Historically, the U is used to the defense being on their side. Unfortunately, Scott Stadium is not a Coral Gables courtroom, and a dominant Cavalier defense teamed with tough running from Khalek Shepherd and Taquan Mizzell for CML’s fourth win over Miami in five tries (versus seven in 34 against everyone else in the ACC), a win keeps both our postseason dream and London’s hopes of keeping his job alive.
We’ve done pretty well against pro-style offenses all season, and last night continued the trend. Miami amassed 327 yards, but pressure (we piled up four sacks and always had someone in orange in Kaaya’s face), refusal to break (Miami was 0-2 in the red zone), and a solid effort on Duke Johnson (15 carries for 88 yards, his lowest pure yardage number of the season) rendered Miami’s offense impotent. Things looked iffy on one drive in the first quarter when Johnson busted loose for 20 yards and Brad Kaaya immediately followed with a 47-yard touchdown to Philip Dorsett, but that was ultimately it for the Miami offense.
Our offense was thrown for a loss when Kevin Parks suffered a first quarter concussion, but Smoke (eight carries for 55 yards) showed off the most decisive, physical running of his short Virginia career, Khalek Shepherd took on the bell cow role with aplomb (career highs across the board with 22 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown), and Darius Jennings did Miles Gooch’s number proud, running the jet sweep six times for 40 yards and a score of his own. Greyson Lambert mostly just managed the game (his lone touchdown came via Canaan Severin Velcroing in a crossing route at the goal line), particularly in the second half, when he only threw three passes as the backs devoured clock. His weekly pick was as good as an interception can be, coming on an underthrown deep ball instead of a screen pass near his own goal line. The cobbled-together offensive line was a huge question coming in, but deserves a game ball or a trip to an all-you-can-eat pizza spot for clearing the lanes for 195 rushing yards and not surrendering a sack.
The seniors partied hard on Senior Night (Jennings and Shepherd had big days, Anthony Harris threw in 10 tackles and broke up three passes, and Daquan Romero blocked a field goal that led to a field goal), but this game was also served as a reminder that there’s still some young talent left – especially on the defensive side of the ball. Max Valles had three sacks (his first since logging half a sack against Pitt), Quin Blanding was in on seven tackles and glided across the field for a third quarter pick, Wil Wahee played strong, steady football in DreQuan Hoskey’s stead (the ex-HS linebacker made six tackles), and Kwontie Moore produced another sack and forced fumble combo. On the offensive side, Smoke’s 55 yards were hard-earned and reminded us why we were so excited to have him to start with (hint: it wasn’t to catch four yard passes).
Last night was fun enough that it’s tempting to shrug off things like another 12 men on the field penalty on special teams, a blocked punt that was returned for a meaningless Miami touchdown in the final minutes, and more questionable offensive choices. I can’t, because they served as reminders that the team’s larger problems haven’t gone anywhere. Even if CML saves his job (which looks more and more likely when you consider this team’s improvement in the face of some brutal scheduling – this blogger doesn’t have hiring or firing privileges), there need to be staff changes.
With our win and Virginia Tech losing perhaps the worst college football game of the season, we’re set up to either complete this rally with a win in Blacksburg or (let’s be real here, this option is more likely) suffer a brutal, season-killing letdown. Hokie Hate Week begins now.
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