A beatdown from the get-go. That's what many suspected would transpire Saturday at Lane Stadium.
Sure enough, Virginia Tech-Miami was hammer time. With one immense twist.
The Hokies wielded the Stanley, pounding the Hurricanes 31-7 before a soaked and delirious sellout crowd.
Raise your hand if you saw that coming, and if your hand is raised, please submit to a polygraph.
"We wanted to come out and show the world that Miami may be back, but Tech never left," Hokies cornerback Rashad Carmichael said.
That they did, ignoring a game-long deluge to humble the ninth-ranked Hurricanes and kill the buzz surrounding the five-time national champions.
The talk was inescapable during the week as college football's chattering class pronounced Miami recovered from a five-season malaise. And rest assured, the Hokies heard it, read it and resented it.
"It was a little irritating," linebacker Cody Grimm said. "At the same time, they beat two ranked teams. But we felt like we were being a little disrespected. We are defending ACC champs."
Indeed, Miami's early conquests of Florida State and Georgia Tech were impressive, while 11th-ranked Tech needed a last-minute miracle last week against Nebraska to avoid a 1-2 start.
Still, the Hokies are two-time defending conference champions, and they had won 10 consecutive home games. Yet pundits not only were forecasting their demise, but also envisioning it becoming more shield-your-eyes ugly than Tom DeLay dancing the cha-cha.
Not quite. Tech (3-1, 1-0 ACC) bordered on flawless.
Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring called an imaginative game in brutal conditions, adding quarterback Tyrod Taylor to the rushing attack and using misdirection to create space for tailback Ryan Williams. He also installed a passing-game wrinkle —– the Hokies hadn't run a post route with a slot receiver all season — that produced a 48-yard, Taylor-to-Jarrett Boykin touchdown.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster went all-in for his poker hand against Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, blitzing from every conceivable angle. Virtually untouched in the Hurricanes' first two games, Harris was sacked three times, the first, by rover Dorian Porch, causing a lost fumble that Tech converted into a touchdown.
The offensive line blocked better than it has all season, while the defense tackled better. Special teams made up for several breakdowns when Matt Reidy scooped up Jacob Sykes' blocked punt for a touchdown.
"The way we won together as a football team, with all areas contributing, I like that a lot," coach Frank Beamer said.
Some telling, off-the-radar plays:
• Kam Chancellor pouncing on teammate Jayron Hosley's muffed punt at Tech's 11, sparing the defense a difficult red-zone challenge.
• Taylor, who rushed for a season-high 75 yards, scooting 22 yards on a bootleg after a convincing inside-handoff fake.
• End Jason Worilds dump-trucking Miami offensive tackle Matt Pipho on his way to a third-quarter sack that knocked the Hurricanes out of field-goal range. At 307 pounds, Pipho outweighs Worilds by 45 pounds, by the way.
• Defensive tackle Antoine Hopkins, all 295 pounds of him, dropping into zone pass coverage on a third-quarter fourth-and-13 and assisting on the tackle of Dedrick Epps 4 yards shy of the first down. On the next snap, Williams bounced outside to the left and rumbled 44 yards to set up a 23-yard field goal that put the Hokies back in control at 24-7.
• Grimm breaking up a fourth-quarter pass in the end zone intended for Leonard Hankerson. In the grand scheme, it was not a significant play, but it embodied Grimm's he's-everywhere performance, arguably the finest of his five seasons in Blacksburg.
"Cody Grimm continues to get better and better and better," Foster said. "I've told you guys this before: Pound for pound, I think he's our best football player."
• Finally, Williams plowing 6 yards behind a two-tight-end set on an early third-and-1. It was a rudimentary power run, one that showed the Hokies could handle the Hurricanes.
When incumbent tailback Darren Evans sustained a season-ending knee injury in August, the question about Williams, a redshirt freshman, was whether he would be as durable and dependable. Saturday's 34-carry, 150-yard, two-touchdown stat line addressed that issue.
"You see the speed," Stinespring said of Williams. "You see the dazzle. But the tough yardage … he has a lot of power. He has a lot of reserve in the tank."
The Hokies now must show their collective reserve. The Hurricanes may have been their sternest ACC test, but seven league games remain.
Porch believes Tech is poised for another title run.
"Miami is Miami, and they always will be Miami," he said. "But I'll tell you one thing: This said a lot about our guys and how we respond to challenges."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime