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Canes crush Virginia 45-26; defense gets four turnovers and scores twice

The MiamI Hurricanes, led by four turnovers from a secondary that arguably played its best game of the season, defeated the Virginia Cavaliers 45-26 Saturday afternoon on Senior Day. Miami's seniors will never grace the field of Sun Life Stadium again as members of the UM football team. Miami will travel to Pitt to face the Panthers on Friday to conclude its regular season.

Tracy Howard celebrates after his first quarter interception for a touchdown against Virginia
Tracy Howard celebrates after his first quarter interception for a touchdown against Virginia
Mike Ehrmann

The University of Miami defeated the Virginia Cavaliers 45-26, on Senior Day, Saturday afternoon at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens before an announced crowd of 44,732 that braved the rain and inclement weather.

Allan Hurns and Dallas Crawford each had two touchdowns to pace the Hurricanes. The Canes (8-3) broke a three-game losing streak and will close their regular season on Friday at Pittsburgh.

"These seniors did not ask to be part of the problem, but all are part of the solution," Golden said in support of his seniors, who he said were never 8-3 at any point of any collegiate season. "I have such an incredible amount of respect for these seniors.  More than anyone could ever know."

Hurns caught six passes for 126 yards and a touchdown to lead the Hurricanes. Quarterback Stephen Morris had another sub-par outing and finished 13-of-26 for 214 yards with two scores and an interception.  Crawford led the Canes on the ground with 66 yards on 16 carries and also scored two touchdowns..

"Allan Hurns is a testament to what we want in our program," Golden said after the game. "He's have a great year, not a good year, but a great year. Today was no different.

Miami (8-3, 4-3)  did something that it has not done in recent weeks. It caused a lot of turnovers.  Miami caused four turnovers and scored defensive touchdowns on two of them.  They turned the four turnovers into 21 points.

"During the stretch we haven't been counter punching," Golden said. after the game. "Today we counter punched.  We were able to do somethings on defense that we haven't done in a while."

The Canes could still not stop the run until the second half. Miami's defense gave up 99 yards rushing the first quarter to a team that is averaging 152 yards for an entire game this season. They surpassed that amount in the second quarter.  Miami did, however, limit the run in the second half despite the fact that the Cavs were forced to pass to come back from big deficits.

"We stopped the run pretty good in the third quarter," Golden said. "We ran to the ball better, tackled better and were more physical."

Miami did not take long to get on the scoreboard. Miami lead 7-0 six seconds into the game as Tracy Howard intercepted David Watford's offering on the first play of the game and took it 20 yards for the score.

Watford's pass was thrown out to the right flank and the route was jumped by Howard who made a tremendous play on the ball and took it to the house.  The crowd was still filing in and Miami had the advantage,

Howard would later leave the game with an injury.

Alex Vozenilek put Virginia (2-9, 0-7) on the board with a 33-yard field goal with 6:05 in the first quarter to tighten the Miami lead to 7-3.  The Cavaliers set up shop at the UM 30 yard line following a 45 yard punt return by Tim Smith, the longest for the Cavaliers since 2004.  The drive stalled on the UM 15 yard as Miami applied pressure to the quarterback and forced the third down pass to fall short of the intended receiver.

Morris did not look sharp in the first quarter. His passes  consistently fell short and bounced into the arms of the receivers who have been getting open.  Morris, who usually has the hot hand to start the game, misfired on his first three passes.

Then it started.  Morris came to life, albeit briefly.

Morris first connected with Hurns on a 13 yard square in to give Miami its first first down of the game at the Virginia 38.  His next pass went over the middle to Stacey Coley who ran 62 yards with the football and gave Miami a 14-3 lead.  Coley outraced the entire secondary en route to his fifth receiving touchdown of the season.

The pass was Morris' ninth passing play over 50 yards for the season. He has a score in excess of 50 yards for three consecutive games.

"He made some big plays when he had to," Golden said. "He is a leader and he plays with tremendous confidence. I am glad that we are not talking about the ankle anymore."

The Cavaliers came right back and marched 75 yards in eight plays. Parks carried the ball around the left edge for a 24-yard score.  Miami's lead was now 14-10.

The touchdown came on third and six and the Cavaliers converted both of their third down opportunities on the drive.  Virginia was four for six on third down conversions in the first quarter. Getting off the field on third down has been a problem for Miami all season.

Virginia added a 24-yard field goal with 8:46 to play in the second quarter to trim the Hurricane lead to one with 7:21 to play.  The Cavaliers would get no closer.

Miami came back and scored a touchdown just before the half to take a 21-13 lead at the intermission.  Ladarius Gunter picked off a pass from Watford, the second team pick of the day, and returned it 81 yards to the three.  Dallas Crawford plunged in from the one-yard line to extend Miami's lead.

Goudis added a field goal to start the second half for Miami and gave Miami a 24-13 lead.

Morris threw his second score of the day, again to Hurns, in the third quarter. Morris found Hurns in the end zone with a 26 yard strike.  The Canes moved 59 yards in only four plays to take a commanding 31-13 lead toward the end of the third quarter.

Virginia got those seven points back on their next drive as Watford hit Taquan Mizzell on a10-yard  post pattern to narrow the score to 31-20 with 12:51 to play.  The six-play drive covered 75 yards.

On the ensuing drive, Crawford had a nice run and then turned the ball over to Virginia as he put the ball on the ground. The Cavs took over on the UM 40 with 12:31 to play.  Aided by a penalty, the Cavs went three and out and were forced to punt.

Crisis averted.

After a Kacy Rodgers interception, Watford's third of the day,the Canes set up shop at the Cavs 16.  Crawford then scored his second touchdown of the day on a five yard dive off left guard. That put the score at 38-20 with 7:21 to play in the game.  The drive lasted 40 seconds.  Virginia had started their drive deep in their own end after Pat O'Donnell buried a UM best 71 yard punt to pin the Cavs on their own three.

"If there is anyone better out there than Pat O'Donnell," Golden said.. "I'd love to meet him. I thought he played a tremendous game."

The fifth-year punter averaged 49.1 yards on seven punts and dropped five inside the 20.  He looked more like Reggie Roby or Brandon Fields kicking in Sun Life Stadium than a college kicker that was looking to hang on for one more season.O'Donnell comes equipped with an NFL type leg and can place his punts with precision.

Junior College transfer David Gilbert put the punctuation mark on the afternoon with a 72-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown with 5:10 to play in the game.  Tyriq McCord  sacked backup quarterback Greyson Lambert who coughed up the football after being clobbered and Gilbert picked it up and was off to the races.  It was Miami's second defensive score of the day and Miami's fourth caused turnover.

Golden said of both O'Donnell and Gilbert after the game, "I could not be more proud of them."

The Cavaliers scored late in the fourth quarter and had the point after blocked, It was the first missed point after touchdown for Virginia since the 2008 season. Olson PIerre blocked the point after attempt for Miami.

Gunter was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital after the game after he sustained an injury to either his head or his neck.  Golden said that he could move his arms and legs and was talking with the training staff during the whole process.

"We are just being cautious," Golden said. "We just want to be real careful with the young man."

Miami also suffered injuries to Corn Elder and Nate Dortch. Golden said that the injuries appeared to be serious and that he would update the media during his Sunday afternoon conference call with the media.

*******An update from the University of Miami on junior DB Ladarius Gunter:

"Ladarius Gunter has been released from the hospital this evening following an upper extremity injury he suffered Saturday afternoon against Virginia. He will be able to play football again this season once he is fully healed."