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RECAP: Hurricanes take down upset-minded Cavaliers, 44-28

Miami overcame a slow start on Senior Day to score 30 unanswered points in the second half, ending any Virginia upset hopes.

Virginia v Miami Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Deep down, I think we all knew this was coming.

The Miami Hurricanes came out flat on Senior Day in Hard Rock Stadium, but were able to rally in the second half to put away the Virginia Cavaliers, 44-28.

Virginia QB Kurt Benkert threw for a UVA school-record 384 yards and four touchdowns, all coming on rollouts. However, Miami punched backed in the second half and rolled up 30 unanswered points on the Wahoos, led by four total TD’s from Malik Rosier. Rosier added 210 yards passing, 38 yards rushing, and 2 interceptions to complete his day.

Coming off back-to-back emotional wins, Miami seemed to be looking for a little extra juice in the first half against UVA. They got down early on what should have been a short gain, but turned into a long touchdown catch by Olamide Zaccheaus on a missed tackle by Zach McCloud.

Miami turned around and gave the ball right back after a Malik Rosier pass was tipped in the air and landed right in the lap of a diving Quin Blanding. Soon after, it was UVA receiver Joe Reed getting behind Sheldrick Redwine, and he was off to the races for a 75 yard TD. Just like that it was 14-0 UVA, stunning the UM faithful at Hard Rock Stadium.

The Canes responded with two touchdown passes by Rosier, one to Ahmmon Richards and one to Dayall Harris, to even the score. Richards was limited on the day but had 4 catches for 51 yards and the one score.

Just before halftime, Virginia would take the lead again. Benkert rolled left and sailed a perfect ball into tight coverage to Andre Levrone. Levrone made the catch in the endzone, but dropped the ball going to the ground. On replay review, the call was reversed as Levrone had three steps before losing control of the ball. Incomplete in the NFL, but a TD in college. It was 21-14 UVA going into halftime.

Coming out of halftime, Benkert’s 4th touchdown pass of the day went over the head of Dee Delaney to Daniel Hamm and you could feel the uneasiness setting in on the Miami sidelines.

Too bad for Virginia, the Miami offense is most comfortable playing from behind; Miami struck for their 30 straight unanswered points, starting with a jump ball to Lawrence Cager in the endzone. 7 seconds later, Jaquan Johnson read a quick pass to the outside perfectly, jumped the route, and didn’t stop until he hit paydirt. Just like that, the game was knotted at 28.

Miami’s defense, especially RJ McIntosh and Trent Harris, took over from there. McIntosh flew through gaps in the line and UVA could barely get a hand on him all day; he finished with 3 TFL and a half sack, while Harris had 2 sacks in his final game at Hard Rock Stadium.

Deep in the fourth quarter, on third and goal from the 8, it was Rosier finding the endzone on the ground for the third straight game, pushing the score to 37-28 and pretty much ending any UVA upset hopes. Travis Homer, he of the fumble recovery on special teams earlier in the game, popped off for a 19 yard TD to add some style points to the victory.

No, it wasn’t pretty at times, but Miami was able to send their seniors out on a high note in their final home game. On a day where Miami was outgained in total yardage by UVA 439 to 358, a win is a win is a win.

Play-by-play wrap-up

Virginia received the ball to start and wasted no time marching down the field. UVA picked up two quick first downs on Kurt Benkert completions then, on first down near midfield, Trent Harris beat a cut block and sacked Benkert for a 3 yard loss. A 5 yard curl became a 15 yard gain as TE Evan Butts broke out of a Zach McCloud tackle attempt and turned upfield for a first down. Two plays later, Benkert rolled out right and hit Olamide Zaccheaus in the flats for what looked to be a short gain. However, McCloud took a terrible angle and lost contain, and Zaccheaus out-ran the rest of the defense 33 yards to the house. 7-0 UVA.

Miami took over at their own 25 for their first possession. Travis Homer had no running room on his carries, but on 3rd and 9, Malik Rosier hooked up with Ahmmon Richards for 16. The Canes quickly found themselves in another 3rd and long, but this time Rosier’s downfield throw was deflected into the air, landing in the arms of a diving Quin Blanding. First down UVA.

