Game Preview: UVA, Miami in Underachievers Bowl
The ‘Hoos (2-7, 1-4 ACC) host the Hurricanes (5-4, 2-3 ACC) on Saturday at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville.
Virginia, under Bronco Mendenhall, didn’t figure to contend for any championships, but on the heels of 5-7 and 4-8 finishes the past two seasons under the departed Mike London, campaigns that were marked by trouble finishing out games, the Cavs were figured to be in the running for bowl eligibility for the first time in forever.
Miami, for its part, seemed poised for a resurgence under new coach Mark Richt, who inherited a stocked cupboard from predecessor Al Golden, a top-flight recruiter who couldn’t seem to translate his Signing Day hauls into Ws in the fall.
The ‘Canes were a Top 10 team a month ago, but that was before losses in four of their last five.
UVA was blown out at home in its season opener against FCS Richmond, and things have basically gone downhill from there.
Getting to know: Miami
The offense averages 34.9 points and 415.7 yards per game. Quarterback Brad Kaaya in the linchpin (2,340 yards, 17 TD, 6 INT, 62.8 completion percentage, 147.2 QB rating).
Tailback Mark Walton is putting up some nice numbers in the backfield (774 yards, 10 TD, 5.4 yards per carry). Backup Joe Yearby is a top-notch changeup (522 yards, 6 TD, 6.0 yards per carry).
Stacy Coley is the volume receiver (45 catches, 8 TD, 10.9 yards per catch), and the deep threat is Ahmmon Richards (31 catches, 20.4 yards per catch, just 1 TD, though).
The D has good season stats (19.9 points per game, 359.1 yards per game), but has been getting eaten up a bit of late.
You’ll hear the name of linebacker Shaquille Quarterman a lot (56 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 5 QB hurries).
Punter Justin Vogel averages 44.3 yards per kick, with 16 of his 47 punts downed inside the 20.
Placekicker Michael Badgley, who seems to have been on campus forever, is 12-of-15 on field goals, including 6-of-6 on kicks of 40+, including a 51-yarder.
Badgley has touchbacks on 37 of his 60 kickoffs.
Getting to know: UVA
The UVA offense averages 25.4 points and 365.6 yards per game. These are pedestrian numbers in today’s college football world.
QB Kurt Benkert (2,287 yards, 19 TD, 11 INT, 57.5 completion percentage, 123.5 QB rating) has thrown three picksixes this season, including the game-winner last week in the 27-20 loss at Wake Forest, which scored its last 10 points with the aid of Benkert INTs.
Tailback Taquan Mizzell has run for 607 yards, 5.1 yards per carry, and has four rushing touchdowns, in addition to a team-leading 42 receptions (8.0 yards per catch, two receiving TDs).
Albert Reid has run for 396 yards (4.8 yards per carry).
Keeon Johnson has 40 catches and averages 9.8 yards per catch. Not a lot of yards per catch with this offense, which makes the low completion percentage for Benkert stand out even more.
The D is porous (32.0 points, 445.4 yards per game). Micah Kiser is good at linebacker (102 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks), and safety Quin Blanding has been good playing through injury (90 tackles, 2 INTs, 5 pass breakups).
The star of this team is punter Nicholas Conte, who leads the ACC with 45.5 yards per kick, and has placed 25 of his 55 kicks inside the 20.
Virginia has made just three field goals this season. Sam Hayward is 2-for-4 with a long of 36. Yikes.
Hayward and Dylan Sims have 15 touchbacks combined on 41 kickoffs.
This is just a bad team, that somehow had Louisville 13 seconds away from a monumental upset two weeks ago, go figure.
Preview by Chris Graham