Mike Hollins is a scoring machine!
7th TD of the season, 5th in last ✌️ games.
— Virginia Football (@UVAFootball) October 28, 2023
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — For the third year in a row, the football game between ACC rivals Virginia and Miami came down to the final play. For the second straight year, the Hurricanes were the ones celebrating at the end.
Miami, which edged UVA 14-12 in four overtimes at Scott Stadium last season, prevailed 29-26 on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium.
Only one overtime was required in this one after the fourth quarter ended with the score 23-23. The Cavaliers had the ball first, 25 yards from the end zone, but couldn’t get a first down and had to settle for sophomore Will Bettridge’s fourth field goal of the game, this one a 35-yarder.
Virginia’s defense had held the Canes to 251 yards of offense through four quarters, but the home team was not to be denied in overtime. Miami needed only three plays—all runs by tailback Mark Fletcher Jr.—to produce the winning touchdown.
“At the end of the day, they made one more play than we did,” UVA head coach Tony Elliott said, “and I gotta do a better job of having my guys ready in that moment to make the play.”
On the game’s final play, Fletcher broke two tackles en route to his 11-yard touchdown.
“We had an opportunity right there to get the ball-carrier on the ground at the end,” Elliott said. “But at the end of the day their guy in that particular moment, on that one particular play, he had a little bit more want-to, to get in the end zone, than for us to get him on the ground.”
The Wahoos saw their two-game winning streak ended and fell to 2-6 overall and 1-3 in the ACC. Four of their losses were by a combined 10 points.
Tailback Mike Hollins scored two touchdowns Saturday, and wide receiver Malik Washington caught 12 passes, tying his career high, for 152 yards.
Quarterback Tony Muskett had a pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown early in the third quarter, but he bounced back from that turnover and finished 24-for-38 passing for 239 yards.
Bettridge, who graduated from Gulliver Prep in nearby Miami, connected from 22, 23, 32 and 35 yards Saturday. He also kicked four fields against the Hurricanes last season.
“Amazing game by Bettridge,” Hollins said. “What a place to do it as well, here in Miami, his hometown. We know what he’s playing for, so I know it felt good for him and his family.”
Before the game, a moment of silence was observed in memory of Lavel Davis Jr., Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry, the three UVA football players who were shot and killed in Charlottesville last November after returning to Grounds from a class field trip.
Perry, also a Gulliver Prep graduate, wore jersey No. 41 at Virginia, and Bettridge switched to that number this year as a tribute to his late friend.
Perry’s parents were at the game Saturday, and their presence “was kind of that extra inspiration for us to do our jobs,” Bettridge said. “As we always talk about, we’re playing for something bigger than ourselves.”
Virginia came up with two takeaways—interceptions by cornerback Sam Westfall and linebacker Kam Robinson—but didn’t record any sacks. With 138 yards rushing, the Hoos became only the second team to top 100 yards on the ground against Miami (6-2, 2-2) this season, but they also allowed six sacks (for 30 yards in losses).
“That was probably the biggest negative in the game for us,” Elliott said.
To twice have to settle for field goals are driving inside the Miami was frustrating, but against a team as talented as Miami, Elliott said, “you’re gonna take points. Obviously, you want to score touchdowns in the red zone, but the biggest thing is coming away with points, and I’m proud of the guys for that.”
In a span of seven seconds early in the second half, the Cavaliers went from leading 10-3 to trailing 17-10. First, tailback Ajay Allen capped Miami’s first possession of the third quarter with a 26-yard touchdown run. Then, on the first play of the possession that followed, Miami safety Kamren Kinchens picked off a Muskett pass intended for wideout JR Wilson and returned it 29 yards for another TD.
The Hoos didn’t panic. Instead, they responded with 10 straight points to take a 20-17 lead.
“These kids have been through a lot of stuff, and they’re mentally tough,” Virginia offensive coordinator Des Kitchings said. “They’re physically tough, spiritually tough, and it continues to show.”
Nothing has come easily this season for Virginia, which dropped its first five games. As the final month of the regular season approaches, though, the Hoos bear little resemblance to the team that repeatedly self-destructed in September.
“I think what you saw [Saturday] is a football team that’s growing and becoming more confident and really, really internalizing what it is to play a four-quarter game,” Elliott said. “My message to these guys was, this is ACC football. This is what you want. You want to be in a one-possession, four-quarter game with the ball in your hands the last time to go seal the victory … It’s tough now, it’s hurting right now, because we’re on the other side. But I believe what you’ll see is down the stretch, more confidence will be gained to where when we’re in that situation again we find a way to make the play.”
