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Analysis: Miami did everything right but make the kick

misch
Grant Misch and Jacob Rodriguez celebrate Virginia’s 30-28 win at Miami. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Miami seemed to be running clock and playing for a game-winning field goal once it got into plus territory on its final drive.

A timeout snafu from the UVA side then made it possible for the ‘Canes to bleed the clock all the way down to the final play.

But UM coach Manny Diaz insisted after the game, a 30-28 loss for his side punctuated by the loud doink of that last-second 33-yard field goal off the right foot of kicker Andy Borregales that bounded off the left upright and back into the field of play, that he had been thinking touchdown all the way.

“Obviously, we had gashed them on the run from about the 50-yard line in. We thought they were pretty whipped up front, fatigue-wise. They had been subbing and losing guys,” said Diaz, whose team, ranked 13th nationally in the preseason, fell to 2-3 with its second loss at home.

“We simply didn’t gain yards on first and second down, and then it became third down and 10. They took a timeout late in the play clock and, at that point, we could control the clock and kick the walk-off field goal. We were trying to score a touchdown until it got to third down,” Diaz said.

It’s OK, but no, they weren’t.

The late timeout that Diaz referenced actually came before a first-and-10 play from the UVA 14, with 1:37 to go. Because the Cavaliers had taken a timeout early in the third quarter, after Miami had left its offense on the field for a  fourth-and-short in minus territory, catching Virginia by surprise, they’d only had two left in the fourth quarter.

The timeout before first down left them, then, with just one.

Simple math: once UVA would use its final timeout, which it did, with 1:31 to go, Miami could bleed it all the way down.

Which is what Miami QB Tyler Van Dyke said was the plan.

“We were just trying to go down there and set up the ball for Andy. I thought we were in a good position to win the game right there,” Van Dyke said, because, yes, of course that’s what you do.

Virginia, incidentally, could have called that first timeout in the sequence around the 2:03 mark or thereabouts, from a look back at the game replay.

Assuming that things might have played out similarly from there, the final timeout would have come around 1:57, which would not have allowed Miami to bleed the clock all the way down, instead at the least risking leaving around 25 seconds on the clock for UVA to do something, last-ditch as that something might have been.

Funny how things worked out there. I’d assume that Diaz might have pushed the pedal for one more first down if that had been the case.

Who knows what happens there.

Notice that I’m not asking a question. Diaz himself said it; the Virginia defense was gassed at this stage.

I think we’re all pretty sure what happens there.

I was screaming at the TV – you might have been, too – “Just let them score!” The idea being, at least then Brennan Armstrong and the offense get the ball back with a shot and some time to work with.

Diaz opted, whatever he’s claiming now, for the smart strategy – bleed the clock, kick the chippie, it’s over.

Only thing is, the kick hit the upright.

“It was a roller coaster of emotions. We knew by second down that we had to win on a field goal and probably block it or do something, it’ll come down to that. Just seeing the ball go up and hit the post, it was just crazy. It was honestly surreal for me,” Virginia defensive end Mandy Alonso said.

“Everyone is just sitting there like, ‘This is totally out of our hands, there’s no control,’” Armstrong said. “It’s crazy. I’ve seen those plenty of times when I’m, like, watching football, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in one of those, either blocked or missed or one of those type of things. So, yeah, it was crazy. We just stormed the field, we were just running around, it was just kind of chaos.”

“It’s not describable, not for me, for the players,” UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “They’ve been working their guts out. They respond, and they’re allowing themselves to be coached. They’re listening and they’re working, they’re listening and they’re working, and they’re listening and they’re working, and they’re trying. To see that much effort go into it and have a tangible yield, and to see the smiles, there’s no way to describe that. It’s unbelievable. I’m so happy for my team.”

Story by Chris Graham