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Hurricanes call down the thunder

Miami (Fla.) 52, Virginia 17

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 8, 2009


Virginia's Patch Duda and Raynard Horne sprinted hard after Miami's Thearon Collier, their eyes trained on his jersey and nothing else, both in perfect position to keep the speedy kick returner from turning the corner and heading up field.

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And then came a pair of Hurricanes sprinting full-tilt and, one right after the other, Duda and Horne got laid out with two of the most bone-crunching blocks you will see.

Just like that, Collier broke free down the right sideline, returning a punt 60 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter. Just like that, the previously sleepy Miami crowd of 48,350 woke up. Just like that, the Hurricanes were off and running.

And they didn't stop.

Even nearly an hour after the No. 16 Hurricanes had put the finishing touches on their 52-17 victory over Virginia on Saturday at Landshark Stadium, the Cavaliers, much like Duda and Horne earlier, didn't seem to know quite what had hit them, or from where it had come. Miami (7-2, 4-2 ACC) outscored Virginia, 28-0, in the second half and extended the Cavaliers' losing streak to three games.

"Miami's got a lot of playmakers in all three phases of the game, and we had a lot of difficulty controlling those playmakers," Virginia Coach Al Groh said. "They did a real good job of framing the game up the way they wanted."

Thanks to a trio of big plays in the first half, the Cavaliers (3-6, 2-3) seemed ready to get back in the win column. Virginia had taken an early 10-3 lead and trailed just 24-17 at halftime. A 49-yard interception return by Ras-I Dowling had given Virginia an early boost, and a pair of blocked punts, one of which was returned for a 20-yard touchdown by Bill Schautz, kept hope alive for two quarters.

But the Cavaliers couldn't slow the Hurricanes at all in the second half. Miami rolled out three long touchdown drives, including a demoralizing 90-yard trek that included a 70-yard sprint by Graig Cooper early in the fourth quarter. The Hurricanes finished their second-half scoring spree with a 15-yard touchdown reception by Kendal Thompkins with 3 minutes 34 seconds left after an interception deep in Virginia's territory.

"Our energy was high; we knew we had to go out there and just step up," Cavaliers junior cornerback Trey Womack said. "Quite frankly, we weren't able to get the step-up we wanted."

Virginia's Marc Verica, who started in place of banged-up quarterback Jameel Sewell, completed just 11 of 29 passes for 75 yards with one interception. Miami, led by Cooper's 152 yards on 18 carries, outgained Virginia, 515-149.

Virginia's players, however, did not see the rout coming, at least not in a first half that included one special teams adventure after another, the most entertaining and artistic of which was the 60-yard return by Collier. Collier eluded a half dozen tacklers after catching a shanked punt into a fierce wind, and sprinted from one end of the field to the other. He was set free by the huge blocks from Miami's Ramon Buchanon, who nailed Horne, and Chavez Grant, who got Duda.

As both Horne and Duda were leveled, the crowd of Miami's crowd roared. The breathless play gave the Hurricanes a 17-10 lead.

"It's the great individual return," Groh said. "Number 28's the guy. He's the most dangerous guy, and he lived up to that for sure."

Virginia, however, stayed in the game. The Cavaliers hadn't blocked two punts in a game in more than 13 years, and the first by Terence Fells-Danzer was followed by a 34-yard touchdown run by Rashawn Jackson late in the first quarter, which gave Virginia a brief 10-3 lead. Late in the second period, Womack burst through the middle of the line untouched, giving the Cavaliers their second blocked punt of the day and bringing Virginia to within seven points.

"It was kind of like a coach's nightmare out there," Womack said. "A lot of things weren't going as expected."

Order was restored quickly in the third quarter. On the first drive of the second half, Miami went 79 yards on 10 plays, scoring on a two-yard touchdown burst by Damien Berry. Berry repeated the play almost exactly from a yard out with just seconds remaining in the third quarter to complete an 80-yard drive.

"In the second half," Dowling said, "we just didn't come out with the same passion."

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