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3 players, 2 matchups and 1 prediction for Virginia football at Miami

Previewing Saturday’s matchup as the Cavaliers look to advance to 3-5.

NCAA Football: Virginia at North Carolina Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Wow! What a win. The Virginia Cavaliers did everything they hadn’t been doing all season. Run blocking, for one. Pass rush, for two. Win special teams, for three.

Coming off the first top-ten road win in program history, and one of the most satisfying wins in recent history, the Wahoos are right back on the road against a quality opponent in the Miami Hurricanes.

The Canes are coming off their own big win, at home over Clemson. Their QB, Tyler Van Dyke, did not play in that game. That kinda says something about Clemson, doesn’t it. Van Dyke is expected back for this game.

Prior to the win over Clemson, the Canes had lost two straight after opening 4-0. They reached as high as 20th in the polls before falling out with the two losses. One loss was to the Tar Heels. The other was this inexplicable loss to Georgia Tech.

As always, expectations had been high for the Canes, so this is already a bit of a disappointing season for Miami fans. The Hurricanes and Cavaliers are tied in the ACC standings.

Game Time: Saturday, October 28, 3:30PM Eastern
Streaming: WatchESPN

Three Players To Watch

QB Tyler Van Dyke

For the second week in a row, Virginia faces a top NFL draft pick at QB. Although Van Dyke isn’t quite the prospect Drake May is, he has been mentioned as a potential first round pick in some places. More likely, he’s a day-two pick, but that’s still pretty good.

He’s 6’4” 230 and has the big arm the NFL wants. He’s not as mobile as Maye or some of the other top QB prospects, but he can sling it.

This ball is perfectly placed.

He’s not going to run, but he can get out of the pocket and make throws on the run.

If Van Dyke can’t go, it’ll be true freshman Emory Williams. Against Clemson, Williams completed 24/33 for 151 yards and a TD. That is 4.6 yards per pass, which isn’t good, but completing 70%+ is impressive. It keeps the ball moving.

Safety Kamren Kinchens

A first team All-American last year when he led Miami in tackles and chipped in 6 INTs, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and six pass breakups. That’s a lot of disruptive plays. Kinchens is projected as a late first round pick in the spring’s NFL draft.

This year, he has 2 INTs, 2 TFLs, a sack, a forced fumble and 3 pass breakups. He is third on the team in tackles, just 2 tackles behind the team leader. Oh, and he missed two games after suffering a concussion against A&M.

That is some play. The timing, the vision, and the hit. Kinchens is all over the field, and he can do everything on the field.

WR Xavier Restrepo

The senior leads the Canes in receiving. He has 54 catches for 600 yards. That is just two catches fewer than Malik Washington, but almost 200 fewer yards. Last week, Restrepo had 7 catches (on 7 targets) for just 26 yards. That’s a true freshman QB using his best receiver as a security blanket.

That’s not to say Restrepo can’t make the big play, especially when he has Van Dyke throwing him the ball.

Of course Miami has other weapons at WR. It’s Miami, they always have WRs. But Restrepo is the guy. He missed a lot of last season with a foot injury, and just wasn’t the same when he came back. His return actually came against the Wahoos, but he played just a few snaps.

Two Key Matchups

Virginia OL vs Miami DL

While the Miami offense has been healthy and consistent all season, the defense has been up and down. They have the 21st ranked defense in the nation, but they gave up 41 to UNC and 33 to Texas A&M. Other than last week against Clemson, they haven’t actually played all that well defensively against a good team.

Not that Virginia is a good team, but the offense is turning it on. They are all the way up to 85th in the nation. That isn’t exactly something to be proud of, but on October 1, they ranked 111th. That is a big improvement over just two games. Two games with well over 400 yards each.

Seven different Canes have started at least two games on the DL. Last year’s sack leader was Akheem Mesidor, and he has exactly 0 thus far. Second last year was Jahfari Harvey, and he has 1. Neither have played much since week 2, and Mesidor has missed time with injury.

This revamped DL just had their best week of the season against Clemson.

Clemson’s pocket collapses almost immediately. True freshman Rueben Bain gets the sack and forced fumble. Bain leads the team with 4.5 sacks. He took the starting gig by week 3 and hasn’t looked back.

Virginia Run Defense against Miami Run Game

Tyler Van Dyke may be the star of this Miami offense, but the Canes running game is actually better than their passing game, at least as a comparison to other teams. The Canes have the #10 offense in the country. Their passing offense ranks 24th, while the rush offense ranks 22nd.

It isn’t just one RB, it’s a trio of RBs. Henry Parrish and Don Chaney are 1-2, though Parrish did not play against Clemson. He is expected back for this game. Parrish leads the way, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Chaney averages 5.1 yards per carry. Even with Parrish out, the RB carries were split last week. Chaney had 17 for 63 yards while Ajay Allen had 16 for 54 yards. This was the big play in the running game.

If you can’t tell what happens here, that’s WR Brashard Smith lined up in the backfield as a RB. He had 4 carries last week with Parrish out. This was the first. He breaks free, runs 80 yards, and then is stripped of the ball just before crossing the goalline. His teammate recovers the ball for the TD.

Even if Parrish is back, Smith may get some touches out of the backfield. Regardless of who is back there, stopping the run is paramount. Clemson came into that game with the 8th ranked run defense in the country. They left with the 19th ranked run defense. And that was with a backup QB, and not a mobile one.

Miami is very good at running the football. Virginia is not good at defending it. UNC is pretty good at running the football (average 180 yards per game), and Virginia kept them to 143. They had 48 pass attempts against 29 run attempts. You could argue they would’ve won had they run the ball more.

Miami averages over 190 yards per game. If the Hoos can keep them around 140 as they did with UNC, that will be a big achievement and would really help them come out on top again.

One Prediction

Last week was a nice diversion from this dreadful season. Seeing the players react the way they did showed what the win meant to them and to this program. Building on that will be key, but going to Miami to face the Canes is a tough ask.

It’s not necessarily tougher than going to UNC, but it is tough. A lot of things needed to go right for Virginia to win that game, just like a lot of things needed to go wrong for Virginia to lose to JMU and NC State. A couple of bounces in the other direction, and many of this season’s games could go the other way.

Miami is more talented, deeper, and at home. If Van Dyke plays, Miami could roll in this one. That explains the 19.5 point spread. But Miami has been somewhat underwhelming lately, and especially if Van Dyke misses another game, it should be closer than expected.

Prediction: Hurricanes 35, Virginia 27