Today, the Canes were in Charlottesville in search of revenge and another step forward in growth. We all remember what happened last year in the Orange Bowl against Virginia. The surreal scene of confetti shooting into the air, the final game in OB history, and the scoreboard saying Cavaliers 48, Canes 0.
The Canes and Jacory Harris erased it and made a new memory. Trailing 17-10 late in the game, Harris engineered a 97-yard scoring drive to tie the game in regulation and then found Aldarius Johnson for the winning touchdown pass in overtime. It's a huge win for Miami, which is now 6-3, bowl eligible and in the hunt for an ACC title. Here's a recap of how it all went down.
> The Canes will start the extra period on offense. This is UM's first overtime game since they pulled out a win at Clemson three years ago.
> Graig Cooper, who has 125 yards rushing today, picks up a big first down with a 12-yard run. But UM gets flagged again for false start (AJ Trump's second) on the next play Facing a third down and 6, Harris puts UM in front by finding Aldarius Johnson for a touchdown. UM 24, Virginia 17.
> Now, can the defense hold? Yes, they do! Cedric Peerman gets the opening carry of the drive and gets stripped by Lovon Ponder and Romeo Davis falls on it. The Canes are bowl-eligible. And ACC-Championship eligible.
SECOND HALF THOUGHTS/HIGHLIGHTS
> Miami gets the second half opening kickoff and Robert Marve moves back in at quarterback. It doesn't go well. On third down and seven, Marve gets intercepted by Chase Minnefield at the UM 44. But the Cavaliers aren't able to cash in as UM's defense holds them and forces them to punt with 12:51 left in the third quarter. Miami takes over at its own 7.
> WQAM reports left tackle Jason Fox will not return today. Fox was injured late in the first quarter when Javarris James landed on his right knee. The injury is not believed to be serious.
> Unfortunately, that's not going to change the fact UM just turned the ball over for the third time. Graig Cooper gets stripped after picking up a first down on third and long, but loses the football and UVA takes over with 11:35 left at the UM 34.
> The Cavaliers get great field position and move to the UM 21. But Yanick Reyering misses a 38-yard field goal wide right and the Canes catch a break with 9:33 left in the quarter.
> One of my keys to the game was for UM to avoid third and long, but it seems the Canes have faced it on at least 80 percent of their drives. It's tough to win a game when you got to convert third and long. The Canes are 1 of 9 on third down today.
> Matt Bosher at least gets off a 57 yard punt that changes the field position. UVA will take over at its own 31 after a 14-yard return by Vic Hall.
> For the second straight week, it looks like Bill Young has made the right adjustments at halftime. Despite being in some big holes, the defense has stiffened and hasn't allowed Virginia to capitalize on the offenses mistakes.
> Jacory Harris re-enters the game at quarterback for UM on the Canes' third offensive possession of the second half. UM still can't move the ball and go three-and-out again.
> Glenn Cook, Miami's leading tackler, has now joined the injured list. UM is already without Darryl Sharpton. Javarris James is not expected back according to WQAM and Thearon Collier appears to have a hamstring injury. UM's depth is going to get a test today.
> Cook returns, but he's not able to help Miami stop Virginia on fourth down. The Cavaliers convert on 4th and 5 at the UM 33 as quarterback Marc Verica doesn't even break a sweat and has all time to throw. The Cavaliers will start the fourth quarter with the ball on the UM 31 and facing a third and long.
> Virginia's Yannick Reyering misses another field goal -- this time from 47 yards -- and the Canes catch a break again.
> Miami has another third and short and gets flagged for a false start -- this time its Joel Figueroa. UM ends up having to punt the ball from midfield and Virginia takes over with 11:32 left to play.
> Virginia moves the ball right down field, picking apart UM's secondary when the Canes bring the pressure and Allen Bailey sacks Marc Verica back at the 40-yard line. Huge play for the UM defense. Josh Holmes deserves credit for the pressure. Miami will take over at its 4-yard line with 8:01 to play.
> Miami appears in big trouble with a 3rd and 13 from its own 2-yard line, but Jacory Harris finds Sam Shields at the first down marker to keep the drive alive. Shields stretched high to make the catch.
> Absolutely amazing. Harris engineers an amazing 97-yard drive and caps it with a 26-yard touchdown pass to freshman Laron Byrd, who wrestles the ball away in the end zone with 55 seconds left. UM 17, Virginia 17.
> Virginia looks like its going to set itself up for the winning field goal. Then, another baby Bull steps up. Sean Spence strips the ball from Marc Verica and UM takes over at its own 31-yard line when Bruce Johnson recovers it with 31 seconds left.
> Harris moves UM into field goal range when he completes a 36-yard pass to Travis Benjamin. Miami takes one final crack at the end of regulation, but Matt Bosher's 51-yard field goal attempt falls short. We are going to overtime.
FIRST HALF THOUGHTS/HIGHLIGHTS
> Miami catches a break when Virginia goes three-and-out to start the game, but the Canes return the favor when the punt bounces off Travis Benjamin's leg and UVA recovers the ball at the UM 32. The Canes catch a break as Virginia cannot convert it into a touchdown. Instead, Yannick Reyering converts a 23-yard field goal with 11:44 left in the first quarter. Virginia 3, UM 0.
> The Canes have run three special teams and already made two mistakes. Benjamin fumbles and now Ryan Hill gets called for calling a fair catch on the opening kickoff and Benjamin isn't even allowed to return it. Not smart.
> Robert Marve has stayed hot. After being the key ingredient in UM's win against Wake Forest last week, he leads UM right back down the field for a touchdown. He connects on a 44-yard pass to Thearon Collier to start the drive, then a key fourth down completion to Collier and then scrambles and dives into the end zone on third down at the 6 to put UM ahead with 6:45 left to play in the first quarter. That was officially the longest scoring drive of the season -- 10 plays, 87 yards, 4 minutes, 59 seconds.UM 7, Virginia 3.
> Virginia has answered right back with a trio of big plays of its own. Kevin Ogletree scores on an end around with a 16-yard run. The big play was a breakdown on third down when Marc Verica finds Maurice Covington wide open in the middle of the field for a 33-yard gain down to the UM 32. Virginia 10, UM 7.
> Bad news. Maybe the worst news the Canes can get in a game like this. Left tackle Jason Fox goes down when Javarris James lands on his right leg and he collapses to the floor with 45 seconds left in the first quarter. He gets helped off the field, but walks off under his own power. Reggie Youngblood replaces Fox at left tackle. Stay posted.
> WQAM sideline reporter Brian "The Beast" London says Fox is being stretched out and could return today. The injury might not be as bad as initially thought.
> Since Miami's scoring drive, the Canes have sputtered to generate any points despite moving the football. The killer? Penalties. Orlando Franklin and Fox have been called for false starts on both of those drives, bringing up first and 15.
> Miami's defense has appeared to settle down after giving up the go-ahead touchdown. Virginia has gone on back-to-back three and outs. Sean Spence has done a nice job wrapping up. UM will take over at the UVA 43 with 11:59 left in the half. The Canes need a score here. Jacory Harris enters the game at quarterback.
> Harris comes in and immediately finds Davon Johnson, who makes a beautiful diving catch along the sideline at the Virginia 25-yard line. But the drive stalls when Harris' third down pass to Kayne Farquharson picks up seven yards instead of nine. Matt Bosher comes in and drills a 33-yard field goal with 9:23 left. UM 10, Virginia 10.
> The game isn't tied for very long. Virginia answers UM's scoring drive when Marc Verica finds Jared Green (the son of former Redskins defensive back Darrell Green) for a 2-yard TD pass. That caps a 9-play, 80-yard drive in 4:19. Bruce Johnson got flagged on a key third down play for pass interference to keep the drive alive. The Canes also gave up several long runs to Cedric Peerman, who broke back-to-back tackles from Brandon Harris and Ryan Hill on a 16-yard run. Virginia 17, UM 10.