UP NEXT: In its first game at Scott Stadium since Oct. 7, Virginia (2-6, 1-3) hosts ACC foe Georgia Tech (4-4, 3-2) next Saturday. The 2 p.m. game will air on The CW.
“It’l be great to be back at Scott Stadium, and truth be told I gotta figure out how to get the guys to defend Scott Stadium better,” said Elliott, who’s in his second season at UVA. “We have not won an ACC game in Scott Stadium yet. So we got a lot to play for. We got a lot of pride on the line. We need to defend our home turf. But we still got four [regular-season] games left. And one thing about me is, I’m not gonna stop believing. That’s what faith is. Faith is the hope of things to come and the evidence of things unseen. So there’s four games left, and we’re gonna battle.”
The Cavaliers defeated the Yellow Jackets 16-9 in Atlanta last season to take a 22-21-1 lead in a series that started in 1965.
Georgia Tech upset No. 17 North Carolina in Atlanta on Saturday night.
Virginia Team Notes
- Virginia dropped to 8-13 all-time against Miami. The Hurricanes have won eight of the 11 regular season meetings against UVA in Miami.
- Virginia rushed for 138 yards, only the second team this season (North Carolina – 238) to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark against Miami. The Hurricanes came into the game allowing 79.6 rush yards per game, the fewest of any ACC team.
- Miami totaled 276 yards of total offense, their lowest output of the 2023 season.
- Saturday marked the 13th overtime game in UVA history and the second-straight against Miami. UVA is 4-9 all-time in overtime games and 0-3 in overtime games against the Hurricanes (2022 – 12-14; 2008 – 17-24).
- Virginia was not penalized in the game, the first time UVA went without committing a penalty since 2016 against Richmond.
- The last three matchups against Miami have been decided by three or less points.
- Saturday marked the fifth game this season UVA held a double-digit lead and drops to 1-4 in those contests. The Cavaliers were up 10-0 with 8:46 remaining in the second quarter.
- Four of Virginia’s six losses this season have come by three or less points.
- UVA scored a touchdown on its opening drive for the third time in the last four weeks. The 12-play (season-high), 75-yard (T-season-high) drive took 4:27.
- Malik Washington matched his career-high with 12 catches and totaled 152 receiving yards in the contest. He extended his consecutive games with a reception streak to 33.
- Washington has recorded 100 or more yards in a game in six of the eight games this season. He tied Germane Crowell (6 in 1997) and Dontayvion Wicks (6 in 2021) for the most 100-yard games in a season in UVA history.
- Washington has put together three-straight 100-yard games (112 vs. W&M; 115 vs. North Carolina; 152 vs. Miami) for the second-time this season. He’s the only player ever at UVA to have three-straight 100-yard games twice in one season.
- Malik Washington’s 64-yard catch and run in the second quarter tied a career-long reception and was the second-longest play from scrimmage this season for Virginia. Washington had a 64-yard reception against Rutgers last season while playing for Northwestern.
- Mike Hollins rushed for two touchdowns, his third multi-touchdown game of the season. His seven rushing touchdowns this season are the most by a Cavalier since Brennan Armstrong’s nine in 2021 and the most by a UVA running back since Wayne Taulapapa rushed for 12 in 2019.
- True freshman Kam Robinson co-led the Cavaliers with nine tackles (seven solo) and was credited with his first career interception. The turnover led to UVA’s second touchdown of the game and put UVA up 20-17. A linebacker has recorded three of UVA’s six interceptions this season.
- Kicker Will Bettridge made all four of his field goal tries (22, 23, 32 & 35). He has made 12-straight field goals. The four field goals matched a career-high established against Miami last year.
- Tony Muskett surpassed the 1,000-yard passing mark for the season and finished 24-for-38 with and 239 yards. He has 1,020 yards passing in five starts this season. Muskett has 21 200-yard passing efforts in his career, including four-straight for UVA this season.
- Sam Westfall was credited with his first career interception, picking off Tyler Van Dyke to stall a first quarter Miami drive. It was Westfall’s 33rd career collegiate game.
- Defensive back Caleb Hardy and right tackle Blake Steen both made their first career starts in the contest. Hardy is UVA’s sixth true freshman to start a game this season.