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Virginia upsets No. 16 Miami, 16-13

Virginia defense shines as the offense does just enough to get the job done.

NCAA Football: Miami at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Cavaliers came up big when they had to and knocked off No. 16 Miami under the lights at Scott Stadium, 16-13. Virginia struggled offensively in the first half as Bryce Perkins threw three interceptions, but the defense was solid all day as they stifled the Hurricanes and picked off three interceptions of their own.

Perkins finished 12-for-21 for 92 yards, and rushed for another 61 yards in the game. Jordan Ellis had 61 yards and scored the lone touchdown for the Hoos. Brian Delaney was the real hero of the day, going a perfect 3-for-3 in field goals and connecting on makes of 26, 46, and 32 yards.

Zane Zandier led the defense with nine tackles as Virginia held Miami to 339 yards of offense and only one touchdown.

The Hoos improved to 4-2 with the win, and 2-1 in ACC play.

Virginia’s first drive was off to a great start as the Hoos picked up a couple first downs thanks to Perkins and Ellis. On 1st-and-10, Perkins scrambled and rolled left out of the pocket. The Hurricanes made him pay for a risky pass back across his body, intercepting the ball at the Miami 43 yard line. Miami was unable to take advantage of the turnover, failing to convert on 4th-and-4 at midfield and turning it over on downs.

Several miscues (illegal formation penalty, a big sack, and a delay of game penalty) torpedoed Virginia’s second possession, and Lester Coleman shanked the punt to give Miami favorable field position at the Miami 39-yard line. Once again, the defense stood strong (aided by a holding call against the Canes), and Miami failed to get any sort of momentum going.

A great read by Perkins led to a big 24-yard pickup by Joe Reed and moved the Hoos back into Miami territory. After pressure from the Hurricanes led to a sack, Perkins lost sight of a Miami defender and threw his second pick of the first quarter. Miami took over at their own 45-yard line, and two plays into their possession, Perry threw deep into coverage and Joey Blount picked off the pass and returned 31 yards to their own 48-yard line. Perkins connected with Hasise Dubois for a first down, then missed a pass incomplete to Chris Sharp that drew a flag for targeting. The play was reviewed and confirmed, leading to Miami’s Michael Jackson being ejected from the game.

The first quarter ended with Virginia driving at the Miami 14-yard line and out-gaining the Hurricanes 81 yards to 14. Perkins’ two interceptions kept the Hoos from finding the scoreboard, but the Virginia defense was outstanding and didn’t allow Miami a single first down in the first 15 minutes.

Perkins picked up nine yards on a scramble to open the second quarter, but can’t get the needed yardage for the first down on the next play, setting up a 26-yard field goal. Brian Delaney converts right down the middle of the uprights, giving Virginia a 3-0 lead with 13:46 remaining in the first half.

Miami got their first first down of the game on their first drive of the second quarter, and continued pounding through midfield. On 1st-and-10 from the 50-yard line, Perry got picked off by Juan Thornhill at the Virginia 31-yard line and he rattled off a 63-yard return to set up 1st-and-goal from the seven. On the second play from scrimmage, Jordan Ellis cut straight up the gut of the Miami defense and put Virginia up 10-0 with 11:16 left on the clock.

The Hurricanes turned to senior quarterback Malik Rosier on their next drive, and Miami proceeded to go three-and-out as the Virginia defense continued to smother the visiting squad.

On the first play from scrimmage, Perkins threw his third interception of the first half as Hasise Dubois was unable to wrestle it free in a jump ball. Rosier connected with Lawrence Cager for a pick up of 30 yards to the Virginia 22-yard line. An incomplete pass out the back of the end zone and a short rushing pick up of two yards set up a 3rd-and-8 from the 20-yard line. Mandy Alonso and Zane Zandier swarmed Rosier on third down, sacking the Miami QB for a loss of nine yards and the Hurricanes settled for a 47-yard field goal to make it 10-3 with 7:15 left in the half.

