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Five takeaways from Virginia football’s brutal overtime loss to Miami

What we learned from a brutal road loss.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Miami Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

In crushing fashion, the Virginia Cavaliers fell to the Miami Hurricanes in overtime, 29-26. Despite leading 10-0 early in the game and 23-20 with 4:20 left in regulation, the Wahoos couldn’t seal the deal in overtime with the ‘Canes winning the game on a Mark Fletcher 11-yard touchdown run.

With the loss, we have five takeaways for the ‘Hoos moving forward.

While it stings, this was still a positive performance for Virginia

That was a really crappy way to end a game that Virginia controlled for the vast majority of regulation. Other than the back-to-back plays that Miami scored touchdowns on including Ajay Allen’s touchdown run and Tony Muskett’s pick-six, the ‘Hoos dictated how this one unfolded.

UVA out-gained Miami 377-276 overall, 138-113 on the ground, and 239-163 through the air. The Cavaliers won the turnover battle. They committed zero penalties, had eight more first downs than the ‘Canes, had a whopping 27 more plays than Miami, and possessed the ball for 9:12 more than Mario Cristobal’s team did.

Virginia outplayed Miami. And there continue to be positive developments from the players and the staff. In the end, it unfortunately just wasn’t enough. But the progress is there which points to more success for this team in the final four games of the season.

Issues in close games persist for the Wahoos

In 2023, Virginia is 0-4 in games decided by three points or less. In Tony Elliott’s tenure in Charlottesville, the program is 1-7 in such contests with the only win coming against Old Dominion last season.

Of course, last week’s massive win against North Carolina was by just four points. But even then 2-7 in close games is brutal for a coaching staff and a program trying to establish itself. Again, this team has gotten better and played better. But eventually, for the program to get where it wants to go, these close losses have to be wins.

Tony Elliott and Des Kitchings called a good game, for the most part. Elliott’s decision to go for it on fourth and three from his own 45 yard line on the penultimate offensive drive of regulation resulted in three critical points in the fourth quarter.

But the lack of aggression on the Cavaliers’ final drive in the first half cost the team an opportunity to put more points on the board.

Ideally these results will be lessons for the Virginia staff and players. This season was never going to be a breakout year. There have been disappointing results to say the least. But there’s still momentum. Once that momentum is effectively organized and channeled in the right direction, then there’s reason to believe that better results will follow.

UVA loses its control of the trenches

After the defensive line turned Drake Maye into a pumpkin last week, UVA’s front four didn’t touch Tyler van Dyke even once in this game. There were zero sacks and zero QB hits from the entire Virginia defense. The ‘Hoos also allowed 5.2 yards per carry to Miami’s top two running backs, making life far easier for the Hurricane offense than it should’ve been.

On the other end, while there were absolutely spurts of effective run blocking resulting in Perris Jones rushing for 58 yards on nine carries (6.4 per) and Mike Hollins going for 49 and two touchdowns on 13 carries, Miami’s defensive line kept them competitive. The ‘Canes registered six sacks on Tony Muskett, an additional three QB hits, and a whopping 10 tackles for loss. Relative to UVA’s zero sacks and three TFLs, that’s where the difference was made in this game.

We’ve run out of ways to say Malik Washington is good at football

It’s kinda hard to say Malik Washington is elite in a different way every single week. So in lieu of that, I’ll just paste his season stats thus far.

vs Tennessee: 4 catches, 29 yards,

vs JMU: 5 catches, 119 yards, 1 touchdown

at Maryland: 9 catches, 141 yards

vs NC State: 10 catches, 170 yards, 2 touchdowns

at Boston College: 9 catches, 97 yards, 1 touchdown

vs William & Mary: 7 catches, 112 yards, 1 touchdown

at UNC: 12 catches, 115 yards, 1 touchdown

at Miami: 12 catches, 152 yards

Total: 68 catches, 935 yards, 6 touchdowns

Kam Robinson is a building block for the future

Somewhat similarly to Washington, Robinson has already been his own takeaway a couple of times this season. The true freshman linebacker might be the best player on this UVA defense already. At the very least he continued to make his case versus Miami by leading the team in tackles with nine while also nabbing his first career interception.

Beyond the stats, Robinson is all over the field on just about every play. His raw elite speed, strength, and length stands out. At the same time he’s making the right reads and utilizing his physical talents incredibly well. The ‘Hoos have seen awesome play from their young guns this season — safety Caleb Hardy deserves a shoutout for his six tackles in this one — and that’s another sign of the future of this program being relatively bright.