Virginia heads to Miami, set to face emotional Hurricanes
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Different opponent, different week, same story for Virginia.
And that tale is a cautionary one for Miami.
The two most dramatic finishes in college football of late — maybe all season — were Georgia Tech beating Florida State on a blocked field-goal return for a touchdown, followed seven days later by Miami’s eight-lateral, still-debated kickoff return with no time remaining to beat Duke.
Virginia handled Georgia Tech when the Jackets were on their emotional high, beating last season’s Orange Bowl champions last week. And now the Cavaliers (3-5, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) get the chance to take down another emotionally charged club when they visit Miami (5-3, 2-2) on Saturday afternoon.
“We want our kids to always just believe,” Miami interim coach Larry Scott said. “Trust in the system, trust in the philosophy, execute the philosophy and the plan, and just continue to believe, believe in each other, believe in your coaches, and know that it’s never over.”
The Hurricanes haven’t said who will start at quarterback. Brad Kaaya has been dealing with the effects of a concussion, and Malik Rosier played well in his first career start last weekend — overlooked, of course, by Corn Elder’s score on the final play.
Virginia, which has topped Miami in four of the last five seasons, said it’ll be prepared either way.
“It’s a good football team, and I know they’re forging an identity and re-establishing the things that they want to try to get the Miami name or brand back where it used to be,” Virginia coach Mike London said. “We’ll definitely have a challenge.”
Here’s some of what to know going into Saturday:
COASTAL MATTERS: Miami and Virginia both need some help to pull off what would certainly be classified as an improbable Coastal Division title in each case, and winning this game is going to be crucial to keeping whatever chance exists alive. A Miami victory would give the Hurricanes some real hope, given that they’ve already beaten Duke and still have North Carolina and Pittsburgh — the top two teams in the Coastal as of now — left to play this season.
ROAD WOES: Virginia has lost 13 consecutive road games going back to the midpoint of the 2012 season, the third-worst active streak in the country behind Kansas (33, entering its game Saturday at Texas) and Miami of Ohio (22). The Cavaliers haven’t topped 20 points in any of their last seven road games, and visit a Miami team that has won 16 of its last 20 games at Sun Life Stadium.
SCOTT’S HOMECOMING: It’s homecoming weekend at Miami, and potentially a home coming-out party for Scott. He’ll be looking to become the sixth consecutive Hurricane coach to win his home debut, joining Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis, Larry Coker, Randy Shannon and Al Golden. The last Miami coach not to win his first game at home was Jimmy Johnson in 1984.
VIRGINIA TROUBLES: The saying is that Virginia is for lovers. It hasn’t been for Hurricanes. Miami hasn’t swept its ACC rivals from the “Old Dominion” state since 2008, going 5-8 against Virginia Tech and the Cavaliers in that span. The Hurricanes are halfway to finally ending that slide, having already topped the Hokies 30-20 this season.
MILITARY TRIBUTE: Miami is wearing uniforms designed to honored military members, with the game-used jerseys and helmets to be auctioned off after the game with all proceeds going to Fisher House — a facility that provides free lodging for family members of those being treated at a VA Hospital in Miami. London, the son of a 30-year Air Force veteran who also served in Vietnam, is impressed by Miami’s gesture. “It’s a situation where you want to identify those people that have fought for this country bravely,” London said. “And to be a part of it ... it’s a great honor.”