Virginia had their first three-and-out of the game following Miami’s first score, and a Coleman 46-yard punt gave the Hurricanes possession at their own 15-yard line. The Hurricanes held open a perfect hole for Travis Homer, who rattled off a 70-yard rush to the Virginia 15-yard line. Bryce Hall’s extra effort stopped Homer from reaching the end zone, that effort paid off as the Hoos held the Hurricanes to just a field goal once again and preserved Virginia’s lead.

With 3:11 to play in the first half, Virginia took over on their own 25-yard line. Rushes by Perkins and Ellis picked up three first downs over 3:07 and set up Delaney for a 46-yard field goal. Delaney rang true, sending the ball straight down the middle for Virginia’s first field goal over 40 yards since the Hoos played Louisville on November 14, 2015. The FG gave Virginia a 13-6 lead—and a little breathing room—heading into the break.

At the half, Virginia had a slight lead in yards gained at 148-137. Perkins went 7-for-13 for 66 yards and the three interceptions, but the Miami QBs combined to go 5-for-13 for 50 yards and two interceptions. The Virginia defense held Miami to just four first downs, and outside of the 70 yard run by Homer, no big plays. Ellis had 51 yards and a touchdown on eight carries in the first half, a welcome sight after a couple quiet games. Thornhill and Blount each had an interception in the half, and the defense forced a turnover on downs on Miami’s first possession.

The Hoos almost picked off Rosier on the first play of the second half, but the Miami receiver played good defense to swat the ball away. After a holding call and delay of game penalty backed the Canes up, Miami was unable to convert a 3rd-and-17. Zane Zandier was called for roughing the passer to keep the drive alive. Miami went for it once again on 4th-and-1 and once again the Virginia defense stood tall and stopped the pile-leaping effort, taking over on downs at the UVA 24-yard line.

Virginia got nothing going offensively, settling for a three and out after Perkins got sacked for the third time of the game. Coleman boomed a 43-yard punt, sending Miami back to their own 32-yard line. After a first down catch on the first play from scrimmage, the Hoos’ defense held strong once again. Hall broke up a deep ball attempt from Rosier on 3rd-and-13, leading to a punt and Virginia taking over on their own 12-yard line.

The Hoos rattled off a 16 play, 73-yard drive that ate up 8:35 off the clock as Virginia extended their lead to 16-6 thanks to a 32-yard field goal from Delaney. Virginia got big first down pick ups from Perkins, Ellis, and Dubois on the drive, but the offensive line couldn’t get Perkins enough time to find a receiver in the red zone.

On back-to-back carries, Homer racked up 45 yards rushing as he quickly moved the Canes into striking distance. Virginia stuffed Homer’s next run attempt for a loss of one yard, and on 2nd-and-11 Thornhill picked up his second interception of the game. Rosier left the pass well short, and Thornhill adjusted perfectly for the pick and 24-yard return to the UVA 43-yard line.

After calling a solid game to that point, there were a couple head-scratching calls on Virginia’s possession following Thornhill’s second INT. A shot deep to first year Tavares Kelly was overthrown, and Perkins had to throw the ball away on second down to avoid a big sack stopped the clock twice with minimal time gone. A safe call saw Ellis pick up five yards on third down, and Coleman pinned the Canes inside the 10-yard line with 7:42 to play.

Miami put together their most competent drive of the season on the ensuing possession, going 93 yards in 11 plays and using up just 4:38 to pull within three at 16-13. The Hurricanes attempted an onsides kick, but Evan Butts snagged the ball on a bounce and returned it 30 yards to the Miami 27-yard line with three minutes left on the clock.

A rush by Ellis and two carries from Perkins left the Hoos short of the first down at the 20 yard line, but Tito Odenigbo got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to gift Virginia a first down. Three more rushes and a timeout got the clock down to :34, and Delaney appeard to convert his fourth FG of the day to push their lead to 19-13. Miami got called for roughing the kicker on the FG attempt, and Virginia accepted the penalty and the new first down, securing the 16-13 win.

Next up, Virginia heads to Duke to take on the Blue Devils.