MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Virginia football team’s slow starts finally caught up to it. The Cavaliers missed opportunity after opportunity in their disappointing 17-9 defeat to Miami on Friday night.
With a chance to gain a stronghold on the ACC Coastal Division, Virginia’s offense couldn’t turn solid drives into touchdowns on a frustrating night. Miami’s combination of one field goal and two touchdowns trounced Virginia’s three Brian Delaney field goals and sent the Cavaliers home with their first conference loss of the season.
After trailing 28-0 last week against Virginia Tech, the Hurricanes needed a better start this week and they got it, taking the opening drive 78 yards for a touchdown.
N’Kosi Perry went 5-for-6 for 67 yards and a touchdown on the drive. He also scrambled to his left on 4th-and-seven to pick up a first down. A few plays later, he dumped a screen pass to his right and DeeJay Dallas followed perfect blocking into the end zone for a touchdown.
Virginia (4-2, 2-1 ACC) rallied after allowing the touchdown in the opening drive. The Cavaliers kept the Miami offense in check throughout the rest of the first half, although Perry missed a few receivers who broke free on deep routes. Those missed passes could’ve led to long touchdown strikes, but the drives stalled out instead.
Despite better defensive play, Virginia’s offense failed to capitalize on a pair of quality drives. A 10-play, 43-yard drive ended when a fourth-and-short run was stuffed at Miami’s 24. UVa’s next drive lasted 13 plays and spanned 54 yards before a Delaney field goal attempt was blocked.
Later in the first half, UVa’s Billy Kemp IV returned a punt 19 yards, but the play quickly turned sour for Virginia. Bryce Hall, Virginia’s star cornerback, was rolled up on as he blocked, and he went down with a left leg injury. His leg was quickly placed in an air cast, and he was taken off on a cart.
It was an emotional scene on the field as Hall’s teammates knelt in prayer and Mendenhall placed his hand on Hall’s helmet as he remained on the ground. A few Miami players came over to give Hall words of encouragement as he left the field on a cart.
The Cavaliers’ drive stalled after Hall’s injury, but they forced a quick stop to get the ball back. A pass from Perkins to Dubois saw a Miami defensive back fall, giving Dubois a chance to reel off 49 yards as he ran diagonally from the left side of the field toward the right pylon.
Miami (3-3, 1-2 ACC) dragged him down at the eight-yard line, and Virginia eventually settled for a 25-yard Delaney field goal as the first half clock expired, cutting Miami’s lead to 7-3.
A drive midway through the third quarter seemed like the one that would give UVa its first lead. A beautifully designed play saw Perkins fake a handoff to Reed, roll left and toss it out to a wide open Tavares Kelly Jr. The gain of 23 moved UVa deep into Miami territory. A Mike Hollins fumble on the next play ended the drive, representing yet another wasted opportunity.
To Virginia’s credit, the Cavaliers never wavered.
Virginia forced a three-and-out and marched down the field. Unfortunately for UVa, a 12-play, 64-yard drive ended with a 21-yard Delaney field goal that bounced off the inside of the right upright. The kick cut the deficit to 7-6.
Miami responded. A nine-play, 72-yard drive featured a handful of curl routes and a beautifully executed tight end screen to Brevin Jordan that went for 35 yards. Virginia’s defense held up in a goal-to-go situation, forcing a 19-yard field goal.
The ensuing kickoff was returned by Joe Reed down to Miami’s 27. The Cavaliers couldn’t move the ball, but a 44-yard field goal from Delaney cut the deficit back down to one with 7:39 left.
Miami’s final drive proved to be the final blow.
The Hurricanes stormed 75 yards in 10 plays to deliver the finishing punch. Perry scrambled on third down from the four-yard line, and he bulldozed his way into the end zone to put the Hurricanes up 17-9. Virginia took the ball into Miami territory, but a Bryce Perkins sack near midfield killed any chance of a comeback.