All-time series Record: Miami leads 9-7
For much of Miami’s time in the ACC, the Virginia Cavaliers have not been viewed as a threat to the Canes conference title aspirations. 2018 should not have been an exception, as the Canes were coming off of their first Coastal division title and a 10-win season, and UVA was following up a 6-7 season with a brand new QB and a less-than-ideal recruiting class. Heading into 2018, coach Bronco Mendenhall stated that he believed only a third of his roster were “ACC-caliber”, which is not a ringing endorsement coming from a team’s own coach. Once the football started, however, both the Canes and Coach Mendenhall realized they needed to take the Cavaliers more seriously. UVA outperformed Miami, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Duke, finishing 8-5 while capping off their season with a 28-0 drubbing of South Carolina in the Belk Bowl.
Much of the Cavaliers success in 2018 could be attributed to the rise of junior quarterback Bryce Perkins. The Queen Creek, AZ native was UVA’s ultimate weapon, completing 64.5% of his passes for 2680 yards, 25 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions, while also adding 923 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground. Perkins single-handedly led the Cavaliers to victory over the Canes, converting numerous 3rd downs to keep the Canes offense off of the field, resulting in a low-scoring 16-13 affair.
In 2019, the Cavaliers will have to try to build on their success without the element of surprise. There is now a year of tape on Bryce Perkins, and the dual-threat QB will have to work his magic without his top two weapons from 2018, as both Olamide Zacchaeus (1058 rec yards and 9 TDs) and Jordan Ellis (1026 rush yards, 10 TDs) have graduated. Instead, he will have to rely on senior wideouts Hasise Dubois (578 rec yards, 5 TDs) and Joe Reed (465 rec yds, 7 TDs).
On the defensive side of the ball, the 2018 Cavaliers played inspired football, allowing just over 20 points per game, but where they really frustrated opposing attacks was in the air. The UVA secondary held quarterbacks to 183 yards per game, and a 12-17 TD:Int ratio. The group was led by 2nd round draft pick safety Juan Thornhill, who led the team with 98 tackles and 6 interceptions, including 2 against the Canes. Whoever is behind center for the Canes will be relieved to not have to account for Thornhill this time around, but they will still have to navigate past solid DBs Joey Blount (65 tackles, 2 INTs) and Bryce Hall (62 tackles, 2 INTs, 22 pass break-ups). The Cavaliers will also need to replace their leading sack-artist from 2018, as DE Chris Peace (65 tackles, 7.5 sacks) won’t be in the lineup, and no other member of the defense surpassed 2.5 sacks.
On paper, a matchup with UVA should always result in a win for the Canes. Obviously, that has not been an accurate predictor for what has actually transpired on the field. While the loss of important players and an inferior recruiting class should spell success for Miami, the Cavaliers have shown that they can hang with nearly anyone on their schedule due to solid coaching, a steady playmaker on offense and relentless effort on defense.