Rosier helps No. 3 Miami survive scare from Virginia
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Coming off two emotional wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, Miami looked ripe for an upset here Saturday afternoon.
Virginia came near to pulling it off.
But the No. 3 Hurricanes managed to survive a dazzling passing display by Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert and twice overcame 14-point deficits in recording a 44-28 victory.
While Benkert was passing for 384 yards, a season high against Miami, and four touchdowns, quarterback Malik Rosier was throwing 210 yards and three scores and rushing for another as the Hurricanes (10-0, 7-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) extended their winning streak to a nation’s best 15 games.
The Cavaliers (6-5, 3-4 ACC) lost for the fourth time in their last five games but not before throwing a significant scare into many of a crowd of 63,415 at Hard Rock Stadium.
The Hurricanes had issues on offense, issues on defense, and issues on special teams, coach Mark Richt said, but not where it mattered.
“The thing we didn’t have was a heart issue,” he said. “Everybody played with all their heart and we didn’t have an issue belief and team unity when things weren’t looking too great.
“That’s the thing I probably appreciate most about this team, both players and coaches.”
Virginia led 14-0 early and 28-14 in the third quarter before Miami ran off the last 30 points of the game in a span of about 14 minutes. The outburst started with wide receiver Lawrence Cager’s 9-yard touchdown reception and safety Jaquan Johnson’s 30-yard interception return in the third quarter and ended with running back Travis Homer’s 13-yard touchdown run in the final seconds.
“I like the way my team played,” Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “I thought they were well-prepared, and they tried really hard. Three to five plays, mostly there at the end of the game, we couldn’t capitalize, or didn’t capitalize on, so the finish didn’t look as we all would have hoped.
“But we had plenty of chances. We were staged to pull a great upset for most of the game and just couldn’t quite finish.”
Mendenhall emptied the playbook, going for it three times on fourth down and trying an onside kick attempt after the Cavaliers’ second touchdown. None worked.
“We came to win and were going to play aggressively,” he said, “and just couldn’t pull it off.”
Benkert completed his first 12 pass attempts and was 18-of-19 passing at home point in the first half on his way to a 28-of-37 day, despite being harassed by five sacks.
“It felt pretty good,” he said of the early lead the Cavaliers built. “We were able to what we wanted really the whole time.
“In the second half they adjusted to us a little bit more, and we just couldn’t get things going as much as we liked to. The first half was good, but it wasn’t enough to win the game. I didn’t do enough.”
Rosier said he had confidence that the defense would find itself despite giving up a season-high 439 yards.
“I told the offense ‘Don’t panic. We’ll be fine. Let’s do our job. Let’s methodically drive down the field and if they give us a shot and let’s take it. Let’s come back and win this game.’ The line did a great job, and so did the backs and receivers.”
Miami took its first lead, 31-18, on kicker Michael Badgley’s 44-yard field goal with 21 seconds left in the third quarter. On their next four drives, the Cavaliers punted and turned over the ball twice on downs, which led to Miami’s two clinching scores, before time ran out on their last series.
The Hurricanes will go for their first undefeated regular season since 2002 when they play at Pittsburgh Friday. Virginia ends its regular season at home against Virginia Tech the same day.
NOTES: Virginia’s 21-14 halftime lead marked the first time since the Georgia Tech game on Oct. 14 that Miami had trailed at the break. The Yellow Jackets led 14-13 after two quarters of that one before Miami rallied for the 25-24 win. ... RB Travis Homer became the first offensive player to don Miami’s “turnover chain” when he recovered a muffed punt by Virginia TB Daniel Hamm at the Cavaliers’ 36-yard line. He was the 17th player to earn that recognition that goes to a Miami player coming up with an opponent’s turnover. ... Miami S Jaquan Johnson’s third-quarter interception was his fourth pick of the season, tying him with CB Michael Jackson for the team lead. ... Miami junior QB Malik Rosier improved to 11-0 as a starter.