Miami gears up for showdown against Virginia following win over Clemson

Junior safety Kamren Kinchens and redshirt freshman defensive back Jaden Harris celebrate Kinchens' interception during Miami's game against Clemson at Hard Rock Stadium on Oct. 21, 2023. Photo credit: Emily Rice

On Saturday night, Miami dueled to double overtime and won against the Clemson Tigers, a team that had outscored the Hurricanes 178-30 since 2010.

On fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik tried to take the game into his own hands, running it himself. However, he was quickly met by junior linebacker Corey Flagg Jr., who ran the quarterback down and secured the game-winning tackle. It was UM’s first victory at home against the Tigers since 1956.

Looking to carry the momentum from their hard-fought victory, the Hurricanes (5-2,1-2 ACC) will face off against the University of Virginia (UVA) in Miami’s annual homecoming game.

The Cavaliers (2-5,1-2 ACC) enter this game as confident as ever after defeating No. 10 North Carolina, 31-27. This was UVA’s first road win against a top-10 opponent in the program’s 135-year history.

The Virginia offense is led by senior quarterback Tony Muskett, who’s totaled 781 yards and six touchdowns so far this season, and senior wideout Malik Washington, who has 783 yards and six touchdowns himself.

The last time these two programs met was a low-scoring affair in Charlottesville, Virginia, with a score of 6-6 at the end of regulation. It would take a lengthy four overtimes for then-Miami quarterback Jake Garica to score the game-winning two-point conversion to edge out the Cavaliers, 14-12.

One of the most important factors for this game will be the health of Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who was unable to play on Saturday due to a knee injury, giving freshman Emory Williams the start. With the young freshman at quarterback, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson and the ‘Canes attack appeared to be considerably more limited in passing for much of the game, relying on screens and short passes.

Van Dyke will be ready to play this week, according to head coach Mario Cristobal, barring any setbacks. With Van Dyke set to play this week, Miami seeks to regain its position as one of the ACC’s top passing threats.

Ranking third in the ACC in rushing yards per game, the talented running back group will have to continue its strong play against a physical Virginia defense. Without Mark Fletcher Jr. and Henry Parrish Jr. on Saturday, Dawson relied heavily on Ajay Allen, Don Chaney Jr. and receiver Brashard Smith to take control of the run game.

They stepped up in a big way, generating 211 yards on 38 carries. Cristobal spoke highly of Smith and what he adds as a Swiss Army knife to this offense.

“He does it all. You saw him play some running back, slot … special teams,” Cristobal told reporters on Monday. “He can handle a lot. He’s like a piece of iron. He just doesn’t break.”

According to Cristobal, Parrish should be good to go this week, boosting the already dangerous rushing game.

If Miami intends to start another winning streak, the defense must continue to play well this week. The defense has been vital all season in keeping the team in games, and this was clear against Clemson.

The defense produced three turnovers and sacked Klubnik five times, but it was the run defense that lived up to its reputation as the best in the ACC, allowing only 31 yards on 34 attempts. When discussing true freshman Rueben Bain Jr., defensive coordinator Lance Guidry praised him.

“Just how he manhandled them, to be that young … in a Power Five game like that, being able to throw people around … he’s going to be a really good player,” Guidry said.

Bain was recently named the ACC’s defensive lineman of the week and the conference’s rookie of the week after tallying two sacks, a forced fumble, eight tackles and 10 pressures against Clemson.

Kickoff for Saturday’s homecoming game against Virginia is at 3:30 p.m., and the contest will air on ACC Network.