Virginia takes halftime lead over Miami on controversial TD

Mark Richt shows a little fun always goes a long way at Miami

The Hurricanes twice climbed out of two-touchdown-deep holes, snapped a 15-game losing streak in games where it faced deficits of 14 points or more and finished off their first 7-0 home regular-season record since 1988.

"That's the kind of coach we have, and we love playing for him", said senior linebacker and team captain Micah Kiser.

"This was just a missed opportunity, just like Louisville was a missed opportunity last year and, while I wasn't here for it, Notre Dame the year before was a missed opportunity".

Fresh off a blowout win over Notre Dame, many expected Miami to lay the hammer down on a lesser Virginia squad Saturday.

Virginia's last score was early in the third, and the Canes went on a 30-point tear after that. Miami would come back to tie the contest before Benkert returned fire with two more touchdown passes (one late in the second quarter, one early in the third).

A review by replay officials caused a pass ruled incomplete to be reversed.

The Cavaliers led by 14 points for stretches in the first quarter as well as the third quarter, but the Hurricanes found ways to respond on each occasion.

The Cavaliers (6-and-4) jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter off of two long Kurt Benkert touchdown throws.

Miami Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz made significant adjustments at halftime, after being torched in the first half by Benkurt for four touchdown passes.

At that point, Benkert had been sacked once.

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When U.Va., a 20-point underdog, found itself suddenly ahead 14-0 just 13 minutes into the game, second-year coach Bronco Mendenhall made a decision to go for the kill.

But thanks to safety Jaquan Johnson's pick-six, several clutch plays from quarterback Malik Rosier and a stout second-half showing on defense, the Hurricanes improved to 10-0 and further solidified their status as College Football Playoff contenders in 2017.

Johnson, a Walter Camp Award Semi-finalist, had his fourth interception of the season that changed the dynamic of the game.

"He has to be one of the toughest guys I know", defensive tackle RJ McIntosh said about Johnson.

"It affects the outcome just because it is a seven-point swing so fast, and because it is an adversity that you have to overcome", Mendenhall said. It was still anybody's ballgame.

Virginia's offense out gained Miami's 439-358 and led in time of possession 32:27 to 27:33.

"Ultimately, Miami had three short fields today", said U.Va. coach Bronco Mendenhall, referring to the Hurricanes' touchdown drives of 40, 47 and 29 yards.

Mendenhall said his staff had seen a look from Miami on film that could make the Hurricanes vulnerable to an onside kick. That's really it. Everything else, everybody works hard in practice, we've been working since the spring. We came to win and we were going to play aggressively.

"In hindsight, it wasn't a risk worth it", he said.

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