> The Canes can't answer. Another penalty (holding on Thearon Collier) moves the offense backward. Graig Cooper tries his best on 3rd and 17 at the UM 15 to pick up the first down, but his draw finishes a yard shy of the first down marker.
> Despite trailing at the half, Miami has done a real good job moving the football today. They've outgained Virginia 203 to 177. The Canes have 18 carries for 87 yards rushing -- that's a 5.6 average -- and the U has completed 7 of 13 attempts for 103 yards. It's the penalties -- 7 for 56 yards (more than UM's season average) -- that has killed the Canes today. Cedric Peerman is having a real nice day rushing the football with 66 yards on 10 carries.
The majority of the guys who will lead the charge for UM today -- those talented freshmen -- had nothing to do with that game. Receiver Travis Benjamin, in fact, was on his way to the game last year when he turned his radio on heard the score and decided to turn back around. It's quite possible a similar butt-whooping could happen today at Virginia. The Cavaliers have won four straight games including back-to-back wins over Top 25 ranked opponents. Their defense leads the ACC in sacks with 23 and running back Cedric Peerman is one of the ACC's best, having run for over 100 yards in three of his last four games including a combined 7 touchdowns.
KEYS TO THE GAME
> Do not let Peerman beat you: Virginia's offense doesn't score a ton of points. The Cavaliers are only averaging a shade over 17 points a game (10th best in the ACC). But one thing Virginia does well is get the ball in the hands of its star running back (something UM hasn't been doing well lately). Peerman has 30 receptions this season and leads the team in rushing with 541 yards rushing this season -- most of that over the last four games. If Miami can put the clamps on Peerman, they can slow down the Virginia offense.
> Protect Robert Marve and Jacory Harris: Last week, Marve made his biggest impact with his legs -- when he rolled out and threw on the run and when he decided to tuck it and run. This week, Marve's likely going to spend the majority of the game trying to figure out the Cavalier's 3-4 defense and running away from outside linebacker Clint Sintim, who leads the ACC in sacks with 10. Virginia is a big physical team and the Canes have to make sure Sintim (6-3, 254) isn't devouring their young quarterbacks.
> Avoid 3rd and long on offense:Miami's offense leads the ACC in scoring with over 32 points a game. But the Canes do not score a lot of points because they take their time dissecting defenses. UM usually scores quickly. Eighteen of UM's 24 touchdowns this season have come on drives of four minutes or less. What usually stalls those drives are when Miami can't establish the run on first and second down. UM's third down conversion rate is 35.6 percent, sixth best in the ACC. Coach Randy Shannon said the Canes have to establish the running game this week. Consider that the key to third down success.
> Travis Benjamin, receiver: Without question, Benjamin has been the biggest key to the Canes scoring success. It seems like every week he makes a big play that leads to a score, whether its on a punt or kick return or a big catch. Miami needs TB (The Blur) to remain a threat and to deliver at least a handful of times.
> Matt Bosher, kicker: Miami's team MVP was named a Groza semifinalist (the nation's top award for kickers) this week. It's rare for kickers to have such a tremendous impact on games, but Bosher has become a key to the Canes' success this season. Not only does he have seven tackles (which is key on kick and punt return coverage), he's been red-hot on field goals converting 12 of 13. His punting average 40.26 is 3rd best in the ACC. Once a week, though, it seems he shanks one. Miami needs another great game from Bosher and less of those shanks.
On The Bubble
> Xavier Shannon, center: The X-man has had some major struggles with his snaps lately. He keeps snapping the ball high. But it hasn't caused a turnover yet. This week, Shannon is going to face a pure nose tackle for the first time with Virginia running the 3-4 defense. Miami needs Shannon to do a good job pointing out where the pressure is coming from and to hold his own.
> Miami's linebackers: Darryl Sharpton is listed as questionable and might not be as effective as he's been this season. Romeo Davis did a nice job last week filling in for Sharpton when he was out. The Canes are going to need Davis, Glenn Cook and Sean Spence to continue to play well this week against Peerman.