Virginia Rallies Late, Stuns Miami 41-40
Nov. 10, 2012
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) – Michael Rocco knew where he wanted to go with the ball, and flashed his intended target a look.
“He gave me a little, basically, don’t (mess) this up” look, tight end Jake McGee said after he caught a game-wining 10-yard pass from Rocco with 6 seconds to go Saturday. The play capped Virginia’s rally from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit that stunned Miami 41-40.
McGee made the catch at the back of the end zone, but Rocco didn’t entertain the idea that his tight end had stepped out.
“Not the way we were feeling right then,” Rocco said before acknowledging that seeing the replay was “pretty special.”
The TD pass was Rocco’s fourth of the day and gave Virginia (4-6, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) its second consecutive victory following a six-game losing streak. It was the Cavaliers’ third straight win against the Hurricanes.
The Cavaliers still need to beat North Carolina on Thursday night and then Virginia Tech to become bowl eligible, but after thumping North Carolina State 33-6 last week and rallying against the Hurricanes, it’s looking more like a possibility.
“We put ourselves in a big enough hole where we can’t lose again,” McGee said. “We’ve got to keep doing it.”
Miami (5-5, 4-3) lost despite three touchdown passes from Stephen Morris and a brilliant performance by Duke Johnson. The freshman ran for 150 yards on just 16 carries, returned a kickoff for a touchdown and threw a TD pass.
The victory also means the Hurricanes need to win at Duke on Nov. 24 to claim their first Coastal Division title, and a spot in the ACC championship game. The school is still determining whether it would accept the berth, or self-impose a postseason ban for the second season in a row while an NCAA investigation into its compliance practices continues.
In the end, Miami’s inability to derail Rocco’s precise passing let it down.
“It was terrible,” Miami coach Al Golden, a former Virginia assistant, said of allowing Virginia to convert nine 0f 14 third down plays. “I think we were near 50 percent on offense, and I don’t know if we stopped them at all on defense.”
The final drive took 2:32, and was hard to watch, Miami wide receiver Allen Hurns said.
“I thought we had control and I thought we were going to win the game,” he said. “It was tough. It was very difficult to watch them take the ball down the field. … I was depending on my defense to put a stop to it, but obviously we didn’t get it.”
Rocco, who again shared QB duties with Phillip Sims, led a 16-play, 87-yard drive. He kept it going with a 9-yard completion to Dominique Terrell on fourth-and-7 from his own 44. The Cavaliers also got officiating help in the form of a very late flag for holding against cornerback Thomas Finnie on another fourth down pass that Terrell did not come up with at Miami’s 20.
Four plays later, Rocco found the 6-foot-5 McGee in the back of the end zone for the game-winner.
“He is the (primary receiver) whenever there is six seconds on the clock and you need a touchdown,” Rocco said.
Miami’s Johnson would have stolen the show in the first half if the Hurricanes could have stopped Virginia.
Johnson ripped off a 52-yard run on the Hurricanes’ opening possession, stiff-arming at least three defenders along the way. Two plays later, he threw a perfect 8-yard halfback option pass to Hurns for the touchdown.
But the day belonged to Rocco.
He completed 18 passes in a row at one stretch and finished 29 of 37 for 300 yards. Rocco threw touchdown passes of 7 yards to Miles Gooch, and 6 and 5 yards to Darius Jennings. The second one to Jennings pulled Virginia within 38-35 with 5:33 left in the game.
Morris threw for 179 yards with three touchdowns: a 12-yarder to Hurns, 9 yards to Clive Walford and a 35-yard strike to Phillip Dorsett, which gave the Hurricanes a 38-28 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Then Virginia coach Mike London ditched the quarterback rotation he had been using all day, put the ball back in Rocco’s hands and the junior’s pinpoint passing led two touchdown drives.
Rocco even appeared to get a break that went Virginia’s way.
He was called for intentional grounding from the end zone under heavy pressure, giving Miami a safety and the ball with just over 4 minutes to play. Replays showed that Rocco was not in the end zone when he threw the ball away, but a review did not overturn the call. Virginia had to kick the ball to Miami, but its defense held, setting up the finish.