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Virginia Tech Game Is a Must-Win for Miami Coach Al Golden

Photo: Icon Wire

It may not look like much on paper, but Miami’s game with Virginia Tech on Saturday (3:30 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium) is a big one for an embattled head coach and a program desperate to turn things around. It’s one of those games that has to be considered a “must win” in that regard.

Miami AD Blake James felt it necessary to come out with a statement last week after the Canes’ 29-24 loss to arch-rival Florida State, Golden’s sixth straight to the Noles. James’ statement said in effect that he would wait until the end of the year to evaluate the program.

Make no mistake; Saturday’s game is a big one for a 3-2 Miami team looking to rise above mediocrity against an average Virginia Tech (3-3) team that’s had its own struggles this season. And the Hokies come in fighting mad after last season’s game in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech seeks revenge from that 30-6 thumping.

But they’ll have to put the clamps on Miami sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya, who is coming off a career game against FSU, throwing for 405 yards. That’s the most by a Miami quarterback in 35 years.

The Virginia Tech game sits smack dab in the middle of a five-game October schedule that included a visit to Florida State, an upcoming trip to Duke, and a home encounter with Clemson. That’s pretty challenging in anybody’s book.

And that’s what makes a win in Saturday’s game imperative. The Canes have already started that stretch 0-2 (including the Oct. 1 loss at Cincinnati). Another loss, with Clemson and Duke still left, would signal a premature end to the season and perhaps even for Golden’s tenure at The U.

But give credit where credit is due. Golden has stayed the course. He didn’t just up and walk out on the team in the middle of the season, like a future hall of fame coach did this week. He also didn’t miss practice or make a fool of himself at a fundraising luncheon because he “isn’t healthy” like a certain former SoCal coach.

No, at least Golden is continuing to do his job, and doing it the best way he knows how. He’s looking forward, not backward. His Canes are about to tangle with their first divisional foe this season and that has him and hopefully the team fired up about the game.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to play our first Coastal (Division) game,” Golden said in his weekly ACC press conference. “Our focus has been on Virginia Tech since Sunday. The only thing that matters is this week. It’s a one-game season right now. That’s where our mind’s at.”

That attitude has some merit to it, and it translates to the players. From all indications the team hasn’t quit on its coach, regardless of its shortcomings. It remains competitive even if the results aren’t what Canes faithful have grown accustomed to.

So the team and its coaches will keep fighting and the result from Saturday’s game will be a very strong indication as to the direction in which the program is headed. It’s a pivotal game in the 2015 season, one which has reached a fork in the road. A victory could signal the beginning of an ascent towards the program’s first outright Coastal Division title. A defeat, on the other hand, could send it spiraling.

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