The Virginia Cavaliers and Miami Hurricanes played an absolute hideous game today as the Hurricanes came away with the overtime victory by a final score of 14-12. With the loss for the ‘Hoos, we’ve got five takeaways.
UVA offense is completely inept in prime scoring position
I typically start writing this piece part of the way through the third quarter. At that time, I started to type up this very takeaway after the ‘Hoos scored a mere six points on three possessions which finished inside the Miami five-yard line. Oh how foretelling that would be.
Starting with those three possessions to open the second half, there were undoubtably signs that the UVA offense wasn’t going to be able to win this game. A flip pass to Keytaon Thompson on first and goal on the first drive resulted in a seven yard loss. Then two Armstrong scrambles only netted a one yard gain, so Will Bettridge came on the field to tie the game up at 3-3 with a 27-yard field goal.
A huge catch and run from Mike Hollins after Armstrong found him leaking out of the backfield kept the offense humming. But, after he was called out of bounds at the three-yard line and a Miami personal foul moved the ball to the one, UVA couldn’t find the end-zone despite having four opportunities. Xavier Brown’s run on first down lost a yard, another shovel pass to Thompson only got that yard back, then a Thompson pass was tipped after the ball was lateraled to him, before Grant Misch egregiously dropped a wide-open touchdown.
The third drive was slightly less of a failure to punch the ball in for a touchdown. Nevertheless, touchdowns win games, not field goals.
That would prove tremendously true as the game went to overtime. Two 41-yard field goals from Will Bettridge and the defense saved the ‘Hoos in the first three overtimes. But, eventually, the inability to put the ball in the end-zone for the entirety of this game cost Virginia the win.
This was one of the most ugly UVA games in recent memory
Granted, my memory of UVA football games barely goes back a decade, but this was simply not a fun football game to watch. Team allegiance aside, nobody could’ve genuinely enjoyed the majority of this contest. 14 total punts and just 26 total points after regulation and four overtime’s through regulation and four overtimes don’t make for particularly enjoyable football. In fact, the first ten drives of the game were all punts.
And, while both defenses played well, there was a definite offensive incapability for each team which took away the charm of a defensive battle which UVA basketball fans have come to love. That doesn’t mean a ton for Virginia moving forward. But, at the very least, playing games in the forties last year was often a more fun brand of football, even if it only produced a few more wins.
Brennan Armstrong doesn’t do enough
After the UVA defense forced a punt on Miami’s first drive of the game, the UVA offense had its very best opportunity to put points on the board for the remainder of the half on its very first play from scrimmage. A play-action rollout from Brennan Armstrong and a double move by Dontayvion Wicks had the receiver streaking down the field, wide open on a post route, but his quarterback sailed the pass long by at least five yards. That seemed to be the theme for Armstrong and the offense for the remainder of the game: close, but not close enough.
Armstrong’s stats are buttressed by a Mike Hollins check down that went for a 64 yards and an under-thrown deep ball to Lavel Davis Jr. Take those two plays out of the equation and he was 13-23 for just 97 yards. It’s hard to heap too much blame on the Wahoo signal caller considering what little help he gets from his offensive line, running backs, and receivers. Add in 91 yards gained on the ground, and he’s still absolutely making positive plays. But, for this team to consistently perform on offense, he needs to be very good and he simply wasn’t today.
Defense remains stout
Everything else to the side, it’s undeniable that the UVA defense continues to be the absolute strength of this team. Really every single position group made plays in today’s game as outside corners Anthony Johnson and Fentrell Cypress continued their All-American quality of play, defensive linemen Chico Bennett, Kam Butler, and Aaron Faumui were disruptive in Miami’s backfield, Nick Jackson was his typical self despite playing through injury, safety Antonio Clary was particularly active in shutting down a number of potential big plays for the Hurricanes including an interception in the third overtime, while Coen King totaled a whopping 13 tackles.
Enough cannot be said about what Defensive Coordinator John Rudzinksi and his defensive staff have done with this group this season. Backup quarterback or not, only giving up six points to a power five team in regulation and then just eight more through four overtimes is impressive. It’s just a shame the offense couldn’t perform at a relatively similar level.
The defense did not lose this game. It gave the Wahoo offense plenty of opportunities to win this game. And Armstrong, Kitchings, Elliott, and company couldn’t do it.
Goodbye bowl eligibility
Winning this game would’ve put UVA at 4-4 on the season with four potentially winnable games to close the season. Now with Virginia at 3-5, going 3-1 against UNC, Pitt, Coastal Carolina, and Virginia Tech looks nearly impossible. As such, I’m confident in saying that UVA appears set to miss a bowl game for the first time since Bronco Mendenhall’s first season in Charlottesville back in 2016. Not a good way to start the Elliott era whatsoever.