Virginia falls to Miami on Senior Day, 34-14
Cavaliers outscored 17-0 in second half
The story of the game for Virginia Saturday was a tale of mistakes and misfortune as they fell to Miami, 34-14. The Hurricanes (6-4, 3-3 ACC) compiled 450 yards of offense, as the Cavaliers (2-8, 1-5 ACC) managed to tally just 289 yards.
“I was pleased with our team in the first half and the way we battled,” Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “But the miscues in the second half, we turned it over four times, had numerous penalties. Clearly I’m not getting through yet to our team.”
In Miami’s opening drive, junior linebacker Micah Kiser picked up his first career interception and ran into the endzone for what Cavalier fans thought was a touchdown. However, the officials claimed Kiser ran out of bounds at the 18-yard line, so the interception instead passed the ball off to Virginia’s offense.
“We know we’ve got to score on defense as well,” junior free safety Quin Blanding said. “I think he scored on defense. But I’ll leave that up to them. We’ve just got to keep playing.”
Senior running back Taquan Mizzell was able to get the job done and sprinted into the endzone to give the Cavaliers an early 7-0 lead.
The Hurricanes stormed back on the ensuing drive, tying up the score at seven with a rushing touchdown from junior running back Joseph Yearby.
Miami scored a 40-yard field goal in the opening drive of the second quarter to earn their first lead of the game, 10-7. The Hurricanes added onto the score with a touchdown, bringing the score to 17-7.
The Cavaliers answered with a touchdown of their own after a drive that took over six minutes and 14 plays. On third down, junior quarterback Kurt Benkert found sophomore wide receiver David Eldridge in the endzone and Virginia cut into Miami’s lead, 17-14.
The Hurricanes were the first to score in the second half with a 44-yard field goal from junior placekicker Michael Badgley. On the ensuing drive, Virginia’s offense coughed up possession when Benkert was hit and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Miami on the 50-yard line. However, the Cavaliers were able to stifle the Hurricanes, and Badgley missed a 50-yard field goal attempt wide left, leaving the score at 20-14.
Miami shocked the Cavaliers on its next drive when junior quarterback Brad Kaaya broke a tackle on third down. Kaaya fired off pass to freshman wide receiver Ahmmon Richards, who sprinted down the field for a 77-yard touchdown, giving Miami a 27-14 lead.
The bad fortune continued for Virginia when on third and 24, senior punter Nicholas Conte came onto punt, but fumbled the snap, and the Hurricanes recovered the ball on their own-39 yard line. Miami’s sophomore running back Mark Walton then scored a touchdown to extend Miami’s lead to 34-14.
Late in the fourth quarter, senior quarterback Matt Johns entered the game, replacing Benkert. Johns proved to be effective, firing a 44-yard pass off to junior wide receiver Doni Dowling to put the Cavaliers in scoring position. The senior got to play for the last time at Scott Stadium.
“I love Matt. I wanted to give him a chance,” Mendenhall said. “He did well, put a couple balls on the money, and his teammates were cheering him on. So were the coaches.”
However, the offense sputtered on fourth and eight, as a Johns pass to sophomore wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus was broken up, allowing the Hurricanes to gain possession at the 15-yard line.
Scott Stadium was nearly empty as the fourth quarter winded down, but the few fans that remained cheered as freshman linebacker Matt Terrell recovered a Miami fumble to give Virginia possession at the Hurricanes’ 26-yard line.
When the offense returned, Johns fired off a pass to Mizzell, who made it to the 14-yard line, but fumbled the ball. One positive remained personally for Mizzell, as the senior reached 1,500 receiving yards to accomplish the feat of 1,500 career rushing and receiving yards — the first player in ACC history to accomplish such a feat.
“That’s big for me,” Mizzell said. “Great players who came through the ACC just weren’t able to accomplish that so I really appreciate that. But it’s even more special that it came from Matt Johns.”
However, Miami recovered the fumble, and took possession for the final minutes of the game and the Hurricanes sealed their 34-14 victory.
“We’re going to come in Monday ready to work,” Johns said. “Monday we wake up, feet hit the floor and its work day. That’s how it’s going to be for the rest of the season and for a long time here. Winning or losing, that mindset does not change.”
The Cavaliers head out on the road for their final two games of the season. They face off against Georgia Tech Saturday at 12:30 p.m.