Ranked among the nation's best in run offense and run defense, the Virginia Cavaliers had grown accustomed to controlling games on the ground. In Saturday's 31-21 loss to No. 18 Miami, that formula only worked on one side of the ball.
Aching for a win that would validate their recent rise to national prominence and keep them in the hunt for an ACC championship, the 10th-ranked Cavs rushed for 221 yards but allowed the Hurricanes 203 -- more than any opponent this season. Frank Gore, Miami's tough and explosive tailback, set career highs with 28 carries and 195 yards against a defense ranked 11th nationally against the run but depleted by injuries to all three starting linemen.
The only other time Virginia (7-2, 4-2) allowed more than 135 rushing yards this season was their only other loss, a 36-3 spanking at Florida State in which the Seminoles ran for 192 yards.
"We knew we had to run the football, and I think there were some areas we felt like we could attack," said Miami Coach Larry Coker, whose team tied the Cavaliers for third place in the conference standings with an identical record.
Already missing star end Chris Canty, Virginia lost nose tackle Andrew Hoffman to a concussion on the second or third defensive play of the game. Hoffman, an underrated senior who has played as well as anyone on the team this season, could not return, forcing the Cavaliers to plug in promising but raw redshirt freshman Keenan Carter for his most extensive work yet.
Left end Brennan Schmidt had to sit out at times after suffering an unspecified shoulder injury, while redshirt freshman Chris Johnson made his first start on the right side, rotating with sophomore Kwakou Robinson, who had started the past four games since Canty suffered a season-ending knee injury against Syracuse on Sept. 25.
Inside linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Kai Parham had to play all 73 plays because fifth-year senior Rich Bedesem, an equal partner in what was a formidable triumvirate, missed his second straight game because of a knee injury.
"I think [Hoffman] is one of the very best defensive linemen in the conference, but I learned a long time ago . . . everybody's got problems, and nobody cares about what your problems are," Virginia Coach Al Groh said. "All they want to know is, did you win? And all I want to know is, did we win? . . .
"While we had a lot of good plays on defense, we had too many plays in the game that we know how to play, and we didn't play them as well as they needed to be played."
Groh had it "exactly right," outside linebacker Dennis Haley said, pointing to several times the Cavaliers were in position to stop Gore but let him slip away.
"That's on us," Schmidt said. "But we're going to try our best to make sure it never happens again."
Cavaliers Notes: Connor Hughes handled Virginia's final two kickoffs instead of Kurt Smith because the Cavaliers wanted to kick the ball relatively short to give their coverage team a better opportunity to get down to Miami's return men quickly. . . . Second-string safety Lance Evans (ankle) was not in uniform, leaving freshman Nate Lyles as the lone backup to Jermaine Hardy and Marquis Weeks.