It was Nov. 4, 2017, Virginia Tech at Miami, a prime-time showdown between a pair of ranked teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference. Hill played for the Hokies then, and the lasting memory he has from the Hurricanes’ 28-10 win was how the stadium reacted after each of Virginia Tech’s four turnovers.
“The hype of the Turnover Chain,” Hill said. “I came here and played at Hard Rock Stadium and noticed how loud it got when that chain came out. I’ve never been in a stadium besides (the Hokies’) Lane Stadium that gets that loud. And that’s when I knew this place was someplace special.”
His career comes full circle on Saturday (3:30 p.m., ESPN) when the Hurricanes (2-2, 0-1) take on the Hokies (2-2, 0-2) in what almost certainly amounts as a must-win game for either side’s hopes in the ACC Coastal race. Virginia Tech dismissed Hill from its team in September 2018, and now he gets his chance to face the Hokies.
“I’m a passionate player,” said Hill, who is playing his graduate senior season at Miami. “I love the game. The U in general is a passionate program with many great traditions and great players like Ray Lewis, Sean Taylor ... this was the right decision for me.”
His new team could add to his old team’s woes.
The Hokies are desperate for a win and are coming off their worst loss in 12 years: at home by 35 points to Duke, the biggest home defeat for Virginia Tech since 1974. And Hokies wide receiver Tre Turner had an Instagram post Thursday saying that Hendon Hooker will be taking over as the starting quarterback for Virginia Tech this week.
Hooker is in his third season at Virginia Tech. He’s thrown two passes, completing one. Almost all of his work, obviously, has come in practice.
“He’s taken a whole bunch of reps in the last several years,” Hokies coach Justin Fuente said.
Saturday will mark the debut of Miami safety Bubba Bolden, a Southern California transfer who had to sit four games while waiting for the NCAA to declare him eligible.
Some other things to know heading into Saturday’s game:
The first weekend of October is typically not the time to be talking bowl scenarios, but a loss here would be a massive problem for Virginia Tech — holder of the nation’s longest current bowl-appearance streak at 26 years. The Hokies already have a win against FCS opponent Furman, so next week’s game with Rhode Island won’t help their bowl quest because only one win against the lower tier can count. That means the Hokies -— who still face Notre Dame, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Pitt and Virginia after Miami — have to win four of those games to be bowl-eligible. And they probably won’t be favored in most of those games.
Miami has won the past two meetings with Virginia Tech. The last time the Hurricanes won three straight in the series was from 2000-2002. And prior to that, the only other time Miami won three or more in a row against the Hokies was when it prevailed in the first 12 games of the series from 1953-94.
Miami quarterback Jarren Williams has thrown 116 passes without an interception this season. Only five quarterbacks entering this weekend have attempted more throws without a pick, led by Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (148 attempts, zero interceptions). Williams’ run of 119 passes — including three last season — is the longest without a pick by a Miami QB since Brad Kaaya wasn’t picked off on any of the final 135 throws of his ’Canes career in 2016.
The Hokies got some preseason votes in the AP Top 25 but have yet to be listed on any ballots during the regular season. If that doesn’t change, this will be the first time since 1992 they haven’t gotten a single regular-season vote in the Top 25. They were unranked for all of the 2015 season but appeared on some ballots along the way that year.
Going back to last season, Miami has not allowed more than 12 points in any of its last three home games. That’s the Hurricanes’ longest such streak since an eight-game run spanning the 2000 and 2001 seasons.