Three-List Game Preview 2019: Virginia Heads To Miami After Bye

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Virginia is 2-0 in league play.
Joe Reed and the Cavaliers dive back into ACC play with a trip to Miami. ~ Photo courtesy Matt Riley/Virginia Athletics Media Relations

The Virginia football team travels to Coral Gables, Florida, this week to take on the Miami Hurricanes in a significant ACC Coastal matchup. The No. 20 Cavaliers sit atop the division with a 2-0 conference record, while the Hurricanes are still seeking their first win in conference as they are 0-2. Both teams are looking to bounce back from tough losses in their previous games.

The Canes’ comeback efforts fell short last week against Virginia Tech at home. Miami (2-3) fell behind 28-0 to the Hokies before completing a hail mary as the first half ended to make it 28-7 at halftime. The Hurricanes came all the way back to tie the game at 35 with just over three minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Virginia Tech responded and took a 42-35 lead with 1:03 remaining, but Miami was not done yet. The Canes drove all the way down the field to get to the Hokie 10-yard line before an incomplete pass as time expired ended the game.

While Virginia (4-1) fell on the road in South Bend, Indiana, to then No. 10 Notre Dame in its last game, the Cavaliers were on a bye week this past week. Unlike the Hurricanes in their game, the Hoos took an early lead and led 17-14 at halftime before losing 35-20. The bye week provided Virginia with some much-needed rest and time to focus on what went wrong against Notre Dame.

Since joining the ACC in 2004, Miami holds the edge in the series with Virginia, boasting a 9-7 record against the Cavaliers. The Canes had won three in a row against the Hoos, before Virginia defeated then 16th-ranked Miami, 16-13, last season in a night game at Scott Stadium that resulted in the fans storming the field. The Cavaliers will attempt to avoid repeating history from last year and not serve as the ranked team that suffers defeat on the road this time around.

Essentials

Three Questions

1. Can the Hoos play a complete game?

Going into the Notre Dame game, the narrative this season was that Virginia gets off to slow starts and relies on big second halves to either pull away from teams or take the lead. Not including the game against FCS level William & Mary, the Cavaliers had been outscored by their opponents in the first half of all three games by a total score of 45-30.

A slow start against the Irish was not what actually hurt the Cavaliers this time around. The Hoos scored a touchdown on the opening drive of the game and held a 17-14 lead at halftime, before being outscored 21-3 in the second half.

Virginia has yet to play a complete game against an FBS opponent this season, and that most likely will need to change in order to secure a victory against a talented team on the road.

2. Who will start and finish the game at quarterback for the Canes?

Through four games this season, it would have been very difficult to imagine asking this question. During fall camp, it was announced that Jarren Williams would be Miami’s starting quarterback. Williams beat out last year’s starter of six games N’Kosi Perry and prized Ohio State transfer Tate Martell for the job. Williams’ play in the first four games this year made it seem as though Miami head coach Manny Diaz had made the right decision in camp. Williams completed over 72 percent of his passes for 1,027 yards and six touchdowns without throwing an interception.

Then, the Canes took on Virginia Tech. Against the Hokies, Williams threw three interceptions in just seven pass attempts before Diaz yanked him. Perry replaced Williams, throwing for 422 yards and four touchdowns in the game.

Diaz announced Monday on the radio that Williams was still the starter. On Tuesday, Williams took limited reps in practice and worked with the training staff on an apparent shoulder injury. Additionally, Martell was seen working with the quarterbacks. Martell had transitioned to a wide receiver spot at the beginning of the season after not being named the starter. Wednesday afternoon, Diaz announced that Perry will actually be the starter, as Williams deals with this shoulder injury.

3. Will Virginia establish the run game?

The inability to do this against Notre Dame doomed the Cavaliers. From the opening kickoff, Virginia was unable to get anything going in the run game. On 29 attempts, the Hoos totaled just four rushing yards. Whether it was poor play calling, offensive line play, or a combination of both is irrelevant. The Cavaliers cannot afford for this to happen again against the Hurricanes. The struggles allowed for the Irish to focus on Virginia’s passing game and put constant pressure on the quarterback. Establishing some sort of run game early will give Bryce Perkins more time and allow for offensive coordinator Robert Anae to open up the playbook more.

