But don’t get distracted by the bright lights. The Cavaliers’ 28-21 victory was rooted in the dark trenches, where linemen push, scratch and grunt for every inch.
That’s the Cavaliers’ widest margin against a Division I-A opponent in Mike London’s two seasons as coach.
What’s that you say? Virginia scored the game’s first 17 points and forced the Hurricanes to abandon the run?
Not buying it. Miami averaged 3.0 yards on 28 rushes. Virginia averaged 4.9 on 42.
Kevin Parks averaged 5.3 on his 16 carries, Perry Jones 5.6 on his 12. This they did just as coaches draw it up: They bulldozed defenders inside, eluded them outside and ran through gaping holes opened by Oday Aboushi, Austin Pasztor, Anthony Mihota, Luke Bowanko and Morgan Moses.
No glitz there. Just brawn.
The Cavaliers defended the run equally well. Lamar Miller, the ACC’s No. 2 rusher, gained a modest 70 yards and averaged 4.4, well shy of his 5.8 norm.
Miller’s final carry came late in the fourth quarter and netted 5 yards. Virginia led 28-21, and Miami faced third-and-3 from the Cavaliers’ 16.
Virginia could ill afford OT. Not after leading 17-0. The defense needed to make a stand.
The Hurricanes handed to Mike James. Tackle Matt Conrath and end Jake Snyder stuffed him for a 1-yard gain. Fourth-and-2.
James got the call again and had no chance. Outside linebacker LaRoy Reynolds was in the backfield instantly and tackled him for a 1-yard loss with 5:02 remaining.
This was an impressive statement for an emerging program, and not simply because it was Virginia’s second consecutive victory over the five-time national champions.
Most important, Virginia showed the resiliency that defines successful teams.
The Cavaliers were fresh off a dispiriting 28-14 home loss to North Carolina State. They were working on a short week, with only three days of true practice, and were playing on the road, where they had lost seven straight ACC games.
That’s a credit to London, his staff and players.
Much will and should be made of Virginia’s long touchdown passes: quarterback Michael Rocco’s of 53 yards to Darius Jennings and 78 yards to Perry Jones, and Jones’ 37-yard option pass to Tim Smith. But offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s biggest contributions were more fundamental.
In concert with London, he scrapped the peculiar quarterback rotation that robbed the offense of all rhythm. He also returned to his personnel’s strength – Virginia had 42 rushes and 21 passes, a much wiser ratio than last week’s 33 rushes and 35 passes.