ACC expansion is generally seen as a necessary evil, something we could do without and yet must have in order to prevent even worse outcomes. And yet it's not without its perks. We don't get to see much of Clemson or NC State any more, but 12 games a year have to be played against somebody. The somebody that has replaced traditional yet unremarkable (in the sense that nothing especially historic has ever happened against them, unless you had some kind of nostalgia for a decades-long losing streak to Clemson) opponents is Miami. It's a funny pairing.
I don't remember particular details of most of the BCS championship games that've occurred since its inception, but I do remember quite a bit of the one Miami played in, against Ohio State, including where I was at the time (home from school for the holidays, at a friend's house playing poker) and never in my wildest dreams did it occur to me that the powerhouse Hurricanes would, in less than a decade, figure more strongly than almost any other team in Virginia lore of the 21st century. "Virginia owns Miami" would've exploded my mind at the time. They were on another plane back then.
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That's a slightly misguided meme, actually, as we're only 5-4 against them since ACC expansion. They won the first two matchups (three if you count the mid-90s bowl game) and not that long ago, demolished the Hoos so badly (52-17) that the ripple effects from the game went backward two days in time and caused me to write this, likely the most accurate game preview I've ever penned.
But slightly misguided is still only slightly. Virginia horned in on 70 years of Miami history by making their last game in their venerable old stadium a memorable one, if not exactly in the way the in-attendance Hurricane dignitaries hoped. And the Hoos now carry a three-year winning streak against Miami, utterly unthinkable in the glamour days of The U. The way in which the latest entry finished up eroded most of whatever personal resistance I had left to the "we own them" meme.
It's hard not to think that way when Miami is responsible for some of the best memories of the London era, to say nothing of one of the top three games of the Groh era. A Virginia team that would eventually finish 1-7 in conference play dominated a top-25 Miami squad thanks in part to the best hit of John-Kevin Dolce's career. Mike Rocco hit Perry Jones between the numbers on a simple slant and the Miami defense forgot to be anywhere near the ball, leading to technically the longest touchdown throw of Rocco's career. And then......that.
"That" is what happened on Saturday. Rocco hit Darius Jennings and Jake McGee for near-identical touchdowns, making Miami the fourth victim of Rocco's heartbreaking ways. They fall in line behind Indiana, Penn State, and Florida State. Resilience is in this man's character, winning his countenance and mien. There's a reason I don't fall all over myself for scout-wowing spirals. The best thing in a quarterback is what Rocco has: the inability to enter a game behind on the scoreboard and conceive of the possibility of losing.
I told you on Thursday I wasn't ready to believe in fairy tales, and then the fairy tale fairy, who does not like my attitude, gave us a football game right from the Brothers Grimm. Now there's only two ways we can go from here: all the way up or all the way down. Which you think will happen depends on how long you've been a Virginia fan and whether you've learned any lessons in that time.
Further items in brief.....
-- I guess we might as well get used to the quarterback platoon. I'm a pretty firm believer in not screwing with what's working (which is a big part of the reason I was all pro-Rocco to begin with.) The coaches did the right thing, however, in breaking the rotation at the end and sticking with the hot hand; Rocco's final drive marked the first time all game that either quarterback had had three series in a row, not counting the clock-killing handoff to finish off the first half.
-- Maybe it's because I'm an ACC fan that I didn't find the NFL's replacement refs to be so bad. These guys constantly find new and amusing ways to make court jesters of themselves, the latest being a personal foul on "unknown player." The safety was also a hideously bad call, and this particular crew must have a copy of the rulebook that omits any mention of facemask penalties.
-- Special teams continue to suck.
-- Dominique Terrell had a game and a half, did he not? This is the first game we've seen our wide receiver recruiting efforts really pay off in the form of a terrifying passing assault. Terrell, Darius Jennings, and Tim Smith all had huge catches and excellent games overall, supplemented nicely by McGee and E.J. Scott. There's a reason we were really excited to reel those guys in, and that was it.
-- Second best tweet of the day: Michael Phillips' suggestion that a coaching rotation be implemented in which Groh coaches October and London gets November. Undefeated season recipe right there. Londonvember is really gonna be a thing if we somehow manage to go bowling, and don't tell me you didn't miss Grohtober just a little bit during the Maryland and Wake games. Best tweet of the day: CavsCorner's Brad Franklin with "Seriously, Mike London is trolling Randy Edsall SOOOOOOO hard with these QBs."
-- Steve Greer is gonna be missed more than any other graduating senior next year.
-- Of all the possible outcomes this season could have generated, the following is the least likely when viewed from back in August: Virginia and Virginia Tech have identical 4-6, 2-4 records in November. VT and Georgia Tech were considered the mainest challengers for the Coastal Division, and played to a 20-17 overtime battle in the first game of the season for each. Who'd've guessed that the close score meant they both suck, not that they're both awesome?
-- Virginia extends Miami's streak of allowing 200 rushing yards one more game. Somehow, we didn't manage this. Good Lord, we didn't even make it to 100 and still scored 41 points.
-- Mike Rocco runs for at least 25 yards. No, and in fact, he was sacked a couple times which took a big chunk out of the 17-yard gain he had early on.
-- For the second game in a row, Phillip Sims is the more effective passer. Not even remotely.
-- Duke Johnson breaks off at least one big run or YAC reception. Yes, thanks in part to one of the feeblest attempts at a tackle I've ever seen, even including punters. Demetrious Nicholson could not have looked sillier on Johnson's first-quarter scamper. Also, kick return DAMMIT.
That makes me 20-for-48, as well as 0-7-3 against the spread since the margin of victory was exactly the line. This was one crappy game for Vegas. They originally set the spread at Miami -3 and so much money flooded in on Virginia that they swung the spread four points to Virginia -1. So they obviously lost a ton of money on those bets and then had to refund all the ones that came on once the spread settled at -1. I'm also 4-6 straight up and probably never going to pick Virginia to win again this season. Briar patch and all that.
Programming note: this is a shortened week thanks to the game on Thursday. Game preview runs on Wednesday with nothing scheduled for Thursday. Game reactions on Friday, which is normally a vacation day.