Well, we got the monkey off our back last week. Now their is a small glimmer of hope back in all the Hoos in Hooville, although it is going to take a massive effort over the next 3 weeks to have a shot at a bowl game. What we saw was everything we had hoped for all season: pressure on the quarterback from the defensive line to open up the secondary to take allow the secondary to make plays, a running game outside the tackles to make plays that let the offense run the play action for big plays, and special teams that don’t shoot themselves in the foot all the time. Now we have to do it 3 more times, starting with Miami.
History with Miami
It is not not as storied as our previous opponents, but the abbreviated history with the Hurricanes have made for some great memories. The Hoos are 4-5 versus the Canes and it all started in 1996 when we faced Miami in the Carquest Bowl, which Virginia lost 31-21. It took a few years but the Cavs broke through with their first win in 2006 when Virginia won 17-7 behind 2 Jameel Sewell rushing touchdowns. The next year, Virginia closed down the Orange Bowl in front of ‘The U’ with a 48-0 drubbing of Miami. Mike London took over in 2010 and is 2-0 versus Miami, notching his first ACC win in Charlottesville 24-19 in ’10 and a 24-19 win last year in Miami Gardens.
Miami Hurricanes This Year
As most of you are aware, Miami is just 5-4 on the season, but 4-2 in the ACC and control their own destiny in the Coastal Division thanks to their 30-12 win last Thursday night against Virginia Tech and UNC being UNC and not eligible for the title. Their 4 losses were not pushovers: at Kansas State, at Notre Dame, UNC, and FSU. ***TO ALL UVA FANS: Those of you who have had the same thoughts as me that a win by Miami on Saturday keeps VT out of the ACC title game, please read this. Miami is 4-2 and Tech is 2-3. Even if Miami loses to Virginia, they can sow up the Coastal with a win over Duke in the last game of the season, provided that Tech loses to Florida State on Thursday night. Both teams would finish 5-3 if they win out and Miami owns the tiebreaker. So easy on the ‘good loss’....for now.
In the past 2 years, Virginia has played well against teams that run a pro set offense just like Virginia does. Stephen Morris burst onto the scene with Miami in the 2010 UVa game, burning his redshirt in relief of injured UM QB Jacory Harris. He ended up scoring 3 touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) and brought the Canes back into the game, but the Hoos defense clamped down in the final 4 minutes to hold on for the win. Now a Junior, Morris has been serviceable (56.6% completion, 2384 yards, 12 TD, 7 INT), and while the yardage is up, the completion percentage is down, which is reminiscent of NCSU’s Glennon. In the backfield, Freshman Duke Johnson leads the way (555 yards, 6 TDs) with veteran Mike James (477, 5 TDs) getting equal billing as well. Just like the Pack, Morris will spread it around, with 7 WRs/TEs/RBs with 200+ receiving yards on the season. Look for Phillip Dorsett (545, 3) and Rashawn Scott (512, 3) to be the main targets.
Another 4-3 defense this week, and while it is not a veteran lineup, they are stocked with plenty of talent. DEs Anthony Chickillo (32 tackles, 4 TFL, 3 sacks) and Shayon Green (57 tackles, 1.5 TFL) lead the way up front. Redshirt Freshman Eddie Johnson (54, 6.5, 1) is a force at SLB and loves to be sent on blitzes behind Chickillo on the strong side. Cornerback Brandon McGee is the only starting senior on the team and is fairly lockdown all season.
Last week was great, but we need to keep that energy while not resting on our laurels. Miami is not the same team that they are on the road that they are at home. Their two road wins this season were by 9 points over Boston College and OT against Georgia Tech is a wild finish. They are giving up more than 30 points a game (84th in the nation), and most to teams that aren’t named Bethune-Cookman and Virginia Tech. There is an opportunity for Virginia to pull off a win, but they need to keep that defensive line pressure up all game and find a way to Morris and balance out their offense and sustain drives. The line is at Virginia +1.5, but until I see the Hoos win 2 in a row, I’m not going to pick them just yet. Miami 27, UVa 24.