didn't stop, and finally I called a timeout. So then they measure and now we're a little bit short … and they said they came over and asked, 'Do you want your timeout?' But no one ever asked me, so now they put the ball back in play, and they start the clock again, and we're sitting there with three timeouts. …
"We'd have had one more shot at a play there. … Just miscommunication, kind of … an unusual situation, things just not going quite right."
The Hokies' last chance was a fourth-and-1 at Miami's 39 early in the fourth quarter. Thomas' play-action fake froze linebackers, and Phillips was lonesome in the left flat, only to watch Thomas' pass sail far over his head.
"A little bit here, a little bit there," Beamer said, a refrain that's bound to irritate fans.
More like a LOT here and a LOT there.
Consider the running game. Miami ranked 119th among 120 teams nationally in rushing defense, allowing 249.3 yards per game. Tech ran for 222, but 73 were a gift as linebacker Denzel Perryman slipped and fell on Thomas' touchdown sprint.
Also recall that Perryman (lower extremity) and safety Deon Bush (head) missed considerable time. Yet the Hokies still couldn't run consistently.
"There's no question we'd like to run the ball better," Beamer said. "But we've said that for a long time, too."
What hasn't been said for a long time is that a Virginia Tech football team is below average. But that's clearly the case in 2012, and like many such seasons for other consistent top-25 programs, the decline has been sudden.
Recall that entering last season's ACC title game, the Hokies were 11-1 and ranked fifth nationally. Since, they are 3-7 against Bowl Subdivision teams, and five of those defeats were by double-digits.
With No. 9
"It hurts because we're so close," Beamer said. "You take four, five plays and all of a sudden that gets the game going the other way."
But when those plays go wrong most every week, the problems are systemic, and pretending otherwise is foolish.
"We haven't got it fixed yet," Beamer said, "but I'm not going to give up trying, I'll tell you that."
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP