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Virginia fights valiantly but falls to #2 Miami 44-28

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Hoos hang with Hurricanes but can’t pull off the upset.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It was a heartbreaking day for the Hoos in Coral Gables as Virginia fell 44-28 to the #2 Miami Hurricanes. The final score is more lopsided than the actual gameplay would indicate as UVA held their own before a late touchdown by Travis Homer salted the game away. Kurt Benkert threw for 384 yards and four touchdowns in the game, and the Hoos had four different players receive touchdowns.

Virginia started the game just about as well as one could hope going on the road to face the undefeated #2 team in the country. The Hoos

Benkert started the game on fire, going 10-for-10 for 178 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter. Virginia’s first touchdown came on their opening drive as Benkert found Olamide Zaccheaus for a 33-yard strike that capped off a 75 yard drive.

Quin Blanding picked off Malik Rosier on Miami’s first drive - and was anointed with the turnover towel by D-Line coach Vic So’oto - but Zaccheaus fumbled it three plays later. The Virginia defense stood strong after giving up a 25-yard first down pass by Rosier, forcing the Hurricanes to punt. Daniel Hamm called for the fair catch at the eight yard line, setting up a long field for the Hoos.

Long field or not, Virginia needed just 2:25 to go 98 yards and find pay dirt again as Benkert found Joe Reed for a 75 yard touchdown pass. Reed caught the ball around the 40-yard line and made a defender miss as he trucked for the end zone.

Bronco Mendenhall tried some trickeration on the ensuing kick-off, electing for the onside kick. The Hoos recovered the ball after a Miami player touched it before the required 10 yards, but the refs called it Hurricane ball and tacked on an illegal block by Virginia after the replay. Miami got on the scoreboard with a 10-yard touchdown reception by Ahmmon Richards with 14 seconds left in the first quarter.

Benkert’s first incompletion of the day came with 13:40 remaining in the second quarter as he had to escape pressure and threw the ball away.

Miami evened the score at 14 when Daniel Hamm muffed a punt at the 40 yard line, giving the Hurricanes good field position. Rosier only needed one play to drop the perfect dime to Dayall Harris in stride for the 36-yard touchdown.

The Wahoo defense stood tall on Miami’s next offensive possession, setting up the Virginia offense with 3:29 left in the first half. Reed picked up 16 yards on a reverse, Doni Dowling hauled in a 21-yard pass, and the offense overcame two O-Line false start penalties to set up a first-and-10 from the Miami 33-yard line. Benkert rolled left and dropped a perfect pass to Andre Levrone for the touchdown and the 21-14 lead. The play was originally ruled incomplete, but upon review, it showed Levrone maintained possession throughout for the score.

Benkert was unbelievable in the first half, going 17-for-18 for 262 yards and three touchdowns. The offensive line, despite being reshuffled again and having some dumb penalties, was outstanding as they gave Benkert time in the pocket.

Miami got nowhere with their first drive of the second half, lining up to punt from the 16 yard line. Enter Charles Snowden, the 6-7 true freshman. He came around the corner with little resistance, and single-handedly blocked the punt, giving the Hoos the ball at the 21-yard line. Two plays later, Benkert connected for his fourth touchdown of the game as he found Daniel Hamm for a 26-yard touchdown and the 28-14 lead.

The Hurricanes were not done, however. The Canes put together a seven play, 63-yard drive that was kept alive with a 24-yard pickup by Braxton Berrios on third-and-nine. The next play, Rosier found Lawrence Cager in the end zone to close the gap to seven. On Virginia’s next pass, Benkert had his first mistake of the game as he telegraphed a pass to Dowling that was jumped and returned for a touchdown, tying the game at 28 all.

Virginia put together a bit of a drive, but a no-call on obvious pass interference by the Canes on fourth-and-six gave Miami the ball back with a turnover on downs. Bryce Hall almost returned the pick-six favor, but couldn’t hold on to the ball. The next play, Juan Thornhill picked off Rosier, but Virginia couldn’t get going as they were pinned deep in their own territory. A short punt by Lester Coleman gave the Canes good field position, but the defense held and Miami was forced to settle for a field goal and their first lead of the game at 31-28 as the third quarter ended.

The Wahoo offense struggled on the first possession of the fourth quarter, but Virginia got a second chance after Miami’s defender ran into Coleman on the punt. Benkert and company did nothing with the opportunity as John Montelus was called for hands to the face and created long yardage for the offense. Coleman got off a great punt which was fair caught at the five yard line.

Despite getting it to third-and-one, the Hurricanes were unable to put anything together as the Virginia defense continued to shut down the run game. Zaccheaus picked up a first down on the first play from scrimmage, but Benkert was sacked on the next play. He connected with Dowling on second down to set up third-and-three, but the Hoos failed on their next two attempts and turned it over on downs again. Miami salted the game away with a five play, 47-yard drive capped off with a touchdown run by Rosier. The Canes missed the extra point, making the score 37-28.

In the end, Miami overpowered the Hoos as Virginia allowed five sacks and couldn’t finish out the upset bid. Next up, Virginia faces off with Va Tech on Friday night in Charlottesville at 8pm.