MIAMI GARDENS — The Hurricanes narrowly escaped a second straight upset bid by Virginia.
The Cavaliers beat then-No. 10 North Carolina last week and put a scare into Miami, taking a three-point lead into the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
But the Hurricanes pulled out the points they needed in overtime, beating Virginia 29-26 at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday on Mark Fletcher’s 11-yard touchdown run.
“Football is football and I’m not going to waste a lot of time in the locker room talking about the things that we didn’t do well,” Miami coach Mario Cristobal said. “I’m going to focus on the fact that we found a way to win and make sure that we congratulate each other because, obviously, we are going to get back to work tomorrow and do the things that we need to to get better.”
For the second week in a row, Miami (6-2, 2-2 ACC) went to the wire with its opponent.
Virginia (2-6, 1-3 ACC) kicker Will Bettridge, a Miami Gulliver Prep alum, kicked a go-ahead field goal with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter. The Hurricanes responded with a 48-yard field goal from Andy Borregales with 1:23 left in the quarter.
Freshman Rueben Bain Jr. notched a crucial third-down sack to force a punt and end the Cavaliers’ attempt to win the game in regulation.
For the second time in two weeks, the Hurricanes had success in overtime. UM forced a field goal from Bettridge, giving UVA a 26-23 lead. But Fletcher, returning from a stress fracture in his foot that has kept him out since September, broke two tackles en route to the end zone to end it.
“Feels great to be back,” Fletcher said. “Just making an impact like that, it’s what I dreamed of as a kid. It’s crazy I did it.”
Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke returned from an injury that kept him out of the victory against Clemson, but he struggled to get in a rhythm against Virginia. The veteran quarterback finished the game with 20 of 30 passing for 163 yards and threw two interceptions.
“Oivously did not play well at all,” Van Dyke said. “They did a great job. I’ve got to give credit to them, mixing it up. Just trying to make me force things and dump underneath. Kind of got greedy a little bit. Just got to check the ball down more than even when I did today. Just got to be better, better decision-making. But at the end of the day, my teammates got me. Defense did a great job giving the offense a chance to win the game.”
Miami’s running game did not bail out its quarterback, as the Hurricanes averaged just 4.3 yards per carry. The result was an anemic offense that scored just 22 points, that number helped by the score-aiding overtime setup.
The first half was ugly for Miami. Virginia moved the ball relatively easily on its first drive, rolling with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Mike Hollins.
The Hurricanes’ offense got off to one of its worst starts of the season. Miami punted on three of its first four drives. The one time it did not punt, quarterback Tyler Van Dyke threw an interception.
Fortunately for UM, the defense stepped up and held the Cavaliers in check for much of the first half. Miami forced punts on two of Virginia’s first-half drives and ended the half with a sack. The Cavaliers scored three points on a field goal, but that came after the Hurricanes surrendered a 64-yard catch by Malik Washington after a missed tackle.
Van Dyke, returning from an injury that kept him out of the Clemson game, struggled to start. He went one for four for eight yards in the first quarter and had an underthrown pass intercepted by Sam Westfall.
The offense had a better drive late in the second half, ending with a 47-yard field goal by Andy Borregales to get Miami on the board.
After trailing for nearly the entire first half, running back Ajay Allen scored Miami’s first touchdown of the game. Allen, a Nebraska transfer, hurdled over Virginia safety Jonas Sanker en route to the end zone with 10:44 left in the third quarter.
When the Cavaliers got the ball back after the ensuing kickoff, All-American safety Kamren Kinchens picked off the pass and ran untouched to the end zone.
But Virginia took Miami’s punch and came right back, taking the lead back on a 10-yard run by Mike Hollins. Borregales kicked his second field goal of the game to tie the teams at 20 with 9:26 left in the fourth quarter.
Bettridge kicked the go-ahead field goal with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter. Borregales matched the fellow South Floridian, setting up the overtime win.
“Me and him have a great relationship,” Borregales said. “Even before the game, it was just a simple, normal conversation. Just make sure that he balls out and that I ball out. We’re both from South Florida, so there’s a little different connection there because we’ve been going at it since middle school.”
Van Dyke struggles in return
Although Van Dyke was healthy enough to return for Saturday’s game, he was clearly off.
The veteran quarterback threw a pair of interceptions and finished the game 20 of 30 for 163 yards. The Cavaliers scored a touchdown off his second interception, which proved crucial in the low-scoring game.
“It wasn’t a good day,” Cristobal said. “I think, the other games, yeah there were some throws he’d like to take back, but it’s also when you play come-from-behind football, you’re going to get some of that. Today was muddy. Today was muddy. Things weren’t as clear as they have been in the past. We’ve got to scheme it up better. We’ve got to coach better and we’ve got to play better. I don’t want to, in any way, shape or form, say anything but Tyler [Van Dyke] is our quarterback and he’s done a really good job in a lot of instances. Today wasn’t his best day and that happens sometimes.
Running game sputters
The Hurricanes also returned running backs Henry Parrish Jr. and Mark Fletcher Jr. from injuries. Parrish missed one game, while Fletcher missed three.
Despite their returns and a solid performance by Allen, the Hurricanes did not get its desired production from its run game. Miami ended the game with 113 rushing yards on 26 carries for an average of 4.3 yards.
Allen had one of the few highlights on the ground, jumping over a defender on his way to the end zone. Fletcher did cap the game with an impressive score, aided by offensive lineman Javion Cohen pushing him toward the end zone.
“Did you see that boy in the air?” Fletcher said. “Man, that was crazy. I ran on the field after that. Coach was like, ‘Don’t do that again.'”
Borregales continues his strong efforts
Borregales was nearly all of Miami’s offense in the Hurricanes’ win over Virginia last year. He was a prime contributor this time.
“Thank God for Andy Borregales,” Van Dyke said. “Without him, I think we would’ve lost the game.”
Borregales knocked in two field goals from 47, 48 and 50 yards, keeping Miami in the game. He knocked in the game-tying field goal with 1:23 left in the fourth quarter.
“He wants those opportunities,” Cristobal said. “And just as effective on his kick-offs. I mean, every single one is a touchback. There is a lot of confidence in him. We were willing to kick it 55 yards, maybe a little bit more if that was the situation. Probably 53, 54 that way and 56 this way. He’s awesome.”
The Hurricanes’ defensive front had another strong game, getting to Virginia quarterback Tony Muskett several times.
Miami notched six sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Branson Deen had two sacks, Francisco Mauigoa had 1.5 sacks, Wesley Bissainthe had one sack, Rueben Bain Jr. had two sacks and Jayden Wayne had half a sack.
“Our D-line, they’ve been doing their thing,” Mauigoa said. “They’ve been really good at pass rushing. We’ve got the best interior in the nation. They were doing their job. No surprise that those guys were in the backfield.”
For the second straight time, Miami went to overtime at Hard Rock Stadium. For the second straight time, they ended with a celebration.
The Hurricanes’ defense held up, forcing a field goal in the first overtime. Fletcher pounded the ball on the ground in overtime to secure the win. With the victory, the Hurricanes are now bowl-eligible after falling short last year.
“The best way to put it is, our team by now should feel that there is not a situation that we can’t overcome,” Cristobal said. “We’ve seen a lot of being down in the fourth quarter. We’ve seen ourselves turn the ball over. We’ve been in holes, we’ve been up and then behind. All of that stuff, it’s important. It’s difficult on the heart a little bit, but besides that, it’s really good for your football team to be able to respond the way they did, so we’re moving forward.”