Cardiac ‘Canes strike again in homecoming win over Virginia

Freshman running back Mark Fletcher, Jr. makes game-winning touchdown in overtime during Miami's game against Virginia at Hard Rock Stadium on Oct. 28, 2023. Photo credit: Alexandra Fisher

Another week, another comeback, and another overtime victory for the Miami Hurricanes.

On a homecoming Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium, the ‘Canes were able to escape an upset by the Virginia Cavaliers, winning 29-26 in overtime. Freshman tailback Mark Fletcher Jr., with some help from transfer Javion Cohen, willed the ‘Canes to victory with a game-winning touchdown run.

“I felt a big weight kinda push me into the endzone and ya know I checked the replay and it was my boy Javion [Cavion],” Fletcher said. “That’s crazy, we were talking about something crazy like that happening, God moves in mysterious ways.”

Fletcher had missed the past four games with a foot injury and picked up right where he had left off. He rumbled for 47 yards on 11 carries, including the dagger to vault Miami to bowl eligibility.

No matter their records, it’s always a dogfight between Virginia and Miami. Last season was a multi-overtime game, and the year before, the game ended on a last-second field goal. Miami native Andy Borregales has been a constant thread in these games, and he was a hero once again for Miami.

Borregales is the first UM kicker to make three field goals from 45 or more yards in a game. He bailed out the struggling ‘Canes offense to tie the game with a 50-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Again, Borregales came through for Miami and connected on a 48-yard field goal that tied the game with 1:23 to play in the fourth, which would keep the game tied for the rest of regulation.

“I think of every kick the same. If it’s a game-winning or game-tying kick. I kind of have a mentality of ‘I only get one shot,’” Borregales said. “That’s kind of how it is as a kicker. You kind of go into it like that.”

Junior quarterback Tyler Van Dyke continued his string of uncharacteristic games. A massive underthrow on a ball intended for receiver Xavier Restrepo led to a Virginia interception by defensive back Sam Westfall in the first quarter.

Another interception by Van Dyke in the fourth quarter on an errant throw led to momentum for the Virginia offense. Those brutal interceptions were Van Dyke’s sixth and seventh in the last three games he has started.

“Just have to be better. Better decision-making, and at the end of the day my teammates got me,” Van Dyke said. “The defense did a great job giving the offense a chance to win the game and thank God for Andy Borregales; without him, I think we would have lost the game.”

Van Dyke was not the only one to blame. More missed tackles by Miami led to a 64-yard gain for wideout Malik Washington and the Cavaliers that put them near the goal line in the first quarter. The Hurricanes’ defense was able to hold the Virginia offense to a field goal to put them up 10-0 and bury Miami in a hole early in the game.

UM’s offense wasn’t even able to muster 100 yards of total offense in the first half. Van Dyke was lackluster with 55 yards and an interception. No Miami receiver other than Restrepo had more than one reception.

Luckily for the struggling Miami offense, the Hurricanes’ defense kept them in it.

Freshman Rueben Bain Jr. was a stud for Miami’s defense. The South Florida native almost single-handedly stalled a Virginia drive at midfield with a sack and a batted ball that closed out the first quarter. Bain had two sacks to go along with constant pressure throughout the night.

The first-half issues were resolved by a resurgent ‘Canes offense out of halftime that was capped off by an explosive run by sophomore Ajay Allen, where he hurdled a man before scoring a touchdown. The momentum swung even more in Miami’s way when All-American safety Kamren Kinchens returned an interception to the end zone for a pick-six to put the ‘Canes up seven.

“He just threw the ball and I made a play,” Kinchens said. “He threw it a little bit too outside and it was his mistake and I capitalized on it.”

Miami is bowl-eligible for the first time in the Mario Cristobal era. With six wins, Miami is eligible for a bowl game for the first time since the 2021 season.

“Progress. Everything from our academics to our community service to how we conduct ourselves to our football team, our different systems, the caliber of human beings, the way that we are around each other the way we are around other people, treating people with respect. Then valuing football and what it does for our community and our program all that stuff is getting better,” Cristobal said. “I’ll say the same thing tell in the grave, progress, and a long way to go.”

At 6-2, Miami squares off with North Carolina State next Saturday in Raleigh, North Carolina. Kickoff for this ACC showdown is scheduled for 8 p.m.