By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 11, 2007
MIAMI, Nov. 10 -- Seeped in nostalgia and memories and leaking sentiment, tens of thousands of orange-and-green-clad fans filed in to mourn the end of an era at this grand, venerated, historic venue, for 70 years the home of the University of Miami.
They couldn't have known the saddest part of the night would be the game itself.
The No. 23 Virginia Cavaliers (9-2, 6-1 ACC) interrupted an evening of tributes, ovations, fireworks and the mingling of some of college football's all-time greats with a startlingly easy 48-0 victory Saturday that made the Hurricanes' farewell game at the Orange Bowl one of the most unpleasant of the 468 played here.
It was Miami's worst home defeat in 63 years, since a 70-14 loss to Texas A&M in 1944.
"It's just shocking," Cavs quarterback Jameel Sewell said, "to be able to come out and do something like that."
Virginia went 96 yards to score on its first possession and jumped to a 38-0 lead just five minutes into the second half, embarrassing a Miami team that hoped to salvage a sub-par season with, at least, a proud showing on a huge stage.
Instead, the Hurricanes (5-5, 2-4) got booed. Disgusted fans in the crowd of 62,106 filed out in the third quarter. Those who remained watched Cavaliers cornerback Chris Cook return a fumble 44 yards for a touchdown with 2 minutes 26 seconds remaining, turning Miami's night from miserable to excruciating.
"Well, it is a very dynamic atmosphere," Virginia Coach Al Groh said. "Obviously, our team was very focused as far as what they had to do in that circumstance."
The Cavaliers, however, earned little for their masterful showing, which included 418 yards of total offense to Miami's 188 and three interceptions of Hurricanes quarterback Kyle Wright. They still have to defeat No. 13 Virginia Tech at home Nov. 24 to advance to the ACC championship game Dec. 2. About all they earned Saturday, besides perhaps a few places in the polls, was style points.
Quarterback Jameel Sewell led in the artistry department, completing 20 of 25 passes for 288 yards with one touchdown and one interception. John Phillips led the Cavs' receivers with four catches for 77 yards. Running back Mikell Simpson rushed for 93 yards on 22 carries and scored two touchdowns, and Jon Copper, Vic Hall and Byron Glaspy each grabbed an interception.
The Cavaliers scored on their first three possessions of the second quarter and first of the second half. Sewell said Virginia's offense welcomed Miami's decision to play man-to-man coverage.
"They were all easy passes," he said.
There were also a lot of missed tackles by Miami's defenders. Virginia's first drive alone, which began from its 4, included at least six missed or broken tackles and included a 28-yard burst by Simpson and Sewell strikes of 24, 11 and 29 yards. The last one was caught for a touchdown by Maurice Covington.
Later in that period, Virginia scored again after Josh Zidenberg blocked a punt attempt at the Miami 4, with Keith Payne running right and slipping into the end zone two plays later.
"Those are things you can't afford," Miami Coach Randy Shannon said.
After Virginia's third interception of Wright just more than a minute into the second quarter, Chris Gould kicked the first of his two field goals from 33 yards out. Sewell then led a nifty 38-yard drive, sneaking in from one-yard out for the touchdown at the 10:02 mark after hitting Phillips on passes of 25 and nine yards.
For Miami, it was a lousy way to leave.
The Hurricanes will play their home games next season at Dolphins Stadium. The Orange Bowl, at which Super Bowls and national championship games have been played, will be demolished early next year.
"It's a bitter loss," Shannon said. "A tough one, especially with it being the last one in the Orange Bowl, and you lose 48-0."