The Hurricanes Had A Scare Early Vs. The Cavaliers, But Scored 30 unanswered Points In the Second Half: The Takeaway
Miami Gardens, FL — The No. 3 Miami Hurricanes (10-0, 7-0 ACC) skated by the Virginia Cavaliers (6-5, 3-4 ACC) Saturday afternoon. Miami has played to their competition all season long, one of the reasons some need to see more out of the Canes to officially deem them “back.” However, with Saturday’s win, the Hurricanes secured a 10-win season for the first time since 2003 and extended its winning streak to 15 games, longest in the nation (FBS).
This was the ultimate trap game after two huge wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. Miami came out with no energy after the last two weeks at full throttle. The offense had very little run game early, Canes quarterback Malik Rosier was inconsistent, and Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkurt gashed the Canes for 384 yards and four touchdowns. The Hurricanes even went down by 14 points twice.
Despite the effort from Benkurt, the Hurricanes defense played well with three more appearances from the Turnover Chain, five sacks, and keeping the Cavs scoreless in the second half. 30 unanswered points later, the Canes pulled out the win 44-28.
Everything Is Still On The Table
Miami, one of four undefeated teams left in the FBS, is still on schedule for a College Football Playoff spot.
The Canes have one more contest left, when they travel to Pittsburgh the day after Thanksgiving. Another potential trap game.
After the Hurricanes navigate the Panthers, they have a date with Clemson at Bank of America Stadium in the ACC Championship Game, December 2nd.
If Miami wins out, seeding by the CFP Committee will be important, as they determine which bowl the Canes play in, the Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl.
The Offense Is Reliable
A sluggish first half for Miami caused a 14 point deficit going into halftime down 28-14. The two touchdowns the Hurricanes did score in the first half came on short fields due to turnovers.
However, the Hurricane defense completely shut down the Virginia offense in the second half, allowing Miami to acquire rhythm. And boy did they ever, scoring 23 points in the second half on the offensive side of the ball and safety Jaquan Johnson chipped in with a 30-yard pick six.
Rosier was inconsistent for most the game going 15-28 passing, as the redshirt junior has a knack for hitting big-time throws while missing easy ones. He finished with three passing touchdowns and for the third straight game, a rushing touchdown.
Sophomore receiver Ahmmon Richards looks healthy, as Rosier targeted him early, and hit Richards for a 10-yard score in the first quarter. Richards has been battling injuries all season.
Virgina did an excellent job stuffing the run game for three quarters. Through the course of the game, Miami’s offensive line wore down the Cavs, and running back Travis Homer was able to spring free in the fourth quarter.
They have a stiff test next week at Pittsburgh in the regular season finale.
The strength of Miami is in their defense. Especially relevant, their ability to create turnovers as they’ve generated 19 takeaways over the past five games.
Johnson, a Walter Camp Award Semi-finalist, had his fourth interception of the season that changed the dynamic of the game.
The Turnover Chain that’s taken a life of its own, really gets the crowd going especially at The Rock, where the crowd cheers louder for turnovers than they do touchdowns.
Miami Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz made significant adjustments at halftime, after being torched in the first half by Benkurt for four touchdown passes. Coming out of halftime the defense really put the clamps down, shutting the Cavs out in the second half.
After Miami got up and Virginia had to throw the ball, the Canes got after Benkurt with their pass rush. Miami is at it’s best when teams absolutely have to throw against them.
Defense wins championships, and this Hurricanes’ defense is definitely good enough to win it all.
Up Next: Miami travels to Heinz Field to face the Pittsburgh Panthers.
*VIDEO COURTESY OF MIAMI HURRICANES ALL-ACCESS