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UVA running game was successful at Miami, should help offense moving forward

By Jerry Ratcliffe

UVA senior Wayne Taulapapa led a strong rushing attack at Miami Thursday. (Photo: UVA Athletics)

Virginia’s running game came to life at Hard Rock Stadium last Thursday night, a trend Cavalier fans would love to see continue as the team heads to Louisville with some momentum.

Finally, the Wahoos will return to a normal schedule after these kickoff times three of the last four weeks: Illinois at home on a Saturday, but with a starting time of 11 a.m.; Friday night at home against Wake Forest; then Thursday night on the road at Miami.

The Louisville game on Saturday is set to begin at 3 p.m. on ACC Network.

One of the keys in UVA’s 30-28 win at Miami was the Cavaliers establishing a running game early and not having to play from behind. In the previous back-to-back losses to UNC and Wake, Bronco Mendenhall’s team trailed early and shelved the running game in favor of a passing attack. That wasn’t necessary at Miami.

As a result, the Cavaliers rushed for 181 yards (211 before sack yardage was subtracted) and 10 first downs on the ground. UVA’s corps of runners collectively averaged 5.2 yards per rush, well above what Mendenhall requires for success.

“Mike Hollins runs violently and fiercely but Keytaon (Thompson), it just seems like every time you give him the ball, something happens positively for our team,” Mendenhall said. “And then Wayne Taulapapa … that combination.

“I don’t think it was the plays that were called, it was just the effort and heart that they played with. And, man, is that inspiring. And they know it. After the game, they just looked at each other and they know because they tried so dang hard, and that is so fun to see.”

Taulapapa, coming off concussion protocol, was the Cavaliers’ leading rusher with 62 yards on 11 carries, including a touchdown and a 27-yard run. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry.

Thompson only had three carries, but made the most of them with his versatility. He averaged 15.7 yards per carry for 47 yards, including a 34-yarder.

Hollins rushed 10 times for 38 yards and a touchdown, and had a 25-yard pickup.

Quarterback Brennan Armstrong rushed seven times for 19 yards (38 before sack yardage was subtracted), including a 14-yarder.

If Virginia can continue to wisely use its running game to take some pressure off Armstrong and the passing game, it should help the Cavaliers going forward in the next three weeks against Louisville, Duke and Georgia Tech.

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