MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Despite an offense that was virtually absent for much of the second half, Miami made its halftime lead stand up for a 30-12 victory over Virginia Tech in a key Atlantic Coast Conference game Thursday night.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Hurricanes (5-3, 4-2 ACC) and put them alone in first place in the Coastal Division at least until Saturday, when Duke (6-3, 3-2) plays Clemson.
"It's critical," Miami coach Al Golden said. "I know everybody wants us to be national champions yesterday and get back to the BCS games and all that, but the reality of it is that the pathway through that is the Coastal."
Virginia Tech (4-5, 2-3) lost its second consecutive game and fell under the .500 mark for the season. The Hokies retained a mathematical shot at getting back to the ACC Championship Game for a third consecutive year, but they would need lots of help.
"I think the greatest thing you can play for when it's all said and done is pride," Tech coach Frank Beamer said.
But that is far from what was expected when the season started with Hokies ranked in the Top 25.
"You never go into the season thinking that," tackle Vincent Painter said, referring to playing for pride. "You always go into the season thinking the best."
Freshman running back Duke Johnson's big plays were a huge factor in the game.
He ran for 100 yards on 11 carries. In the first half alone, he ran a kickoff back 81 yards to put Miami at Tech's 19-yard line and set up its second touchdown. And he had another 65-yard run that put the Hurricanes in position for one of their three field goals.
Johnson also sparked Miami's fourth-quarter offensive surge, rushing for 35 yards on a 69-yard march that was capped by his own 7-yard run for a touchdown and a 27-12 Miami lead with 7:38 to play.
"This is the healthiest I've been all year," said Johnson, who used Miami's open date to recover from toe and ankle injuries. "It's exciting just to be in the driver's seat in the Coastal, but we can't let up."
The Hokies enjoyed a big advantage in both total offense (421 yards to Miami's 347) and rushing (222-157) but couldn't overcome their own miscues.
"I don't fault our effort," Beamer said. "I do fault our execution."
Virginia Tech settled for a field goal in the closing seconds of the first half, which ended with Miami up 20-12.
Then, after the Hurricanes went into an offensive funk with only 3 yards of total offense in the third quarter, the Hokies couldn't capitalize. They lost a fumble at Miami's 1-yard line and missed a 47-yard field goal over that span.
Finally, with the difference still one score just over a minute into the fourth quarter, Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas, who scored the team's only touchdown on a 73-yard run, overthrew an open receiver on fourth-and-1 at Miami's 39-yard.
"We couldn't produce points," Beamer said. "We had 400-some yards, but points is the name of the game."
Miami finally got a touchdown on Johnson's 7-yard run and a field goal in the fourth quarter for the final margin.
NOTES: Miami needed only 35 yards in total offense for its first two touchdown drives, blocking a punt to take possession at Tech's 16-yard line and starting at the 19 following Johnson's 81-yard kickoff return. ... The blocked punt was the first against the Hokies since their 2010 season opener against Boise State. ... Miami lost linebacker Denzel Perryman, its second-leading tackler, early in the third quarter and starting safety Deon Bush in the first half to injuries. ... Thomas' 73-yard run was a career long for the junior.