2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 9 - Virginia at Miami
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Oct. 27 Virginia 28 … at Miami 21
CFN Analysis: Virginia opened up the playbook, came up with a bunch of quirky lays, and it got a great game out of Michael Rocco to get back in the hunt for a bowl game after losing to NC State. With winnable games against Maryland and Duke up next before Florida State and Virginia Tech, this game showed that things really are on the right track under Mike London thanks to a defense that’s doing enough to get by and an offense that was almost perfectly balanced. Rocco kept the offense moving, while Perry Jones was brilliant, running for 67 yards, throwing a 37-yard scoring pass, and putting the game away with a 78-yard touchdown. Even with all the tricks, this wasn’t a fluke; Virginia showed it could play with an athletic team that played well.
It was a strange game for the Canes. Jacory Harris didn’t screw anything up, throwing for 311 yards and three scores without throwing a pick, but Lamar Miller and the running game didn’t go anywhere. The Canes were outcoached and outplayed on their own field, and even though they had a shot to get back in the game late, the drives fizzled. At some point, Miami has to get out to a hot start and put the game away early on. Time and again, the team has to play with a sense of urgency. After winning three of four games and looking good enough to get back into the ACC title chase, now that’s over. With road games against Florida State and South Florida up soon, not blowing the layup against Duke is a must. Again, though, the team has to come out roaring and the running game has to be far more effective.
(AP) MIAMI -- A fake field goal. A halfback option for a touchdown. A 53-yard catch-and-run on a screen for a score, and 78-yard reception by a running back who slipped out wide for another.
Virginia got big plays in bunches Thursday night -- and needed every one of them to beat Miami.
Michael Rocco passed for 226 yards and two scores, running back Perry Jones threw one touchdown pass and caught another, and the Cavaliers held off Miami 28-21 to snap a seven-game Atlantic Coast Conference road losing streak.
"All that matters is the people who believed in this team," Virginia coach Mike London said.
On a night where the explosive play carried the Cavaliers, simple, gritty football saved the day. LaRoy Reynolds stopped Miami's Mike James in the backfield on fourth-and-2 at the Virginia 15 with 2:10 remaining, and the Cavaliers (5-3, 2-2) held on from there.
Jacory Harris completed 21 of 30 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns for Miami (4-4, 2-3), which saw its two-game winning streak snapped and saw its chances in the Coastal Division take a huge hit. Tommy Streeter caught seven of Harris' passes for a career-best 176 yards and two touchdowns for the Hurricanes.
"I'm tired of doing this," Harris said. "Tired of always having to do a comeback victory. We're always putting ourselves in bad situations. We've got to come out and do better."
Kevin Parks ran for a game-high 85 yards for Virginia, which hadn't won on the road in ACC play since beating Maryland on Oct. 17, 2009. Rocco went the whole way at quarterback, the first time this season Virginia scrapped the two-player system under center.
"It's my job to get (receivers) the ball and kind of control the game," Rocco said. "And I feel like we did a great job of that tonight."
Miami took over with 7:12 left, needing a touchdown to tie, and went 37 yards in nine plays. Reynolds got past the Miami line and wrapped up James on the game's biggest play, and the Hurricanes didn't get the ball back until 25 seconds remained after a Virginia punt.
And for Miami, it was a little bit of deja vu. In all four losses this season, the Hurricanes had chances in the fourth quarter -- all those defeats coming in one-possession games, where one failed play made the difference.
"We can't have the penalties and the mental breakdowns that we did," Miami coach Al Golden said. "We weren't sharp and we didn't execute as well as we needed to and that starts with me, period."
Still, the Hurricanes nearly tied it with 9 seconds left, Harris looking for Streeter in the end zone, a 45-yard pass that was barely tipped away -- and had Harris going to the sideline in pain after the play. Stephen Morris came into the game and got Miami to the 32 with 4 seconds left, then scrambled and found Eduardo Clements inside the Virginia 10 as time expired.
"Faith, family and football," London said. "Those are the things. ... It's a great win. Road victory against a really good team."
Harris said he was fine after the game, declining to say much in the way of specifics about what ailed him in the final moments. Golden said his quarterback has been aching for the past couple weeks.
Virginia's first score came on a play that seemed harmless at first -- a quick throw from Rocco to Darius Jennings, who caught the ball in the flat about four yards behind the line of scrimmage.
He made the rest look easy.
With plenty of downfield blockers, Jennings took off on what became a 53-yard touchdown play, the first in the big-play barrage by the Cavaliers, who went deep into their bag of tricks while running out to a 17-0 lead in the second quarter.
A fake field goal -- holder Jacob Hodges fielded the snap, then got up and ran 20 yards -- set up a 22-yard kick by Robert Randolph later in the drive that put the Cavaliers up 10-0.
