Cavaliers’ defense puts them in position in loss to Miami

By Kenneth Cross Correspondent

Chico Bennett Jr. (Photo: UVA Athletics)

Miami defeated Virginia, 14-12, in four overtimes on Saturday afternoon as the decisive two points came on a quarterback keeper around the right end from Miami quarterback Jake Garcia.

This game saw two rebuilding football teams with the defenses clearly positioned ahead of the offenses. The game showed eight field goals as well as offensive misses for both teams in the red zone. 

Miami has been one of college football’s most injured teams this season and the Hurricanes were once again without starting quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who has completed 64.1 percent of his passes. Van Dyke suffered a shoulder injury in the first half in last week’s loss to Duke and was replaced by Garcia.

With the new rule in college football, that after two overtimes, teams alternate two-point conversion opportunities from the 3-yard line.

It wasn’t like the two-point conversion opportunities caught the Cavaliers with a lack of certainty in how to react defensively.

“Every week we go through those two points, we have several things on that menu that we go through,” said defensive coordinator John Rudzinski. “If we would have done our jobs on that, we had guys there to make plays, so complement Miami on that in making plays.”

The Cavaliers’ defense held Miami to those four Andre Borregales field goals, as the second one came on the last play of regulation and tied Virginia at 6-6 and forced overtime. 

It was reminiscent of the end of the first half when Borregales hit a 38-yard field goal to give Miami a 3-0 lead. 

Borregales made field goals on Miami’s last three drives while Virginia kicker Will Bettridge, a freshman who had missed two field goals in a narrow win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta last week, had three successful kicks on the Cavaliers’ last four drives of the game.

Meanwhile, UVA’s defense remained stout.

“We just go out there and any opportunity we get, we play to a certain standard,” said Virginia strong safety Antonio Clary, who ended Miami’s threat in the third overtime with an interception in the end zone.

It’s a season where Virginia has improved immeasurably on the defensive end of the field.  Last season, opponents consistently moved the ball as they averaged 466 total yards per game and rushed for 225.8 yards per game. 

The Cavaliers held Miami to 272 total yards, as they came into the game allowing only 349.6 total yards per game and 19.4 points per outing. 

Much of the story the improvement of the defense and strong safety Clary noted that defensive players support their offensive teammates as Virginia has struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball.

“We encourage those guys over there on offense no matter what they are doing,”  Clary said. “We look to help them as much as possible. We are going to fight. We are going to play defense and we encourage them every time.”

Keeping the Hurricanes out of the end zone until the fourth overtime, which saw the two-point conversion, was a major key in keeping the Cavaliers in position to pull out the win. 

Virginia’s coaching staff came up with a game plan for Miami with Garcia in the game, but also the Cavaliers were ready for Van Dyke if he had emerged.

“You knew with Van Dyke, they were going to try to pass the ball a lot,” explained Clary. “They ran a lot today and we were prepared for them to run the ball with Garcia playing. We were prepared for any quarterback today.”

It was a frustrating loss for Virginia as Miami has struggled of late and the ‘Canes came in with three losses in four games. In all, Miami has struggled over the past few seasons and hasn’t been the prime player in the ACC that most expected.

“We came back and we bowed to adversity (vs. Louisville), so today we were in a four-quarter game in four overtimes and we wanted the guys to be able to make the four or five, maybe six plays that we didn’t make and we could have,” said Virginia head coach Tony Elliott.