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Odd offense leaves Tech out of control

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Virginia Tech forfeited control of the ACC's Coastal Division football race Thursday.

Such is macro view after the Hokies' 16-14 loss to Miami at Dolphin Stadium.

The micro view, for those Tech faithful determined to torment themselves this morning, revolves around two potential Hurricanes turnovers that gained a combined 31 yards and sustained drives that produced 10 points.

Don't misunderstand. Given Miami's withering defense and Tech's inexplicably confused offense, this figured to be a trying night.

But oh, those loose footballs.

On second-and-8 from the Hokies' 21 in the first quarter, Tech linebacker Cam Martin knocked the ball from Robert Marve on a quarterback draw. The fumble squirted forward, and Miami receiver Laron Byrd recovered for a 15-yard gain and a first down at the 6.

Three plays later, Javarris James scored from the 3.

(That touchdown drive also included a dubious roughing-the-passer penalty called by referee Brad Allen on Orion Martin. The flag came on third-and-5 from Tech's 49. But before gritting teeth over a questionable flag, Hokie Nation should recall that early-season victories over Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Nebraska hinged, in part, on iffy penalties that benefited Tech.)

Back to the fumbles.

Early in the fourth quarter, Tech's Macho Harris ripped the ball from receiver Aldarius Johnson inside the Hokies' 20. Tech's Kwamaine Battle had a chance to recover but did not, and Miami's Kayne Farquharson gained possession and carried the ball to the 2 for a 16-yard gain and first down.

The Hokies limited the Hurricanes to a field goal, but Miami's 16-7 edge was insurmountable.

Send a sympathy card to Tech's defense.

Three times in the third quarter, the Hurricanes began drives in Hokies territory. But they could not muster a touchdown, settling instead for three short field goals.

Meanwhile, after a productive first half, Tech's offense vanished. Six third-quarter snaps netted minus-11 yards.

So no longer can Tech (6-4, 3-3 ACC) assure itself of the division title and berth in the conference championship game by winning out. Now the Hokies need help.

Lots of help.

First, North Carolina (7-2, 3-2) must lose at least one of its three remaining games. If the Tar Heels run the table, they're bound for the ACC title contest in Butch Davis' second year as head coach.

Next, Tech needs Miami (7-3, 4-2) to lose at least one of its two remaining contests. Should North Carolina stumble, the Hurricanes would be large and in charge.

Well, as large and in charge as any ACC outfit can be in this season of remarkable parity.

Really, would it surprise anyone if North Carolina lost at Maryland on Saturday, and Miami fell at Georgia Tech next Thursday to put the Hokies back in the mix? It shouldn't.

Helpless as their offense was during the second half, the Hokies had a chance to win when they took over at their 32 with 2:57 remaining. But on third-and-2 from the 40, offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring made one of his most baffling calls of the year.

Operating out of the shotgun, Tyrod Taylor handed off to Dustin Pickle — he of four carries in the season's first nine games. Marcus Robinson, the best player on the field, stuffed him for a yard loss.

Allen Bailey sacked Taylor on fourth down — Miami's sixth sack — and the Hurricanes ran out the clock.

It was a fitting end for the Hokies on offense. So effective last week against Maryland, they were overmatched against Miami's more athletic front.

Nine games into the season, Tech's coaches have yet to settle on an offense. It's bizarre and borders on outrageous.

First, Sean Glennon was the quarterback and Taylor was going to redshirt. That lasted all of one game.

Then Taylor was the guy. Then he and Glennon sprained ankles at Florida State, leaving Glennon to start against Maryland, with Taylor sitting out and tight end Greg Boone serving as an effective change-up in a so-called "Wild Turkey" formation in which he took a direct snap.

Thursday, Taylor was good to go, and suddenly the Hokies were back to the Glennon-Taylor rotation that served them well in last season's late drive to the ACC championship. There was no such magic against Miami.

Tech now has more than a week to prepare for its Nov. 22 home game against Duke. Heaven only knows what type of offense we'll see then.

David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime

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