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Doughty: Cavs improve but continue to struggle

Doughty: Cavs improve but continue to struggle

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When a team has lost four games in a row and six of seven, who is to say the program is making progress?

On the other hand, Virginia's football team went to Miami as a 14 1/2-point underdog Saturday night and did itself somewhat proud in a 19-14 loss at Hard Rock Stadium.

Nobody could say that UVa should have beaten 11th-ranked Miami, but the Cavaliers had an apparent touchdown reception nullified and, moments later, missed a field goal.

Maybe the best news for Cavalier fans was that they may not hear the term "concussion protocol" for a while.

That's what they had been hearing for the two weeks since quarterback Brennan Armstrong took a blow to the head Oct. 10 in Virginia's 38-21 home loss to North Carolina State.

Armstrong missed the second half of that game, as well as UVa's 40-23 loss at Wake Forest one week later. The Cavaliers had been seen as the favorite, although the line for the UVa-Wake game had flipped just before kickoff.

It seemed for certain that UVa's misery would continue when Miami needed only two plays and 28 seconds to take a 7-0 lead on a 43-yard touchdown pass from D'Eriq King to Mike Harley, who finished with 10 receptions for 170 yards.

At least part of that problem can be traced to injuries that left the Cavaliers without Joey Blount and Brenton Nelson, veteran defensive backs who were starters at the beginning of the season.

Still, it's hard to blame Virginia's loss on the defense. The Cavaliers were facing a Hurricanes' team that had scored 52 points against Florida State and 47 against Louisville.

It was the same UVa defense that had allowed 41, 38 and 40 points in its previous three games.

How Miami could gain 444 yards in total offense Saturday night and score only two touchdowns was another matter.

The play of the game for Virginia came with 3:38 remaining in the first half, when it appeared that Armstrong had connected with tight end Tony Poljan, a transfer from Central Michigan who already had caught one touchdown pass.

Presumably, that would have given Virginia a 14-10 lead, but the score was nullified because a second UVa tight end, Grant Misch, was penalized for heading downfield.

"We know we had a miscue with the touchdown called back," Armstrong was quoted after the game. "And, you know, we just can't have those. I mean, that's all on me. We've got to make sure everyone is situated."

It was unclear when Armstrong was removed from the concussion protocol but it did not appear as if he had suffered a dropoff.

He completed 16 of 30 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 15 carries for a game-high 91 yards and a touchdown.

Lindell Stone, the Cavaliers' starting quarterback one week earlier in the game, had started one week earlier at Wake Forest but did not see action.

Graduate transfer Keytaon Thompson and freshman Ira Armstead had a combined nine carries for 46 yards and remained part of the offense but attempted only one pass between them, a Thompson incompletion.

It was reported before the game that 6-foot-7 UVa freshman Lavel Davis, who has a team-high three touchdown receptions, would not be available. Davis had participated in the UVa-Wake game one week earlier but did not have a reception.

Virginia had announced before the game that four players had been tested positive for COVID-19 and would self-isolate for 10 days, but their identities were not reported.

Meanwhile, Virginia returned home to prepare for an 8 p.m. Saturday game with North Carolina, ranked 14th before a 48-21 victory over No. 23 North Carolina State.

The Cavaliers were 38-31 winners over North Carolina last year in Chapel Hill, but that was a UVa team at the beginning of a four-game winning streak.

The current four-game losing streak is not the first of the Mendenhall coaching era. The Cavaliers ended the 2016 season with seven straight losses and later went 0-4 to end the 2017 campaign.

If nothing else, they've learned that losing streaks don't last forever.

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Men’s Basketball


No. 18 Virginia at No. 12 Clemson

6 p.m. at Littlejohn Coliseum


Records: Virginia 8-2, 4-0 ACC; Clemson 9-1, 3-1 ACC

Notes: Clemson hasn't played a game in 11 days, as opposed to Virginia, which is coming off an 80-68 victory over Notre Dame on Wednesday afternoon in Charlottesvillle. ...  The Tigers' only loss occurred Dec. 15, when Virginia Tech defeated Clemson 66-60 in Blacksburg. … Clemson has won four succeeding games, including three against ACC opposition, capped by a 74-70 Tigers win over North Carolina State on Jan. 5. … Clemson started the season with five straight victories, including wins over Mississippi State and Purdue in Melbourne, Florida. …Clemson also trounced former ACC rival Maryland, 67-51, followed by a 64-56 victory over Alabama. … The Tigers' Aamir Simms (6 foot 8, 240 pounds) is a central Virginia product, having grown up in Fluvanna County before heading to the Blue Ridge School in Greene County. He had 16 points against the Cavaliers in a 51-44 Tigers' loss last year at John Paul Jones Arena, where the Tigers missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the score with 1:28 remaining. … Clemson's second-leading scorer is 5-10 guard Nick Honor, a transfer from Fordham who sat out the 2019-2020 season. … Honor averaged 15.3 points as a freshman at Fordham and made 70 3-pointers. … Virginia and Louisville, which travels to Miami this weekend, are the only teams that are undefeated in ACC play.  -- Doug Doughty

Saturday's 35-point win was the UVa men's program's most decisive win against any ranked opponent and the 85 points scored the most in regulation in Tony Bennett's 12 years as Virginia coach.

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