The Miami Hurricanes (6-2, 2-2 ACC) did not play as well as they are capable of, but they still escaped Hard Rock Stadium with an overtime win over Virginia on Saturday.
The victory was their second consecutive overtime win following their two-overtime victory over Clemson last week.
Here are 10 things we learned from UM’s sixth win of the season:
Van Dyke is out of sorts
Hurricanes quarterback Tyler Van Dyke returned from a knee injury that kept him out against Clemson, but it was not a triumphant return. The fourth-year junior completed 20-of-30 passes for just 163 yards and threw two interceptions. A third pass was nearly picked off by the UVA defense, as well.
Van Dyke struggled to get into a rhythm, and he had his worst passing game of the season. After starting off the season on a roll, Van Dyke has now thrown seven interceptions in his past three games. Pro Football Focus said Van Dyke had three turnover-worthy passes on Saturday, which was 10 percent of his throws. That was his highest percentage of turnover-worthy throws in a game this season, nearly double his previous high.
Whether it’s a confidence problem, lingering injuries or just mistakes, Van Dyke will need to regain his form for the Hurricanes to have a successful end to the season.
“I feel confident,” Van Dyke said. “I’ve just got to make better decisions. I can’t force the ball down the field when it’s not there. Got to make more plays with my feet and check the ball down even more.”
Defense bends but doesn’t break
Virginia opened the game with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that the Cavaliers ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Mike Hollins. Things would not be so easy for them for the rest of the game.
The Hurricanes allowed only one more touchdown for the rest of the game. Two other times — once in the second quarter and once in the third quarter — Virginia advanced inside the Miami 10-yard line only to have UM’s defense shut things down. On those two drives, the Hurricanes held the Cavaliers to field goals.
The defense came up big again at the end of regulation and in overtime, keeping the Cavaliers out of the end zone and holding them to field goals, allowing Miami to tie the game late and score the winning touchdown in overtime.
“Just bend don’t break,” safety Kamren Kinchens said. “We kind of let them get down there. They’re getting confidence, and we’ve just got to take the confidence back and put it on our side. … If we could get a pick or a turnover, something like that, that’d be great. But if we can hold them to three, that’s better than six.”
Borregales saves the day
There’s something about Andy Borregales when he is facing Virginia.
Borregales kicked four field goals to score 12 of Miami’s 14 points in a four-overtime win last season. This season, he kicked three crucial field goals from 47, 48 and 50 yards away. His last field goal of the night, a 48-yarder, tied the game with 1:23 left in the fourth quarter.
“Thank God for Andy Borregales,” Van Dyke said. “Without him, I think we would’ve lost the game.”
Borregales has made 15 of his 16 field goals this season.
“I think of every kick as the same,” Borregales said. “If it’s a game-winning or game-tying kick, I kind of just have a mentality of ‘I only get one shot.’
“That’s kind of how it is as a kicker, and you kind of just got to go into it like that. You just don’t want to miss ever.”
Offensive line excels
Miami’s offensive line continued its strong season with perhaps its most impressive effort yet. Van Dyke was untouched in the win. Not only did the offensive line keep Van Dyke from getting sacked, Pro Football Focus says the line did not allow one quarterback pressure all game.
All five offensive linemen earned pass-blocking grades of 77.9 or better from Pro Football Focus. Right guard Anez Cooper and left guard Javion Cohen led the way with 86.6 grades, while center Matt Lee had an 83.9, right tackle Francis Mauigoa had an 81.8 and left tackle Jalen Rivers had a 77.9.
All five linemen had strong overall grades, and Cohen had the best overall offensive score with an 89.1 grade. Cohen also had a helping hand in Mark Fletcher Jr.’s game-winning touchdown run, helping push the freshman running back into the end zone.
“I just felt a big weight pushing me to the end zone,” Fletcher said. “I checked the replay, and that was my boy JaVo.”
