Nov. 18, 2017
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) Malik Rosier threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score, and No. 2 Miami pulled off its biggest comeback in five years by holding off Virginia 44-28 on Saturday to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 15 games.
Jaquan Johnson had an interception return for a touchdown for Miami (10-0, 7-0 Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 3 CFP), which went on a 30-0 run in the second half to remain unbeaten. The Hurricanes erased a pair of 14-point deficits, and had lost 15 consecutive games in which they trailed at any point by such a margin.
But the defense got a pair of fourth-down stops in Virginia territory in the fourth quarter, and the Hurricanes finished off their first 7-0 home regular season since 1988.
Travis Homer rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown for Miami, which looks to close out a perfect ACC regular-season slate at Pittsburgh on Friday. The Hurricanes already had a spot in the ACC championship game against Clemson on Dec. 2 secured.
Kurt Benkert was brilliant for Virginia (6-5, 3-4), completing 28 of 37 passes for 384 yards and four touchdowns.
The game started at noon, and it wasn’t until 2:21 p.m. that Benkert took aim at a receiver and missed. He started 18 for 19 for 288 yards and four touchdowns in a little over a half, the only incompletion in that span being an intentional one – he threw the ball away to avoid what would have been a sack by Miami’s Chad Thomas.
Benkert’s 20th throw wasn’t incomplete, technically. It was just to the wrong team.
Johnson’s fourth interception of the season became a 30-yard return for a score. It was Miami’s second touchdown in seven seconds, tied the game at 28 – and before long, the Hurricanes would turn trouble into a runaway.
Virginia came out flying, with Benkert throwing long touchdown passes on two of the Cavaliers’ first three possessions. A methodical nine-play, 75-yard march on the opening possession was capped by a 33-yard scoring toss to Olamide Zaccheaus, and Joe Reed got loose for a 75-yard touchdown grab later in the first to make it 14-0.
Down 14-7 in the second quarter, Homer recovered a punt that Virginia muffed – making him the first offensive player to wear Miami’s famed Turnover Chain. He barely had the bling on before the Hurricanes tied it on a 36-yard TD catch by Dayall Harris.
Virginia got a spectacular grab from Andre Levrone with 33 seconds left in the half to take the lead back, and restored the 14-point cushion early in the third by cashing in on a blocked punt. Daniel Hamm became Benkert’s fourth TD pass recipient of the day, and Miami was in big trouble down 28-14.
Lawrence Cager caught a nine-yard pass for a score on Miami’s next possession, then Johnson had the pick-6 moments later and Miami was on its way.
Virginia: The Cavaliers just could not run the football at all, finishing with 55 yards on 28 carries – and their best was a harmless 23-yard scamper by Jordan Ellis as time expired. And in time, Miami’s defense figured Virginia out; the Cavaliers got two touchdowns in their first three possessions, then only two TDs in their next 12.
Miami: The last time Miami overcame a 14-point deficit was Sept. 22, 2012, against Georgia Tech, a game where the Hurricanes erased a 17-point hole and won in overtime. A hangover of sorts was expected after a pair of prime-time, raucous-environment wins against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, and Miami awoke just in time.
Benkert moved up three spots to No. 3 on the Cavaliers’ all-time passing list, and went from eighth to third on their single-season yardage list. Matt Schaub threw for 2,976 yards in 2002 and 2,952 yards in 2003; Benkert is now within 99 yards of him for the season record. Benkert also has 25 TD passes this season, three shy of Schaub’s school record in 2002.