MIAMI – It's a quick turnaround for Miami after a painful 42-35 loss to Virginia Tech as the Hurricanes came up short after storming back from a 28-point first-half deficit to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. The slate doesn't get any easier as No. 19 Virginia comes to South Florida for a Friday night matchup fresh off a bye and an extra week to stew about its own disappointing loss as the Cavaliers fell to No. 10 Notre Dame 35-20 last time out.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Miami -2
"I think this is what we need. Obviously, we have a lot of respect for Virginia and I think we need to get right back on the saddle and come right back to work," Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz told reporters. "The team will fight for each other. ... Now, we just have to look at how we can fix some of our issues and our self-inflicted wounds which are keeping us from being a good football team right now. Right now, we're not." The resilient Hurricanes showed fight and a refusal to give up against Virginia Tech, but the loss exposed issues not only at quarterback, where N'Kosi Perry took over from faltering starter Jarren Williams and engineered the comeback, but also on a usually stingy defense that failed to come up with stops in big spots. The Cavaliers' loss to Notre Dame also revealed problems, particularly along an offensive line that surrendered eight sacks to the Irish - one more than the unit allowed in the first four games combined - and resulted in harried quarterback Bryce Perkins turning the ball over five times (two interceptions, three fumbles). "There is no comfort zone for our offensive line," Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall told reporters. "There's continual expectation, asking and directing and prompting and driving, and they want to get better, they need to get better, and they're working hard to get better."
ABOUT VIRGINIA (4-1, 2-0 ACC)
Perkins threw for 334 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame and has 1,177 yards passing and eight scores for the season, but has six interceptions after throwing only nine a year ago. The ground attack continues to struggle with sophomore Wayne Taulapapa replacing 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Ellis (graduated) and the team is last in the ACC with 107.6 rushing yards per game after totaling four yards against Notre Dame and 69 the prior week against Old Dominion. Led by an aggressive front four and a talented secondary that includes star corner Bryce Hall, the Cavaliers rank second in the nation with 24 sacks and 10th in total defense (275.4 yards per game).
ABOUT MIAMI (2-3, 0-2)
Diaz originally indicated that Williams would be back behind center despite throwing three picks in his first seven attempts against Virginia Tech - his first interceptions of the season - but it was announced midweek that the redshirt freshman had hurt his shoulder so Perry, who sparked last week's comeback with a career-high 422-yard, four-touchdown passing performance, will get his first start of the season instead. While the Hurricanes have yielded only about eight more yards per game than the Cavaliers, the unit has not been able to slam the door on opponents in crunch time and as a result, Miami - after rallying to tie the score - gave up the winning touchdown to the Hokies with 1:03 left. "We have to get our defense playing like the Miami Hurricanes defense. That didn't look like that on Saturday," Diaz told reporters. "There is a culture that was created here back in 2016 that, for some reason, we have not been able to recreate, and it is not a coaching issue. It's not a scheme issue. There is a lack of connection between our players on the defensive side of the ball. We just don't look like we trust each other."
1. Miami leads the series 9-7 but Virginia has won five of the last nine meetings, including a 16-13 decision at home against a ranked Hurricanes team last season.
2. The Cavaliers are looking to go 3-0 in ACC play for the first time since 2007.
3. The Hurricanes showed big-play ability against Virginia Tech with three of their five touchdowns covering at least 25 yards.
PREDICTION: Virginia 27, Miami 23