No. 18 Miami 31, No. 10 Virginia 21
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP)—Roscoe Parrish looked like he had sealed the game once already with a dazzling 62-yard punt return for a touchdown.
But when No. 10 Virginia rallied on Saturday and the Miami Hurricanes needed one more play to clinch it, Parrish was the man again, catching a 25-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 51 seconds left for a 31-21 Miami win.
The victory put the No. 18 Hurricanes (7-2, 4-2) back on course for a possible ACC championship and Bowl Championship Series berth, and restored some of the swagger lost in two consecutive losses on the final play.
“You can’t just push us over,” Parrish said. “You can’t just expect for teams to come out and do whatever they want to do against us. When our backs are against the wall, we’re going to handle our business.”
Parrish handled a lot of it himself, adding a 45-yard punt return to help set up another score.
A third-and-5 completion for 34 yards to Talib Humphrey with 2:24 left made the clinching touchdown by Parrish possible, deflating a record crowd that was trying to help inspire an improbable comeback.
“That wasn’t a key first down, it was a huge first down,” Hurricanes coach Larry Coker said. “What’s a level above huge? Is there a word?”
Frank Gore also had a big day for Miami, running for a career-best 195 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 28 carries.
But Parrish, almost forgotten as a punt returner because of the exploits of speedster Devin Hester, did more damage than anyone.
He took a punt at his own 38 with just over 7 minutes left, cut across the field and then turned down the sideline to make it 24-14.
Later, after Virginia (7-2, 4-2) used a four-play, 79-yard drive to close to 24-21 with 3:19 left, Parrish caught Brock Berlin’s pass in the corner of the end zone, restoring the margin to 10 and ending any comeback threat.
The touchdown, on a fourth-and-4 play, came just after Jon Peattie came up well short on a 42-yard field goal try that didn’t count. Coker had called a timeout with 2 seconds left on the play clock.
During the timeout, Coker changed his mind about going for the field goal.
“We were already starting to talk about what we wanted to do next series,” Berlin said of the offense. “Sure enough, coach Coker called us back on the field and said `Let’s give this thing a shot.”’
The Hurricanes ended a two-game losing streak and put themselves back in position to win the league title and its Bowl Championship Series bid with victories in their last two games. They play Wake Forest next weekend and Virginia Tech on Dec. 4, both in Miami.
The Cavaliers started the day tied with No. 16 Virginia Tech for first in the ACC and in control of their destiny, but fell back for the second time after losing to a team from Florida in a big game. Almost a month ago, they lost 36-3 at Florida State.
“There are certain things, whether we win or lose, that will either make you win or cause you to lose,” Virginia coach Al Groh said. “There were too many things in the `cause you to lose’ column today.”
A 47-yard run by Marques Hagans highlighted Virginia’s four-play touchdown drive, capped by Wali Lundy’s 3-yard run. The drive energized a freezing crowd of 63,701, trying to spur the Cavaliers in their comeback.
Virginia then forced the Hurricanes into that third-down play, which Berlin and Humphrey turned into a 34-yard gain.
“That’s what we live for, that third-and-5,” Virginia linebacker Dennis Haley said. “We had them right where we wanted them. Something happened and the play didn’t work out the way we wanted it to.”
Berlin was 18-of-33 for 177 yards, including a 3-yard scoring throw to Humphrey in the second quarter. The Hurricanes also had a number of drops, the most glaring by a wide open Lance Leggett in the end zone.
Virginia tied it at 14 on Alvin Pearman’s 34-yard touchdown run with 3:55 left in the third quarter, ending a three-play, 67-yard drive. Peattie’s 43-yard field goal three minutes later gave the Hurricanes the lead again, and Virginia played catchup the rest of the way.
Hagans went just 10-of-25 for 94 yards, and his wide receivers had one catch for 4 yards. Pearman finished with 106 yards on 21 carries.