Chris Graham: UVa.’s defense strangely stellar in giving up 45 to Miami

It’s hard to give praise to a team’s defense after looking up at the scoreboard and seeing 45 points on the opponent’s side of the ledger, but … yeah, the UVa. defense was about as solid as it’s been all year long on Saturday down in Miami.

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The Miami offense gained 304 yards of total offense, including just 90 on the ground. Now, don’t get too excited just about this number in and of itself. UM’s best tailback, Duke Johnson, is out of the season with injury, and the ‘Canes running game has been anemic since his departure. And Miami quarterback Stephen Morris is just plain inaccurate. Virginia often dropped back into simple zone coverages (a lot of Cover 3 and Cover 4), and he just couldn’t connect with open receivers underneath. The positive: Consider this a good game plan well-executed.

Four turnovers lead to 28 Miami points. The Miami D scored two touchdowns directly off turnovers (a pick six off David Watford on the game’s opening play, a fumble return after Greyson Lambert had drive the UVa. offense to the UM 10), and returns of INTs off Watford set up the Miami offense two other times in the red zone.

Throw in the 62-yard wide-receiver screen for a touchdown in the first quarter, and Miami had just one sustained drive for a touchdown. And when did that come? After Anthony Harris was inexplicably ejected in the third quarter for a non-hit on a sliding Morris that was somehow upheld as a personal foul/targeting by a booth review. The game officials and the guy up in the booth should earn themselves a reprimand for that one. In the meantime, that drive featured a long pass on a third-and-long around midfield that got Miami inside the UVa. 10, and then another pass over the middle for the touchdown that just don’t happen with Harris, who leads the nation in INTs with eight, including one earlier in the UM game, playing centerfield.

Bottom line: Solid effort. For a team that came in having given up more than 500 yards a game and more than 40 points a game over its past six games coming in, well, the 45 on the scoreboard won’t help that particular stat get any better. But the 45 wasn’t the D’s fault. Play that game without the massive screw-ups on offense turning the ball over, and the UVa. D gives up maybe 10 points in that game.

There is hope next week against Virginia Tech. As long as the offense, for the first time in forever, takes care of the ball and takes advantage of the opportunities that it creates for itself.

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