"It set the stage from a momentum standpoint," London said.
And with 4:15 left until halftime, Jones' first career throw became one he'll likely never forget.
Miami handled Georgia Tech's countless tries at misdirection almost perfectly last weekend. When Rocco tried it, the Hurricanes made a costly mistake. Rocco faked a handoff before pitching to Jones, who rolled to his right and passed to Tim Smith for a 37-yard score and a 17-point lead for the Cavaliers.
Virginia's second touchdown drive was set up by a bit of Miami misfortune. Harris had the ball slip out of his hand at the Virginia 15, the fumble being recovered by the Cavaliers' Jake Snyder.
Harris atoned on the next Miami possession.
A 20-yard pass to Streeter on third-and-11, followed quickly by a 39-yard throw to Travis Benjamin got Miami down to the Virginia 3. He and Streeter -- old high school teammates from Miami Northwestern -- did the rest, Streeter stretching high to haul in a fade for a touchdown that got the Hurricanes on the scoreboard with 35 seconds left until halftime.
"Just relax," Golden said at halftime. "It's a long game."
Down 20-7 with less than a minute left in the third quarter, it looked like long odds for Miami as well. That's when Streeter went over two Virginia defenders for a 51-yard touchdown catch, getting the Hurricanes within 20-14.
Right on cue, Virginia came back with yet another big play -- Jones slipping out wide, then darting back into the middle and catching a short pass that turned into a 78-yard touchdown from Rocco that put the Cavaliers up by 14 with 14:08 left.
"It's a great feeling," Jones said. "We did what we came here to do. ... It's a big win, especially against these guys."
Virginia (4-3) at Miami (4-3) Oct. 27, 8:00, ESPN
Here’s The Deal … Don’t count Miami out of the Coastal Division race just yet. The Hurricanes may have exhausted their margin for error in the hunt, but they haven’t been playing like also-rans the past couple of weeks. With impressive back-to-back wins over North Carolina and Georgia Tech, the ‘Canes appear as if they’re starting to take on the gritty personality of first-year head coach Al Golden. They’ll put that new look on display for a captive national audience for the first time since the Labor Day night loss to Maryland. Good luck reading the tea leaves on Virginia, one of the ACC’s least consistent teams of 2011.
College football’s version of a yo-yo has lost to Southern Miss, barely escaped Idaho, handed No. 12 Georgia Tech its first loss and flopped to NC State over the last four games. That most recent game with the Pack on Saturday was a crushing development for a bowl-thirsty young program that thought it had started to turn the corner with the upset of the Yellow Jackets.
Why Virginia Might Win: The Cavaliers will enter Sun Life Stadium with a two-pronged approach—run the ball on offense, and mess with Miami QB Jacory Harris. Virginia is third in the ACC in rushing, averaging 183 yards a game, fueled by the rotation of Perry Jones and Kevin Parks. It was the aforementioned pair that sparked the win over Georgia Tech on Oct. 15, and will be going up against a ‘Canes defense that ranks 11th in the league against the run. The always-erratic Harris will need to be extra careful this week when attempting to throw on CB Chase Minnifield and a Virginia secondary that’s No. 12 nationally against the pass.
Why Miami Might Win: Virginia’s inability to score consistently, especially in the red zone, is directly attributable to the poor play of the quarterbacks, starter Michael Rocco and David Watford, who’ve combined for five more picks than touchdowns. The Hurricanes will feel comfortable stacking the box with linebackers Sean Spence, James Gaines and Denzel Perryman, daring the Cavs to beat them over the top. Miami doesn’t need a two-headed monster on the ground. It’ll get all it needs from RB Lamar Miller, who averages 114 yards a game on the ground. Harris will have one less worry when he drops back to pass since UVa last sacked a quarterback on Oct. 1.
What To Watch Out For: Golden has not been bashful about inserting young players, like RT Jon Feliciano and DE Anthony Chickillo, into his two-deep this fall. Now, Feliciano might be held out on Thursday because of an injury, but Chickillo will continue his push toward the Freshman All-American squad against an underrated, Morgan Moses-led Virginia O-line. The third-generation ‘Cane moved into the lineup earlier in the year, and has already produced 27 tackles, five stops for loss and 3.5 sacks.
What Will Happen: This is a key game for both programs, neither of which wants to be sitting at .500 with four games remaining. Miami has a little wind in its sails. Virginia? Who knows which Cavaliers team shows up on Thursday night? As long as Harris can manage the game and play within himself, the Hurricanes will be primed to run their winning streak to three games. The defense is fired up after completely dominating Georgia Tech for four quarters; Miller will take care of the rest on offense, rushing for more than 100 yards and scoring a pair of touchdowns.
CFN Prediction: Miami 28 … Virginia 17
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