Facing a team that had beaten them 4 out of the last 5 times, the Miami Hurricanes had to focus, fight hard, and play until the final whistle to get a much-needed and hard fought victory over the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday night. The final score was indicative of the game, with the Canes winning 27-21.
Early on, the question of the day was who would play QB for the Canes? Shortly before warmups, it was announced that starting QB Brad Kaaya had been cleared by the medical staff after passing all his tests in the concussion protocol. Interim Coach Larry Scott said that he found out Kaaya was cleared to play on Friday night.
Scott "he (Kaaya) is their leader. He's the guy". Says having BK back relaxed everybody, helped them with better— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) November 7, 2015
Once on the field, Kaaya looked a bit uneasy to start the game, but quickly found his rhythm. Kaaya completed passes to 7 receivers on the night, ending with a stat line of 20-26 for 286 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT. And, while that was good enough for the win, it wasn't good enough for Kaaya.
"I played alright" the sophomore QB said after the game. "I definitely wasn't amazing. The defense bailed us out". Tough criticism and self-critique, but it makes sense for a guy who has thrown for more than 400 yards on multiple occasions.
Benefittng from Kaaya's passes were a plethora of Canes receivers. Primary among them was junior Stacy Coley, who ended up with 7 catches for 132 yards and a TD. Asked post-game about his performance, Coley said "I feel great. I feel great. I feel like I still have to work on my craft". After torching a Virginia DB so badly and repeatedly that the player was benched from the game, particularly after Coley beat him for a 67 yard TD, that's saying a lot.
Another player who had a sparking game catching the ball was Redshirt Freshman TE/WR/Offensive Weapon David Njoku. The 6'4" 240lb Njoku had 2 catches for 63 yards and his first collegiate touchdown. And, his ability has caught the attention of many in the Canes' locker room.
"Each week, he gets better" Interim Head Coach and TE coach Larry Scott said about Njoku. "He took everything he worked on all week, and he applied it, and it paid off for him."
Brad Kaaya called Njoku "a physical freak. An absolute freak. A crazy athlete". And, I swear, those are all compliments. Kaaya also said "the sky is the limit for Njoku". Which, if you've been watching, seems to be the truth.
Apart from the offense, the defense had a good game overall. Trent Harris, Rayshawn Jenkins and Jermaine Grace all had 8 tackles for the Canes defense, which held Virginia to 4 for 13 on 3rd down, and just 21 points.
Early in the 2nd quarter, after having hit Njoku with his first collegiate TD, Brad Kaaya was called for intentional grounding in the endzone, resulting in a safety. This was the 2nd week in a row a Miami QB had been called for such a penalty.
After that, Miami held Virginia to a field goal, giving the game a very baseball-like 7-5 score.
On the next drive, Kaaya hit Coley, who broke free from his defender and raced 67 yards for a score, pushing the lead to 14-5. Virginia added a field goal just before the half to make the score 14-8.
In the 2nd half, the teams continued to trade scores. Miami missed a field goal, which was followed by a UVa touchdown (80 yards in just 5 plays) to make it 15-14 Hoos/Cavs/UVa. Miami responded with a Michael Badgley field goal then a Mark Walton touchdown to make it 24-15.
Virginia, to their credit, refused to quit. They added a field goal, then held Miami to a field goal, to make the score 27-18. With the ball back and down 2 scores, Virginia drove the field, but stalled and settled for a long field goal to cut the margin to 27-21.
With mere seconds left on the clock, Virginia went to their last ditch resort: the onside kick. That kick was muffed by Miami, but finally recovered by the Canes, who then came out in the victory formation and knelt the ball to run out the clock.
"The month of November is Championship Ball", Interim Head Coach Larry Scott said in his post-game press conference. "We can take lessons from this and get better. And we will."
"It's about the kids" Scott said. "It's about giving them the opportunity to have success. They work hard, and they've been through a lot. It's all about everything we can do in our power to make sure they have the feeling they have right now, each and every week. We're going to do all that we can to make sure it stays about them and that they continue to have that feeling."
Heading into a key ACC Coastal game at North Carolina next week, a team that is undefeated in the conference, that will be necessary.
- CB Artie Burns elected not to play in today's game. Burns, whose mother died from a heart attack last week, had the funeral for his mother on Thursday, and spent time with his family. He attended the game with the team.
- WR Lawrence Cager was another late scratch. He was seen with a walking boot on the field before the game.
- Along with David Njoku's first career touchdown, Freshman S Jaquan Johnson had his first career interception in the 3rd quarter.
- Njoku's 58 yard catch was a career-long.
- With the win, Miami is now bowl eligible for the 8th consecutive season
- Miami's 16 play, 95 yard drive in the 2nd quarter was the longest since 2010.
- WR Rashawn Scott left the game with an unspecified injury. There was no update available post-game.