Three Opponents to Watch

1. DeeJay Dallas, Running Back, #13

The 5’10”, 215-pound junior got off to a blazing hot start for the Canes this season, rushing for four touchdowns and totaling 309 rushing yards on 37 carries in just their first three games. While Dallas was held a little more in check in the following two games, carrying the ball 20 times for 100 yards, he is still averaging an astounding 7.2 yards per carry this year. As a team with questions at quarterback, Miami could lean heavily on Dallas throughout the game to power their offense.

2. Brevin Jordan, Tight End, #9

The 6’3”, 245-pound sophomore has been a go-to target for both Hurricane quarterbacks this season. Jordan leads the team in both receptions and receiving yards on the year with 23 catches for 369 yards. While Jordan started 11 games for Miami as a true freshman last season, he only totaled 287 receiving yards. In addition to being a threat in the passing game, Jordan has developed into a solid run blocker as well, clearing paths for Dallas. Look for whoever is playing quarterback at the time for the Canes to rely on Jordan when the Hoos bring pressure, but also, watch the role he plays in developing the run game.

3. Gregory Rousseau, Defensive Lineman, #15

The 6’6”, 260-pound redshirt freshman has been a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks this year. Rousseau leads the team in sacks with four and is tied for first in tackles for loss with 5.5. It is no secret that Virginia’s offensive line struggled mightily at Notre Dame and now has surrendered 15 sacks. Rousseau becoming acquainted with Bryce Perkins in the backfield Friday night could spell big trouble for the Cavaliers.

Three Matchups to Watch

1. Bryce Perkins vs. The Turnover Chain

Perkins has been turning the ball over at an alarming rate this season. After just five games, he has thrown six interceptions, only three less than he threw all of last year. Turning the ball over crushed Virginia’s chances at an upset against Notre Dame. In that game, Perkins had five costly turnovers with two interceptions and three fumbles.

Two seasons ago, Miami took over the college football world with the introduction of the turnover chain. Whenever a Hurricane defender causes a turnover, the player receives an expensive and flashy piece of jewelry to flaunt on the sideline. The Miami team and fans feed off of this exchange, and it gives both of them life.

On the season, the Canes have forced eight turnovers, through five fumbles recovered and three interceptions. The Hurricane defense winning this battle and putting on that chain more than once could be crucial if the hosts want to defeat the Cavaliers.

2. The Virginia Front Seven vs. Miami’s Offensive Line

The Cavaliers have been getting to opposing quarterbacks almost at will through five games. Virginia’s defense has 24 sacks on the year, as linebacker Jordan Mack leads the way with six sacks. The Hoos also have an impressive 42 tackles for loss this season. They will look to take advantage of a Miami offensive line that has struggled protecting their quarterbacks this year, giving up 25 sacks already. While the Cavalier front seven needs to try to beat up this offensive line to put pressure on the quarterback, this could also be key in containing Dallas and the Hurricane run game as well.

3. Joe Reed vs. Miami’s Kickoff Coverage Team

Reed has established himself as one of college football’s most elite kickoff returners. He is the only player in ACC history to have 1,700+ career kick return yards and a career average of 28+ yards per return. This season, Reed is averaging more than 34 yards per kickoff return and even took one all the way to the house for six against William & Mary.

He will be going up against a stout Miami kickoff coverage team. The Hurricanes have allowed only just over 20 yards per kickoff return this season. Virginia relies on Reed to set them up with good field position through his returns, so the Hurricanes limiting the damage Reed does on these will play an integral part in slowing down the Cavalier offense. Miami may even try to take him out the equation completely through directional or pooch kicks.

Remember When …

The No. 19 Hoos closed down the Orange Bowl in historic fashion in 2007. In the final Miami home game in the famed stadium, Virginia dealt the Canes their biggest shutout loss in the stadium’s history, 48-0.

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2 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Since several of those turnovers came when Perkins was blindsided and not from poor judgment of forcing passes, I think trying to compare to last year is certainly not an “apples to apples” comparison. I wonder how good Perkins could actually be if he had an offensive line that could provide even minimal protection.

  2. Perkins, like many QBs’, is unable to make good throw to receivers while rolling out of pocket and throwing across his body. More than 1 of his picks was caused by him trying to make this pass. He needs to tuck ball and run before trying to make a lucky pass and play within himself like he did most of last year. Think ACC title and not NFL draft.

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