Virginia 24, No. 22 Miami 19: Three up, three down
The first question in Virginia Coach Mike London's postgame press conference Saturday afternoon following the Cavaliers' 24-19 upset win over No. 22 Miami came from a television reporter who wanted to know London's thoughts on his program moving in the right direction.
With his hands folded and his eyes staring down at the table in front of him, London waited for 15 seconds before lifting his head to answer the question. Perhaps he was composing himself. Perhaps there was still raw emotion left over from his on-the-field and locker room celebration with his players to choke back. Perhaps he was searching for the exact right way to express the answer that he wanted to give. Whatever the reason for the pause, it certainly drew everyone in the room in closer to listen to what he had to say.
"You know, I have been talking about this team being resilient, regardless of sometimes what people say," London said. "In that locker room right there is a bunch of proud football players and coaches. Because we always knew that there was something about this team, there was something about us that we could be a pretty good team. We could be a good enough team to compete. And it’s disappointing, the Florida State and the North Carolina loss. We were the USC-type of team today that actually had a chance to play and finish off a game. We’re just trying to find that identity of where we are and who we are. But it's ..."
And then he paused once more. This time for 10 seconds.
"When you have a group of young men that (hear), 'You guys are going to win three games. You guys aren’t any good,' when you have a group of young men like that that all that matters is what happens with those that are in the room, and the message that they continue to keep hearing, that you’re not fast enough, you’re not good enough, that refuse to listen to those things," London continued. "We are what we are. And we play a style that fits who we are. And today we played a style that was good enough to hang on to beat a very, very good football team, a fast team, an athletic team, regardless of who was in the game.
"It was unfortunate for Jacory to go down, but I’m playing without Joe Torchia, I’m playing without Tim Smith. Ras-I Dowling didn’t play. So that’s the nature of football.You play with who you have, and I’m proud of the way our players and coaches responded. And I don’t even know if I answered your question, to tell you the truth."
1) Interceptions. Entering Saturday's game, Virginia had tallied five interceptions all season. By the time the final whistle had blown against Miami, the Cavaliers had doubled that total. Junior cornerback Chase Minnifield grabbed two interceptions, including one on an incredibly athletic catch in the back of the end zone late in the third quarter. Junior free safety Corey Mosley tallied a pair of his own. And junior strong safety Rodney McLeod picked off a pass, as well. The interceptions came throughout the game and several came at moments in which it seemed Miami was beginning to build some momentum. The Cavaliers were not neccessarily stout against the pass (Miami threw for 269 yards), but they were opportunistic. And on Saturday, that was good enough.
2) Offensive line. Junior offensive tackle Landon Bradley -- who, when healthy, is Virginia's best all-around offensive lineman -- had his surgically repaired right hand wrapped in a ball Saturday and did not play against the Hurricanes. As has been the case the previous two games, sophomore Oday Aboushi filled in for Bradley at left tackle and true freshman Morgan Moses played right tackle. Against a Miami defense that entered the game tied for second in the country in sacks, the Cavaliers offensive line allowed none Saturday. Moses did a solid job against Hurricanes senior defensive end Allen Bailey, and the rest of the Virginia line performed admirably, as well. The Cavaliers rushed for 185 yards and two touchdowns. It was perhaps the Virginia offensive line's best performance -- as a unit -- this season.
3) Mike London. The first-year Virginia coach was quick to point out that very few people outside his team's locker room believed the Cavaliers had a shot to beat Miami. He also brought up the fact that his players have spent nearly all of this season having their deficiencies continuously thrown in their face. And he's right on both points. While Saturday's signature win -- his first at the helm in Charlottesville -- does not eradicate the mistakes his team made or the shortcomings it revealed in previous losses this season, it does validate the messages he has been preaching to his players and to Virginia's fans -- that this team has potential and is improving. That's an important step for a man charged with rebuilding a once proud program.
1) Final 11 minutes of the game. After shutting out Miami for the first three quarters, the Cavaliers allowed 19 unanswered points to close out the game. No one is suggesting Virginia should be admonished for not pitching a shutout against the Hurricanes. Rather, it was the manner in which the Cavaliers gave up that pile of points late in the game that stuck out. Miami true freshman quarterback Stephen Morris -- the fourth-stringer who was making his first collegiate appearance -- threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson. Virginia responded with a three-and-out. Morris then conducted a 15-play, 90-yard drive that concluded when he tallied a nine-yard touchdown run. The Hurricanes immediately got the ball back on a questionable -- at best -- on-side kick recovery. And on the first play of that drive, Morris completed a 60-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin. Miami gained 195 total yards in the fourth quarter. If it looked like the Cavaliers let up a tad, that's because they did.
2) Penalties. Virginia was charged with 11 penalties that accounted for 105 yards, which included two personal fouls and a 15-yard face mask call. The Hurricanes, though, weren't exactly the most disciplined bunch, either. Miami was whistled for 12 penalties that accounted for 95 yards.
3) Miami's fourth-quarter on-side kick recovery. It looked on the television replay as if Minnifield came away with possession of the ball. And yet, the officials gave possession to Miami, which then immediately scored on a 60-yard pass play to bring the Hurricanes within five points of the lead with more than four minutes left in the game.
"Please don't get me started about that," London said. Minnifield "came up with the ball. Not only did he have the ball in his hands when they were tussling, and finally they made the decision of who had the ball, then he came up with the ball. That's one of those things that it'd be a shame if that was one of those moment-changers, game-changers. But you know what? We gotta go up and get it. We should have done some things to block for him. They just decided that the Miami guy had it, even though he didn't come up with it. Chase had it in his hands and gave it to (the referee). It was a judgement call. They made it, and I gotta live with it, and so we move on from there."
| October 31, 2010; 9:50 AM ET
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