Jameel Sewell threw for 288 yards in the win over Miami.
MIAMI – Of all the places and all the games to break the program’s so-called Florida curse, the Orange Bowl finale for the Miami Hurricanes wouldn’t seem like the obvious choice. But the 2007 Cavaliers have been nothing if not surprising.
Virginia ended an 0 for 15 streak in the state of Florida on Saturday night, spoiling the Orange Bowl’s farewell celebration in the process. UVa’s 48-0 win proved to be Miami’s worst home loss since a 70-14 defeat against Texas A&M in 1944. It was also the Hurricanes’ first home shutout since losing 3-0 to Auburn in 1974.
“This stadium has been a wonderful place for football. My team was very mindful of some of the great performances individually and team wise that have occurred in this stadium and we tried to set it as a standard of performance tonight,” Virginia coach Al Groh said. “A lot of teams have run out of this locker room here today and the environment and competition has raise the level of their play and it looks like it raised the level of our play a little bit tonight. I am really pleased with the way it turned out.”
It couldn’t have been what the 62,106 in attendance expected. The dominating performance even shocked the Cavs.
“We were confident in our team and what we were bringing here. We felt like we got better throughout the week and thought we’d be able to compete with Miami, but the way that we won … it’s something we haven’t done since I’ve been here – going on the road and really played very well against a very good team like that,” linebacker Jon Copper said.
The Cavaliers started the demolition early with a 96-yard touchdown drive on their first offensive possession. Jameel Sewell went 3 for 3 on the drive with a 24-yard pass to Tom Santi , an 11-yard screen to Mikell Simpson , and the 29-yard TD strike to Maurice Covington . Sewell finished with 288 yards passing on a 20-of-25 performance. Sewell’s pass to Covington marked the second straight week that the receiver caught a touchdown pass – his first career score came last week against Wake Forest.
“I’m real excited about what happened. It’s been a long time coming for the whole team and we’re just real excited that this happened,” Covington said. “It was a Z snag. I was meant to set a pick for Tom [Santi]. What happened was the dude went underneath me so I sat in the hole right there and Jameel found me. I turned up field and got in the end zone.”
The opening march was Virginia’s longest touchdown drive since a 97-yard march against North Carolina in 2004. It helped spark the blowout victory as the Cavaliers seemed to feed on the success of that drive and the defense’s early play.
“We finally got it clicking tonight. We knew they were going to come out with a lot of intensity and the plan was to come out and score as quick as we can and as often as we can to try to quiet the crowd and take a lot of the energy out. Tonight it worked in our advantage,” said Simpson, who had 93 yards rushing, 54 yards receiving, and two touchdowns. “The defense played a great game tonight and that helped us too.”
Mikell Simpson scored two touchdowns against the Canes.
Clicking? You could say that.
The Hoos followed that touchdown with two interceptions and a blocked punt to completely deflate a crowd starving for a proper send-off for the historic Orange Bowl. The only potential momentum-savers – an interception and a fumble recovery and return for touchdown – were negated by a self-destructing Miami squad; the Hurricanes threw an interception on the drive following their defensive INT and the recovered fumble was called back because of an offsides penalty on Vegas Franklin.
Virginia, meanwhile, took control of the game and never looked back. After Josh Zidenberg ‘s blocked punt, Keith Payne carried to his right and cut off blocks from Rashawn Jackson and Branden Albert for a 5-yard touchdown run. The Cavs led 14-0 at the 1:08 mark of the first quarter, already doubling the seven first-half points Miami had allowed in the Orange Bowl all season.
The Cavaliers were far from finished. They added a field goal after a Byron Glaspy interception, a Sewell sneak for touchdown, and a Simpson 1-yard touchdown carry to take a 31-0 lead at intermission.
UVa quickly picked up where it left off after halftime. On the first possession of the third quarter, the Cavs put together a 10-play, 67-yard drive that resulted in another Simpson 1-yard touchdown run. The score marked the first time since the UNC game last season that the offense recorded a touchdown in the third quarter.
“It means a lot. A lot of people didn’t expect us – well, nobody expected us to do this. Only us. We expected to come out here and get a win,” Sewell said. “We just kept going and kept going and putting our foots on their throats and kept going as much as we could. They’ve got a great a team. We saw they had a couple of weak spots and we had to take advantage of them.”
While the offense racked up its most points since scoring 44 against Pitt on Sept. 29, the defense buckled down to pitch its first shutout of the season. The Hoos’ best defensive scoring effort previously came on Sept. 8 against Duke, which tallied 13 points. It is the first shutout since the Cavaliers blanked UNC last October.
The D was thoroughly dominant in the shutout. The Cavs held the Canes to 189 yards of total offense as Kyle Wright completed just 9 of 21 passes for 94 yards. The team sacked Wright four times as it picked up 7 tackles for loss. UVa also forced numerous turnovers, intercepting three passes and recovering two fumbles.
Clint Sintim led the way with 8 tackles, while Copper added 7 tackles. Nate Lyles had 6 tackles with 1 sack and Antonio Appleby finished with 5 tackles and 1 sack. Aaron Clark and Nate Collins rounded out the sacks for the defense.
“You really want a shutout,” said Long, who had four tackles. “We’ve been close all year and we get really disappointed when we give up points, but we played four quarters of defense.”
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