Pass rush gets home
The Hurricanes spent a lot of time in Virginia’s backfield, racking up six sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
Defensive end Rueben Bain Jr. and defensive tackle Branson Deen had two sacks each, linebacker Francisco Mauigoa had 1.5 sacks and defensive end Jayden Wayne had half a sack.
Miami had 20 total pressures in the win. Bain led Miami with a 78.8 pass-rushing grade, while Mauigoa was second with a 74.8 pass-rushing grade.
“Rueben Bain continues to play at a super-high level,” Cristobal said. “And we need more. And we’ve got to play more complementary football. Our defense was on the field for a long time. That’s not the formula for success. So tremendous credit to the entire defense.”
Running game does just enough
The Hurricanes managed 113 rushing yards on 26 carries in their win. Those totals are in the bottom half of rushing attempts, rushing yards and yards per carry this season.
Some of that is attributed to the Hurricanes’ running back room dealing with injuries. Henry Parrish Jr., who missed the win over Clemson, played just eight snaps. Don Chaney Jr. warmed up but did not play. Fletcher, who scored the winning touchdown, was in his first game back following a stress fracture in his foot.
“That entire running back crew, they’ve had their nicks and their bumps, more than that,” Cristobal said. “Sometimes, it’s who wins the job that week, but other times, it’s some guys are banged up.”
Ajay Allen took the bulk of the carries Saturday, notching 67 yards on 11 carries. Much of his yardage came on an impressive, 26-yard touchdown run. Fletcher shouldered much of the load later in the game, rushing for 47 yards on 11 carries and running in the game-winning score. Allen and Fletcher’s touchdowns were Miami’s only two runs that gained 10 yards or more.
Safeties come up big
Miami’s safety duo of Kinchens and James Williams put on strong performances in Saturday’s win.
Kinchens had nine tackles, half a tackle for loss and a pick-six. Williams had a team-leading 13 tackles. Both players had key tackles on Virginia’s overtime drive, holding UVA to a field goal.
“I guess that’s coach Guidry, just giving him a bunch of confidence in being very reactionary, instilling in his head to wrap up,” Kinchens said of Williams. “Don’t always have to make the big hit. You can just see it on full display now.”
Akheem Mesidor is out for the year
Cristobal announced some bad news after the game, saying that defensive end Akheem Mesidor will miss the remainder of the season with an injury.
Mesidor has been out since Week 2 with an apparent foot injury. He had five tackles and one sack in two games. Mesidor is the second Miami defensive end to suffer a season-ending injury. Cristobal said last Monday that sophomore Nyjalik Kelly will also likely miss the remainder of the season.
“We miss (Mesidor) because he’s a great player,” Cristobal said.
The Hurricanes will go bowling
Last year, Miami failed to qualify for a bowl game due to poor performance for the first time since 2007 (UM self-imposed a bowl ban from 2011-12 and did not play in a bowl game due to COVID-19 in 2021).
The Hurricanes can check that goal off the list now, qualifying for the postseason with their sixth win of the year.
“That’s nice,” Fletcher said, “but like I said, we’re just worried about next week, and we’ll worry about it when the time comes.”
Team is tougher than before
Miami has been in tough situations throughout this season. The Hurricanes battled back from an early deficit against Texas A&M, and they picked up back-to-back overtime wins against Clemson and Virginia.
The season has not been without its bumps, including a tough loss to UNC and a still-unbelievable defeat to Georgia Tech, but UM bounced back from back-to-back losses with back-to-back wins. Van Dyke said past teams he has been on may have folded in those situations, but this team continued to battle.
“That’s the culture,” Kinchens said. “That’s what coach Cristobal is trying to instill in us. You can kind of see it being on full display now. We’re not letting each other’s heads go down. Offense didn’t have a great game, but sometimes defense don’t have a great game, and they’ve got to pick us up. So we’re just playing complementary football as much as we can, and we’re just staying as a team and trying to stack wins.”