University of Miami

Miami Hurricanes can still win the Coastal Division and get into ACC championship game

University of Miami head coach Mark Richt comments on the loss against the Virginia Cavaliers.

University of Miami head coach Mark Richt comments on the loss against the Virginia Cavaliers at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday, October 13, 2018.
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University of Miami head coach Mark Richt comments on the loss against the Virginia Cavaliers at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday, October 13, 2018.

As bleak as it seems now for the University of Miami, the Canes can still take a repeat trip to Charlotte, North Carolina for the Atlantic Coast Conference title game on Dec. 1 at Bank of America Stadium.

If the Hurricanes — 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the ACC after losing 16-13 Saturday to Virginia — win out and Virginia (4-2, 2-1) loses one of its five remaining conference games, Miami would still win the Coastal Division of the ACC and meet the winner of the Atlantic Division —likely Clemson (6-0, 3-0).

UM still has games left against Boston College on Oct. 26, Duke at home on Nov. 3, Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Nov. 10, Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on Nov. 17 and Pittsburgh at home on Nov. 24.

“I say that we’re owning it,’’ said linebacker Shaq Quarterman, who told his teammates after the game to “look in the mirror.’’

“That’s one thing I told the team, we have to wn this night. It happened the way that it happened but we understand we still control our own destiny.”

Added coach Mark Richt: “We still have got an opportunity to get to Charlotte,” coach Mark Richt said. “That’s not dead. That’s not over.”

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Miami’s defense combined for nine tackles for loss, four sacks and forced three turnovers— two interceptions by sophomore Trajan Bandy and one by safety Sheldrick Redwine — on Saturday.

When asked about his decision to go for an onside kick with 3:04 left in the game, here’s what Richt said: “Once we got the penalty and the ball got moved up 15 yards, if you go onside and get it, it’s glorious. If you go onside and you don’t get it, usually the guy gets tackled right there.

“It was 10 to 15 yards of field position if you don’t get it and you still have time and three timeouts. You can still get a stop. But obviously, returning the ball as far as they did turned out to be bad. You can debate that both ways. If there wasn’t the penalty it wouldn’t have been a thought. We would have kicked it deep. You kick it deep, get a three-and-out, get the ball back, better field position. You’ve got some timeouts to work with.

“Could have gone that way or we might have got it and everybody would have thought it was a great idea. That’s how it is on those type of decisions. When they work they’re brilliant. When they don’t work you question them.”

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Coming into Saturday night’s Miami Hurricanes matchup with the Virginia Cavaliers, several Hurricanes true freshmen had made considerable contributions.

One of them, however, did not make the trip this weekend.

Brian Hightower, a 6-3, 210-pound former consensus four-star receiver out of IMG Academy, did not travel to Charlottesville after sustaining an injury this past week in practice, per WQAM. Hightower had played in every game leading into Saturday and had one start. He has 60 receiving yards on four catches and had a 32-yard touchdown in the opener against LSU.

Hightower is listed behind redshirt junior Lawrence Cager on the depth chart.

Leading UM receiver/return specialist Jeff Thomas, a sophomore who hurt his knee last week when he was yanked to the ground by his facemask and got up limping heavily, did travel to Charlottesville, and started.

As for the other true freshmen, the Virginia game featured two more Miami Hurricanes making memorable marks.

DJ Scaife, a 6-3, 300-pound Miami Southridge alum, got his first career start against the Cavaliers at right offensive tackle, causing a shift in the offensive line that included former right tackle Navaughn Donaldson, a sophomore, moving inside to guard and usual right guard Hayden Mahoney, a redshirt junior, moving to the left side.

And fellow true freshman Dee Wiggins, a 6-3, 195-pounder out of Miami Southridge, made his first career start at receiver alongside veterans Cager and Thomas.

Scaife and Wiggins became the and fourth and fifth Canes true freshmen to record a start. The others: tight end Brevin Jordan (five starts), tight end Will Mallory (one) and receiver Brian Hightower (one).

The top true freshman to contribute this season, with five starts in his six games played, has been tight end Jordan, who was tied for second in receptions with 15 and receiving touchdowns with four coming into Virginia. He had 174 receiving yards and was averaging 11.6 yards a catch.

Jordan, the nation’s No. 1 tight end as a high school player at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, immediately got substantial action after UM scholarship tight ends Michael Irvin II and Brian Polendey both sustained knee injuries that required surgery.

“Those guys are contributing [greatly],’’ UM senior preseason All-American safety Jaquan Johnson said this week of the nearly 20 true freshmen who have seen action. He cited cornerback and special teams standout Al Blades, Jordan “on offense, making plays and blocking well’’ and receiver Dee Wiggins, a guy who down the field blocks.

“Once you see effort like that from a freshman, they make you want to play better.’’

The No. 16 Canes had two interceptions in the first quarter Saturday. The first was by cornerback Trajan Bandy at 11:49. The next was by safety Sheldrick Redwine at 2:39. But Virginia came back on the next drive and intercepted UM quarterback N’Kosi Perry for Perry’s fourth pick of the season.

UM confirmed this weekend that Charles “CJ’’ Perry, a 6-1, 230-pound senior reserve linebacker out of West Palm Beach, was no longer on the team. Perry, who played in four games this season, had one tackle. He played in nine games last year with 15 tackles before a season-ending injury against Notre Dame. Because of a new NCAA rule, Perry could transfer and use this season as a redshirt year, then play next season. Or if he gets his degree, he would be eligible to play without redshirting.

The Canes captains for Virginia were guard Mahoney, receiver Thomas, tailback Travis Homer and safety Jaquan Johnson.

UM coach Mark Richt was named a midseason candidate for the Bobby Dodd Trophy, which goes to the coach of the year who also stresses the importance of scholarship, leadership and integrity. The midseason list includes 17 of the nation’s top college football coaches representing six conferences and Notre Dame.

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