The Virginia Cavaliers (3-2, 1-2) got back in the win column Thursday night in a thrilling 30-28 win at the Miami Hurricanes (2-3, 0-1). This was Virginia’s second win over Miami since 2014 and the first win at Hard Rock Stadium since 2011. Overall, this was a huge confidence boost for the Cavaliers, as they picked up their first ACC win after coming off of back-to-back losses to ACC foes, Wake Forest and North Carolina.
After giving up 473 and 699 total yards in their last two games the Hoos got off to a much better start defensively in the first half. In the first quarter, they did not give up any first downs, as UVA was able to make backup QB Tyler Van Dyke uncomfortable in just his second career start in relief of starting QB D’Eriq King. The Hoos were able to get off to a hot start offensively, with junior QB Brennan Armstrong leading the Hoos to a touchdown on their second possession of the game on a 10-play 74-yard drive. The drive was capped off with a 1-yard rushing touchdown for junior running back Wayne Taulapapa. This was the first game back for Taulapapa since September 18 against UNC, as he was in concussion protocol. Taulapapa finished the game as the leading rusher for the Hoos with 61 yards on 11 carries with a score.
Late in the first quarter, UVA’s defense came up big with a safety, as senior defensive end Manny Alonso split the gap and tackled Miami RB Cam’Ron Harris in the end zone, extending the UVA lead to 9-0. In the second quarter, UVA was able to continue to have success defensively, especially against the pass as a result of the pressure from UVA’s defensive line on Van Dyke. After a Miami touchdown made the game 9-7, the Hoos marched down the field and answered with a touchdown of their own with sophomore RB Mike Hollins rushing for a 25-yard touchdown to make the game 16-7 at the half.
The second half started similarly to the first half for the Hoos, as UVA extended their lead with a 43-yard field goal from sophomore backup kicker Brendan Farrell in their opening drive of the second half. After Miami later scored a touchdown of their own, UVA responded with a 36-yard acrobatic, circus touchdown from sophomore wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks from Armstrong. Wicks caught the pass while lying down on his back after the ball was almost intercepted. After the touchdown by Wicks, the momentum began to shift in the game. UVA’s defense was doing an excellent job slowing Miami’s offense until late in the third quarter when Miami all of a sudden embarked on a quick 90-yard touchdown drive to make the game 27-21 on a drive in which UVA’s defense struggled to stop explosive plays. Fortunately, UVA was able to move the ball effectively on their following drive and was able to make a 30-yard field goal from Farrell to go into the fourth quarter with a 30-21 lead.
In the fourth quarter, UVA’s defense continued to tire out, and Miami began to have a lot of success in both the passing and rushing game. After really struggling to convert on third down throughout the game, Miami was suddenly able to convert some big third downs in a huge touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 30-28. After a punt from UVA, Miami marched down the field, using some explosive plays to put themselves in field goal range with an opportunity to win the football game. However, as time expired, Miami kicker Andres Borregales missed a dramatic 33-yard field goal off the left upright to give the Hoos a wild win.
Overall, UVA’s defense was able to somewhat get back on track and show an improved performance, sacking Van Dyke a total of 4 times and holding Miami to 5.5 yards per play. Even though Miami still ran the ball for 169 yards for an average of 4.3 yards per carry, UVA’s defense still looked better from its previous two games, forcing a total of 8 punts from the Hurricanes. UVA was also able to have much better success with their passing defense, holding Van Dyke to just 15/29 passing. Despite allowing some explosive plays in the passing game (203 yards), UVA’s defensive backs were able to largely stay in front of Miami’s wide receivers for the majority of the game. Having Wayne Taulapapa back certainly helped the Cavalier rushing attack, as they were able to amass 181 total yards on the ground and a total of 5.2 yards per carry. In the passing game, Armstrong finished with his lowest passing yard total of the season but still finished 25/44 for 268 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His favorite target in the game was senior WR Billy Kemp IV, who caught 9 of 11 targets for 81 yards in the game. One of the leading receivers in the country, Dontayvion Wicks, caught the incredible touchdown and finished with 2 catches for 75 yards and a score. Finally, UVA was able to be much more disciplined this week, finishing with just 6 penalties for 55 yards after having 11 penalties for 82 yards against Wake Forest.
UVA will hope to take the positive momentum gained this week on to Saturday, October 9, when the Hoos travel to play Louisville (3-1, 1-0). The Hoos will look to win their second consecutive game in conference play against the Cardinals at Cardinal Stadium.