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Hoos Fall to Canes in Final Home Game

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UVa comes up short on Senior Day largely due to an ineffective second half performance

NCAA Football: Louisville at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Many of Virginia’s star players played well on the Hoos’ senior day, but, in what has become a theme for the season, the team only played one competitive half against the visiting Hurricanes. Juniors Quin Blanding, Andrew Brown, and Micah Kiser all played well while Taquan Mizzell had a great game (despite a forgivable fumble in garbage time) in his Scott Stadium finale. However, penalties, turnovers, and big plays from the opposition led to a familiar result in the end.

The game started fairly well for the Hoos: Following a terrific interception from Micah Kiser, Benkert led the Hoos through the redzone on their second possession of the game - culminating in a rushing score from Mizzell. Miami answered on their next possession after converting a 4th-and-inches to make it 7-7 midway through the first quarter.

A personal foul on the Wahoo defense extended a Miami drive after a nice 3rd down stop back in Miami territory. The Canes eventually converted that mistake into a field goal, to take a 3 point lead early in the second quarter. An early holding call stalled the next UVa drive and Brad Kayaa connected to Malcolm Lewis for a huge gain immediately thereafter. Miami followed up with a touchdown a few plays later and stretched their lead to 17-7.

David Eldridge cut into Miami’s lead shortly before halftime, converting a huge 3rd down throw from Benkert for a TD. The conversion followed a long drive from the UVa offense, who overcame multiple holding penalties to cut into Miami’s lead. Benkert showed a lot of toughness on the play as well, as Miami’s pressure led to a huge hit to his shoulder - one he certainly saw coming. The Wahoo defense was aided by a few Miami holding penalties right before the half, keeping the score at 17-14 at the break.

In the third quarter, the game broke open. After holding Miami’s big play potential largely in check during the first half, the UVa defense let poor tackling on 3rd and long turn into a 77 yard touchdown for the Canes. A few possessions later, Miami would turn a Nicholas Conte fumble into another scoring drive.

Kurt Benkert had a particularly rough second half, with two fumbles to join Conte’s - and the Wahoos never really threatened to score at any point in the half. Miami’s defense consistently pressured Benkert throughout the game, leading to the fumbles, some poor throws, and a few questionable runs out of bounds (when throwing the ball away would’ve been appropriate). While the weakness of the offensive line was a known issue before the start of the season, the real damage done by the previous coaching staff has become clear in the dearth of talent and production from the O-line in recent losses.

In a bright spot for UVa fans, senior quarterback Matt Johns came into the game with 5 minutes to go and had a number great throws on the drive. In classic fashion, dropped passes and a chop block call led to zero points. Following a Miami fumble, Johns and the Hoos would get the ball back for a scoring opportunity and promptly turn that into a Smoke Mizzell fumble. Another silver lining for the game occurred on that play, as Mizzell became the first ACC player to ever accrue 1,500 rushing yards and 1,500 receiving yards in a career.

The loss puts the Hoos at 2-8 for the year, while the Canes are now bowl eligible at 6-4. Virginia finishes the season on the road against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. At the time of publication, the Yellow Jackets are beating the Hokies 20 to nothing...so at least there’s that.