London overcome by emotion after Virginia's statement victory over Miami

Mike London is neither deaf, blind nor numb. He heard and read the scathing reviews of his Virginia football team, and they hurt.

So as the clock expired Saturday on the Cavaliers' improbable 24-19 conquest of 22nd-ranked Miami, as a nine-game ACC losing streak vanished and students rushed the field, London buckled from the emotion, relief and fatigue.

He dropped to a knee near the sideline, and even 20-plus minutes later had to pause several times attempting to describe the moment.

"In that locker room is a bunch of proud football players and coaches," London finally said.

None more so than the boss himself. Even as the Cavs (4-4, 1-3 ACC) staggered through the season's first seven games, even as they absorbed three conference beatings by 66 points combined, even as he disciplined players for violating his non-negotiable academic expectations, London refused to go negative.

His players and coaching staff responded with the program's most unlikely upset since a 2005 beating of fourth-ranked Florida State.

"We saw this coming," offensive tackle Oday Aboushi said. "It was a matter of time before we broke out. We have the heart, we have the courage."

Few, if any, outside Virginia's locker room anticipated this. The Cavaliers hadn't won an ACC game in 378 days and appeared to be regressing since an encouraging 17-14 loss at Southern California early last month.

But Aboushi and his line mates yielded no sacks to a defense that had 25, second nationally, in its first seven games.

"That is something (where) you say, 'Man, that's impressive,' " London said.

"I've been saying this through the downs and the ups," cornerback Chase Minnifield said. "This team isn't going to lay down."

Minnifield (two) and safeties Corey Mosley (two) and Rodney McLeod (one) combined for five interceptions, tying a school record and matching the team's total in the first seven games.

Minnifield's first pick came in the second quarter as tackle John-Kevin Dolce flattened Miami quarterback Jacory Harris with a terrifying-but-legal helmet-to-sternum blow. Harris remained on his back for several minutes and never returned, forcing the Hurricanes to employ reserves Spencer Whipple and Stephen Morris, the latter a true freshman making his college debut.

"It kind of rung my bell as well," Dolce said of the hit on Harris.

But Miami fans should not be delusional. Virginia had established itself as superior, on this day, before Harris' exit.

Indeed, as London forcefully noted, the Cavaliers were without two starters: tight end Joe Torchia (shoulder) and cornerback Ras-I Dowling (leg).

"I think we've hit a point where the players feel like it's coming together," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor said.

Zany suggestions to the contrary, Lazor and London have insisted that senior Marc Verica is the Cavaliers' best quarterback option, and he rewarded them Saturday with an efficient 19-of-27 that netted 176 yards and a 16-yard touchdown to tight end Colter Phillips on a fourth-and-3.

Plus, Verica passes converted two third downs in the waning minutes as Virginia milked the clock after watching a 24-0 lead wilt.

"It doesn't get any harder than when the defense knows you're going to go run, run pass," Lazor said.

Changing attitudes and expectations is difficult, too, and London believes he's making progress. The season's closing stretch versus Duke, Maryland, Boston College and Virginia Tech is testy but not overwhelming, and two more Ws would make 2010 an unqualified success.

"Once you now what you're capable of, there's no going back," Aboushi said.

No doubt. The task is to build on this, and that means beating Duke.

Saturday's attendance of 39,528, more than 20,000 shy of capacity, was again weak. But the crowd included many top-shelf recruits, who presumably liked what they saw.

And those fans who did post reveled on the field with the players.

"Then we came back into the locker room and celebrated again," London said. "They're probably in there celebrating right now. When we finish, I'm going to go back in there and celebrate with them."

David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at For more from Teel, read his blog at, and follow him at Sign up for text alerts by texting "BIGSPORTS" to 71593.

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