Well, that didn’t last long. Virginia gave the ball right back to UM three plays later when Zaccheaus appeared to get a first down, but was hit from the side by McCloud, who popped the ball loose. Michael Jackson immediately pounced on the pigskin and the Turnover Chain made its first appearance.

Starting on their own 45, Rosier went right back to Richards, who had a step on his man, down the right sidelines for a gain of 25. Homer would set the offense way back on the next play with an illegal chop block, putting UM in first and 25. On third and 20, Rosier was way off on a throw to a wide-open Braxton Berrios running free down the middle of the field. UM had to punt.

Even though UVA was backed up on their own 8, it didn’t take long for them to get into the endzone. Benkert converted a short third down on a pass to Lamont Atkins out of the backfield. On the very next play, Benkert rolled the pocket right again. On a great play design, safety Sheldrick Redwine bit on the underneath route leaving Joe Reed completely free on an out-and-up route. Reed made the catch and raced down the sidelines, and finished off the 75 yard touchdown by cutting inside to avoid a fast-closing pursuit by Michael Jackson on the backside. 14-0 Virginia.

Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall smelled blood in the water and tried to play it aggressive, attempting to catch the Hurricanes kickoff team napping with a quick onside kick. And it almost worked, as the ball appeared to be in the hands of a Cavaliers gunner, but Malik Mayweather pryed it away in the scrum.

Rosier was sacked on first down on a corner blitz by an unblocked Bryce Hall. Then, Rosier threw up a 50-50 ball on the right sideline to Jeff Thomas, who stopped his route and came back it to make the 33 yard grab. Inside the UVA 15, Homer was stuffed for 2, and a pass intended for Berrios was broken up on the left side of the endzone. On third down, Rosier floated a fade pattern up to Richards on the right side of the endzone, and Richards went up and over the DB to snag the ball for a 10 yard touchdown. 14-7 UVA.

On the ensuing kickoff, Michael Badgley’s kick sailed out of bounds, giving UVA great field position. Virginia pushed the ball past the UM 50, but, aided by a Chad Thomas/Michael Pinckney TFL, Virginia had to punt it away.

The UM offense continued to have trouble getting their ground game untracked, as Homer was stopped for no gain on first down. On second, Rosier rolled left, slipped a tackle, and found Mike Harley on the left sideline. Harley lept, secured the ball, and got table-topped in the air, but was able to come down with the ball and a first down. The drive would stall soon after, when UVA sniffed out a bubble screen to Richards for no gain on third down.

Little did the Cavaliers know, it was time for their second special teams miscue of the day. On Zach Feagles’ punt, returner Daniel Hamm, in trying to locate the ball, ran into his own blocker, and the ball hit him and tumbled forward. And who was it on the recovery? None other than Homer from his gunner position, becoming the first primarily offensive player to don the Turnover Chain. And the very next play, Miami was in the endzone. Dayall Harris got behind the defense from the slot to haul in a 36 yard pass from Rosier. Touchdown Canes. 14 all.

The two teams traded punts, but in between, DeeJay Dallas had his first two runs of the day, looking nice picking up 15. With UVA on their own 19, Reed took a reverse and sprinted past the backside end Trent Harris for a gain of 16. Zaccheaus looked to have a huge hole on a counter, but Jaquan Johnson came up to make a great point-blank tackle to limit Zaccheaus to 9. A 21 yard slant to Doni Dowling picked up a UVA first down, then, just before halftime, Benkert rolled left and sailed a perfect ball into tight coverage to Andre Levrone. Levrone made the catch in the endzone, but dropped the ball going to the ground. On replay review, the call was reversed as Levrone had three steps before losing control of the ball. Incomplete in the NFL, but a TD in college. 21-14 Virginia.

With 30 seconds left, Rosier took a knee to take the game into halftime. UVA is moving the ball at will right now and Benkert is having his way with the Miami secondary; he’s 17-18 for 262 yards and 3 TD’s. Not a good start to Senior Day. Total yards: UM 175 UVA 310.

The Canes came out of halftime and immediately shot themselves in the foot on back-to-back plays; first a Rosier sack, then a false start by Navaughn Donaldson. On third and 22, Rosier had nothing downfield and kept for a gain of 3. With Feagles on to punt, Chris Herndon completely missed his block, lackadaisically only getting a hand on Charles Snowden, who blocked the kick.

