MIAMI GARDENS (AP) — One play and six seconds into the game, Virginia was trailing. For a team that hasn’t won in two months, fighting uphill all day proved too difficult a challenge to overcome.
Virginia turned the ball over four times, including giving up an interception for a touchdown on the game’s first snap and the Cavaliers saw their losing streak reach eight games with a 45-26 loss to the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday. Each turnover was turned into a Miami touchdown, that four-pack of freebies rendering a slew of impressive Virginia offensive numbers moot.
“You can’t have that,” Virginia coach Mike London said. The numbers would suggest a far different outcome. The Cavaliers (2-9, 0-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) outgained Miami 483-304, had 28 first downs to Miami’s 11, converted 11 of 20 third-down opportunities, held a 243-90 edge in rushing yards and had the ball for nearly 38 minutes in which they ran 91 plays to Miami’s 52.
But when opportunity knocked, Miami answered. “That’s a good Miami team,” London said. “They played well and they capitalized when they needed to and we didn’t.” Tracy Howard returned an interception 19 yards for a touchdown for the Hurricanes (8-3, 4-3), a mere six seconds after kickoff, keeping the team alive in the ACC’s Coastal Division race.
Howard knew Virginia’s David Watford was throwing a screen pass. He made Watford pay, too, and the ’Canes went on to snap a three-game slide.
David Gilbert had a 72-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown and interceptions set up two drives that Dallas Crawford capped with touchdown runs for Miami.
Stephen Morris passed for 214 yards and two touchdowns in Miami’s home finale. Allen Hurns had 126 receiving yards and a score and Stacy Coley had a 62-yard touchdown grab for Miami which got a big momentum shift late in the half when Ladarius Gunter had an interception in the Miami red zone. Gunter returned the ball 81 yards to the Miami 3, the Hurricanes took a 21-13 lead three plays later and weren’t in trouble again.
“Defense, I thought, really played their tails off,” Miami coach Al Golden said. Added Morris, on the defense: “They were dominant.’’ Miami’s win means the ACC Coastal Division race – and the right to play Atlantic Division champion Florida State in the conference title game –, won’t be decided until the season’s final weekend.
For Miami to win the Coastal, it needs three outcomes Friday when the ’Canes play Pittsburgh in an away game: A win at Pittsburgh, a Duke loss at North Carolina and a Virginia Tech loss at Virginia. “We just have to worry about the Pitt game,’” Golden said.