Virginia Upsets No. 22 Miami, 24-19
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) –First Virginia knocked Jacory Harris from a scoreless game, then it dashed No. 22 Miami’s hopes for the ACC Coastal Division title in one afternoon.
Keith Payne ran for two touchdowns and the Cavaliers tied a school record with five interceptions – four against Harris’ backups – in a 24-19 upset Saturday.
“When you chop the head off a giant, the rest of the body goes with it,” said defensive tackle John-Kevin Dolce, who squared up Harris’ chest just as he released a pass, sending him airborne.
Harris’ head appeared to hit the turf first, and he remained down for 4 minutes.
“Jacory was their leader and what changed the game was taking him out,” Dolce said.
Chase Minnifield intercepted the pass, and there was no flag on the play.
Harris eventually rose to cheers and was helped to the locker room. He did not return, and Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon said he had no information on Harris’ condition.
The impact was felt on both sidelines.
“We let our brother get hurt,” center Tyler Horn said. “There’s no worse feeling than seeing that and knowing that’s because of the offensive line, that’s because of us.”
Virginia (4-4, 1-3 ACC), which had lost nine straight conference games, went ahead 24-0 early in the fourth quarter before the Hurricanes mounted a comeback behind true freshman Stephen Morris. Making his first appearance, Morris hit Leonard Hankerson with a 29-yard scoring pass with 10:34 to play, then ran 9 yards for a touchdown with 4:54 remaining.
The Hurricanes recovered the ensuing onside kick, and Travis Benjamin caught a deep pass, spun free from cornerback Mike Parker and raced 60 yards to make it 24-19 with 4:39 left.
That was plenty of time for Miami to kick off, hold on defense and try to win it. But Marc Verica hit Matt Snyder for 6 yards on third-and-3 from the 27, then connected with Kris Burd for 20 yards on third-and-7 from the 35, allowing the Cavaliers to run out the clock.
“That was the biggest catch of my life right there,” Burd said.
Verica was 19 for 27 for 176 yards with one interception.
The victory gave first-year coach Mike London a signature win, and one that allowed him to pull his team together on the field and reinforce that his program is taking hold.
Two weeks ago, after a 44-10 homecoming loss to North Carolina, he gathered his players and told them to watch the Tar Heels and their fans celebrating, and to remember the feeling.
“It’s the same thing,” he said. “… I don’t know how many other opportunities we are going to have to feel that before the season ends, but you have to start somewhere and you have to start a mindset of ‘this is what’s going to happen around here for a long time.”’
The Cavaliers beat a ranked team for the first time since defeating No. 21 Georgia Tech 24-17 on Oct. 25, 2008, and got their first win of the season against a team from a BCS conference. They have also beaten Richmond and VMI of the Championship Subdivision and Eastern Michigan.
The Hurricanes (5-3, 3-2), who seemed to hit their stride in a convincing victory against North Carolina last week, made it inside the Virginia 20 just once in the first three quarters, and Morris’ pass into the end zone was acrobatically intercepted by Minnifield.
Whipple played the rest of the first half ineffectively after Harris was hurt, completing 2 of 6 passes, and Shannon decided to give Morris a chance to start the second half. Morris finished 9 for 22 for 162 yards.
Now, instead of looking to a possible showdown with No. 21 Virginia Tech for the Coastal Division’s spot in the ACC championship game, they will try to regroup to play Maryland.
“We just have to win the games,” Shannon said.
Virginia drove for its first touchdown after intercepting Harris, and London sent his own guys a message by electing to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Hurricanes 16.
“When you have a team that has taken its lumps, the only way to bring them out of that mindset is to say, `I have enough faith in you that we are going to go for it,”’ he said.
Verica found Colter Phillips alone behind the Miami secondary for the TD.
Payne, who gained 81 yards on 17 carries, scored on a 30-yard run on Virginia’s next possession after Spencer Whipple was intercepted by Corey Mosely. Payne added a 5-yard TD run in the fourth quarter one play after Mosely’s second interception and zigzagging return.
Whipple and Morris each threw two interceptions.
“This is the game we’ve been waiting for as a secondary,” Minnifield said.
And as a program.