UVa head coach Bronco Mendenhall typically credits a handful of plays for determining games. Missed opportunities played a role Saturday, but three timeouts might have been the most important part of Saturday’s 19-14 loss to Miami.
The Cavaliers (1-4, 1-4 ACC) burned all their second-half timeouts when on defense, using their final timeout with 12:04 left in the fourth quarter ahead of a Miami two-point conversion. The lack of opportunities to kill the clock hurt the team’s chance of making a last-ditch comeback in its five-point loss at Miami (5-1, 4-1 ACC).
“The others were intentional to stop touchdowns and let our defense rest,” Mendenhall said. “The third one was totally a mistake on our part and my part. The defense wasn’t ready for a two-point play, had the wrong personnel out on the field, miscommunication and had to use it.”
Virginia fought hard Saturday, but made a few too many mistakes and failed to generate enough offense to upset the No. 11 Hurricanes.
For the fifth straight game, UVa’s opponent scored first. D’Eriq King and Miami needed just two plays and 28 seconds to go 75 yards for an opening drive touchdown.
King connected first with tight end Will Mallory for a 32-yard strike. He connected next with Mike Harley on a 43-yard touchdown down the right sideline. Harley, a speedy wide receiver, found himself matched up with UVa linebacker Noah Taylor. Virginia’s versatile linebacker does a lot well, but being left on an island to cover a wide receiver isn’t his strong suit.
With yet another slow start in the books, Virginia needed an answer.
Brennan Armstrong and company delivered.
UVa took its first drive 64 yards for a touchdown. The drive started with a solid 36-yard kickoff return from Tavares Kelly Jr. The wide receiver drew a targeting call from Miami safety Amari Carter to quickly move the ball into Hurricane territory.
A pair of completions to the always reliable Billy Kemp IV led to an impressive 2-yard touchdown reception from tight end Tony Poljan. The 6-foot-7 specimen used every inch of his athletic frame to make a leaping grab and tap his left foot into the end zone before falling out of bounds.
UVa knotted the score at 7.
From there, the offenses slowed. The Cavaliers played ideal complementary football in the middle of the second quarter to threaten to take the lead. After a blocked field goal by D’Angelo Amos, the Cavaliers picked up a few first downs before punting.
Nash Griffin downed a punt at Miami’s 4-yard line, and the Cavaliers’ defense forced a three-and-out. The offense worked the ball into a goal-to-go situation before a penalty and a sack led to a third-and-goal from Miami’s 24-yard line.
Armstrong found an open Ra’Shaun Henry for what seemed like a 24-yard touchdown strike. Instead, an ineligible man downfield penalty took away the score. Two plays later, Brian Delaney’s 35-yard field goal drifted too far right.
“A bigger play like that, a little scramble touchdown, that brings a lot of juice to the team,” Armstrong said of the touchdown that was called back. “Defense would’ve stepped up; you just would’ve felt a different momentum going into there.”
UVa squandered an ideal chance, and the Hurricanes took the ball down the field for a 32-yard field goal with 1:02 left. Miami took a 10-7 lead into halftime.
A squandered chance followed by a great stop led to the only scoring of the third quarter. Miami marched 88 yards across 16 plays to add a 20-yard field goal that allowed the Hurricanes to take a 13-7 lead into the fourth quarter.
It took an impressive UVa goal-line stand to force the 20-yard field goal, but Nick Grant missed what would’ve been an interception return for a touchdown near midfield during the middle of the drive. He jumped a screen pass perfectly, but whiffed on the ball, having it squirt off his chest incomplete.
After bending but not breaking, Virginia’s defense broke on a drive spanning the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth quarter. Miami drove 80 yards in 12 plays against a fatigued UVa defense. The Hurricanes’ lead swelled to 19-7 with 12:04 left after a touchdown run from Donald Chaney Jr. and a failed two-point conversion.
With its offense sputtering after an opening drive touchdown, the Cavaliers received a bit of magic in the form of a blown coverage. After a 32-yard rush from Armstrong on fourth-and-2, Armstrong hit a wide open Henry for a 35-yard touchdown. No penalties this time.
Virginia cut the Miami lead to 19-14 with 5:27 remaining.
With no timeouts left, the Cavaliers needed a quick stop.
The team’s best shot at a stop came on third-and-8 with under three minutes remaining. A pass intended for Dee Wiggins fell to the turf, but cornerback Nick Grant failed to turn his head toward the ball and he was called for pass interference.
Miami burned clock, punted and stopped UVa from driving 80 yards in 23 seconds.
Virginia played well enough in spurts to upset No. 11 Miami, but the critical plays – and timeouts – weren’t there when the Cavaliers most needed them.
“It’s hard to imagine that 19 points would win the game for Miami, so arguably it was effective,” Mendenhall said of using timeouts early on defense, “or arguably it wasn’t when you have the ball at the end and no timeouts. I think you can look at it either way. The two-point play was mismanaged, totally.”
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