The Miami Hurricanes were cold Saturday night at Scott Stadium. But not the type of cold that had the 39,112 fans bundled in winter coats, scarves and mittens for the late autumn chill.
No, the fans were quite warm from cheering heartily while their Cavaliers made the Canes look worse than they have in more than a month — not that the Canes needed much help.
Virginia defeated Miami 30-13, as the Canes dropped to 6-5 overall and 3-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“Obviously, Virginia played really well. Give them credit,” UM coach Al Golden said. “They beat us in all three phases.”
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Despite one of their victories being over FCS team Florida A&M, the Canes are still bowl-eligible. They have one remaining regular-season game Saturday at 7 P.M. against Pittsburgh at Sun Life Stadium.
Virginia (5-6, 3-4) needs to defeat Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale to qualify for a bowl.
Miami lost more than the game. Junior receiver Herb Waters sustained what appeared to be a serious injury after a helmet-to-helmet hit late in the third quarter.
With the Cavaliers up 13-7, UM’s defense initially held Virginia to what appeared to be a 21-yard field goal just before Waters’ injury, but cornerback Artie Burns was flagged for running into the kicker, giving the Cavaliers new life and an eventual 1-yard touchdown by Darius Jennings.
Virginia led 20-7 with 1:37 left in the third quarter to make it even tougher for the Hurricanes.
That’s when things got much worse.
On the ensuing kickoff, Waters was injured on a helmet-to-helmet hit by defensive back Mason Thomas. Waters was strapped to a gurney and driven by cart off the field, as his teammates prayed on their knees and star tailback Duke Johnson cried.
Waters was taken by ambulance to University of Virginia Medical Center.
ESPN2 reported that Waters was responsive and waved his right hand at his teammates. The network showed the ambulance driving away.
Just before midnight, UM reported that Waters was released from the hospital and was cleared to return home with the team.
Virginia’s defense held UM to 327 total yards — 64 rushing. The fans were so excited that they rushed the field after the game ended.
UM? Not so happy.
“We didn’t create enough takeaways and we didn’t convert enough on third down,” Golden said. “They stopped our run and hit [quarterback] Brad [Kaaya]. They hit Brad way too many times.”
After the game, tight end Walford was asked if any of the players addressed the Hurricanes about the game.
“I did say something, actually,’’ said Clive Walford, a senior who led all receivers with 105 yards on seven catches. “When we were in the locker room, I told the team, ‘We’ve got senior night coming up next week, and forget about the seniors. Let’s try to do it for Coach Golden. He always puts the team on his back and never pinpoints anybody. We need to just go out and do it for him.
“It was very emotional. Everybody was feeling what I was saying and we just broke it down after that.’’
Kaaya was sacked four times and continually hit hard. He completed 20 of 33 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown, with one interception.
“Don’t point fingers,” Kaaya said. “We all lost as a team. I have to be better. I have to make better plays. If they are blitzing, so what? I take ownership, for this too.”
Johnson gained 88 yards on 15 carries.
UM missed one of its best playmakers on defense in safety Deon Bush. But even when the Canes proved stout in stopping the Cavaliers, they proceeded to stop themselves with selfish penalties or just poor play.
Even some of Miami’s positive plays were tinged with the negative. Jamal Carter intercepted a 43-yard pass by Greyson Lambert with 12:30 left in the third quarter, then spiked the ball and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Miami moved back 13 yards and took over on its own 13.
The Canes moved down the field until a fourth-and-1 from the Virginia 39. But the usually adept Johnson couldn’t find the needed inches, and the stout Virginia run defense took over.
On another play, with 44 seconds left in the first half, UM kicker Mike Badgley’s 44-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Daquan Romero and picked up by Maurice Canady, who sprinted to the Miami 3. Reserve tackle Sunny Odogwu was the difference on that special-teams play, as Odogwu made a weak move and let Romero blow right past him and block the kick.
UM tight end Walford made an impressive tackle of Canady, and UM’s defense held the Cavs to a field goal. Virginia led 13-7 on the field goal that ended the first half.
Miami’s first-half touchdown came on a 47-yard pass from Kaaya to Phillip Dorsett late in the first quarter.
UM also scored with 1:24 left in the game on a blocked punt by Garrett Kidd that Hugo Delapenha ran in 13 yards to make it 30-13. The two-point conversion failed.
The Hurricanes won the toss and deferred. After stopping the Cavaliers, Kaaya threw 12-yard passes to Stacy Coley and then Malcom Lewis. On first-and-10 from the UM 36, Johnson bulled his way to the Virginia 45, before Canady stripped him of the ball, which was recovered by nickelback Tim Harris at the Virginia 38.
The Cavaliers got as far as the UM 32, but Virginia’s Ian Frye missed a 50-yard field-goal attempt wide left.