On November 18th, 2017, the Canes won their 10th straight game to start the season against the Virginia Cavaliers at Hard Rock Stadium. UVA was on their way to a 6-7 finish (3-5 in conference) including a loss to Navy to cap off the season in the Military Bowl. If you watched their matchup that day, you would have thought the two squads were headed towards opposite seasons until the fourth quarter. Virginia QB Kurt Benkert torched the Canes secondary for 384 yards on 28-37 passing with 4 TDs, as the Canes trailed 28-14 with 10 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Thankfully the Canes went on a 30-0 run to finish the game, including 2 TDs within 2 plays of each other to start the late onslaught. The trends revealed in this game would serve as foreshadowing for the final 3 games of the season, in which the Canes lose all 3 games and struggle with turnovers on offense, while the defense gave up tons of yards and touchdowns through the air.
Luckily for the Canes, the Cavaliers will be missing some major playmakers from last years tussle, as QB Kurt Benkert, WR Andre Levrone, LB Micah Kiser and S Quin Blanding. The defense was not much of an obstacle for the Canes offense last year, and there’s no reason to expect the UVA defense will close the gap this season against what should be an improved Canes offense. The impact players returning for the Cavaliers are WR Olamide Zacchaeus (895 rec yds and 5 TDs) RB Jordan Ellis (836 rush yds and 6 TDs), and DB Juan Thornhill.
The fact of the matter is, the Canes have no business losing this game. Yes, Miami will be playing on the road this time around, and Virginia has a very-capable coach in Bronco Mendenhall, but according to Sam Blum of the Daily Progress in Charlottesville, VA, Coach Mendenhall feels that only 27 players on the current roster are “ACC-Caliber.” As a team with Playoff aspirations, the Canes should hold themselves in a higher regard, and not play down to their competition as they often did last season (especially when only a third of the players on the opposing team are considered to be on-par with the conference). The defense should feast in this game as Virginia will go into the 2018-19 starting a quarterback with little if any collegiate experience. The offense should have a similar output to 2017’s matchup as well, hopefully with less turnovers, as Miami returns elite talent at most skill positions. Anything otherwise should be seen as an issue, just like last year, in which the Canes subpar overall performance led to a 3 game skid when it mattered most.
Do you foresee UVA becoming a tough matchup for the Canes this season? Let us know in the comments.