UVA had great field position on the Miami 21 and would cash in. After a tackle for loss of 5 by Kendrick Norton/Dee Delaney, Mr. Rollout (Benkert) found Hamm slipping past Delaney, dropping in a great ball just past Delaney’s outstretched fingertips. 28-14 UVA.

Miami loves playing from behind, though and got some offense going on their next drive. On third and 5 from his own 37, Rosier scrambled up the middle and broke free for 24. UM converted another 3rd down, this time to a diving Berrios for 24. On the very next play, in what looked like a mirror-image of the Richards TD, Rosier went up to Lawrence Cager on the right side of the endzone, and the 6’5” receiver came down with the 9 yard TD. 28-21 UVA.

It was two plays, two touchdowns for UM. On the first play of UVA’s next possession, Benkert stared down his receiver all the way, and Jaquan Johnson jumped the route and didn’t stop until he hit paydirt. Touchdown Miami! All knotted up at 28.

Back-to-back runs by Zaccheaus and Benkert picked up a UVA first down. Benkert hit Jordan Ellis out of the backfield; he broke a tackle down and ran down to the UM 38. The Canes defense stiffened up from there, bringing up 4th and 6. Mendenhall eschewed a long field goal to go for the first, but a deep ball to Zaccheaus was well covered by Trajan Bandy and fell to the turf.

Miami took over at their own 34 and pushed the ball to midfield on a throw to Herndon for 14. Michael Irvin II made an appearance, taking a bubble screen for another first down to the UVA 35. But, a Rosier 50-50 jumpball finally went the other way, as Juan Thornhill skied over Thomas for the interception.

Joe Jackson and RJ McIntosh both blew past the UVA offensive line, bringing down Benkert for sack on first down. It was McIntosh and Pinckney setting up camp in the backfield on the next play as well, taking down Ellis for a loss of one. On third and 18 inside their own 5 yard line, UVA played it safe for a 2 yard RB draw to Ellis. But Cavaliers punter Lester Coleman shanked the punt off his foot to the right, and Miami was set up on the UVA 35.

Miami couldn’t do much with the great field position though, settling for a 44 yard Badgley field goal and he knocked it thru. Miami had their first lead of the day, 31-28.

The Canes forced a three and out, but on Coleman’s punt, McCloud ran into his leg and gave UVA a free first down. An illegal hands to the face on UVA killed their drive, though, and had them punting back to UM.

Miami had a Homer run stuffed and a quick hitch to Richards picked up 9. On 3rd and inches, UM lined up in the I-Formation with Rosier under center for one of the first times all season. We see why they don’t do that more often, because the run to Homer had no chance and was blown up. Feagles on to punt.

A quick pass to Zaccheaus in the flats gave UVA a first down. On the very next play, Manny Diaz sent Jaquan Johnson on a safety blitz and he got home to sack Benkert. A slant to Dowling for 13 and a Benkert incompletion brought up 4th and 3 on the UM 40. Virginia went for it; Joe Jackson pushed back his man, and Benkert scrambled... right into the arms of Trent Harris. First down Miami in UVA territory.

Two plays later it was Homer breaking two tackles and sprinting for the endzone, just stepping out at the 3 before diving for the pylon; Homer picked up 36 on the play. Dallas ran backwards for a 7 yard loss and a bubble to Darrell Langham went for 2. On third and goal from the 8, it was Rosier finding the endzone on the ground for the third straight game. Badgley would miss the extra point, but the score put the Canes up 37-28.

Starting on the UVA 25, Chad Thomas and Joe Jackson had a Benkert sandwich, dropping him for a sack on first down. After an incompletion and a 9 yard Dowling catch, it was fourth down; the Benkert pass went off the chest of Levrone and bounced to the turf for a turnover on downs. UM stayed with the ground game and Homer, and he broke a tackle for a 19 yard TD to salt the game away. 30 unanswered by UM. Final: UM 44 UVA 28.


Get your shopping in early. Miami heads on the road to take on the Pitt Panthers at noon on Black Friday.

Did you really expect it to be easy, Canes fans? Of course Miami would have a hangover in the first half, didn’t need a crystal ball to see that coming. But hey, JUST WIN BABY. Miami is 10-0 going into their final regular season game. 10 straight victories this season, 15 straight overall. It’s great to be a Miami Hurricane.