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UVa plays role of wrecking ball in Orange Bowl

By Andy Bitter
Lynchburg News & Advance
November 11, 2007

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MIAMI - The Orange Bowl sure isn't the intimidating place it used to be.

Once the impenetrable fortress where Miami reeled off an NCAA record 58 straight wins from 1985-96, it became Virginia's personal funhouse in a 48-0 rout of a once-proud program Saturday night.

A stunned crowd of 62,106 watched as Virginia (9-2, 6-1 ACC) handed the Hurricanes their worst home loss since 1944, turning what was supposed to be a celebration of Miami's 71-year run in the historic stadium into a 3?-hour funeral.

The Virginia team that has made a habit of pulling out close wins needed no last-second heroics, lucky bounces or fortunate breaks Saturday night. The Cavaliers doubled up on Miami in yardage, 419 to 189, dominated the turnover battle 5-1 and got big plays out of their special teams, most notably Josh Zidenberg's blocked punt.

It was the worst beating the Hurricanes (5-5, 2-4 ACC) had taken at home since a 70-14 loss to Texas A&M in 1944.

"People will probably still call us lucky and what-not, but I think we just came out and played a complete ballgame," UVa defensive end Chris Long said. "You play the game for respect, but at the same time when people don't give it to you, you just keep playing."

It's quickly becoming a historic season for the Cavaliers, who reached nine wins for the second time in the seven-year Al Groh era.

Saturday's win guarantees that Virginia's Nov. 24 matchup against Virginia Tech at Scott Stadium will be for the Coastal Division title and a berth in the ACC championship game in Jacksonville, Fla.

"We've got more work to do before we can start focusing on history," Groh said.

The Cavaliers knocked Miami out with their best first half in three years. Virginia scored 31 points in the first two quarters against a Hurricanes defense that had allowed seven first-half points in five home games this year.

"It helped us a lot coming out and setting a tempo," UVa quarterback Jameel Sewell said. "We knew what we were up against."

Sewell had his most accurate day as a Cavalier, completing 20 of 25 passes and setting a career-high with 288 passing yards with a touchdown. He completed passes to eight different players, including four to tight end John Phillips, who finished with a career-high 77 yards.

"As the leader of the team, the way (Jameel) plays is symbolic of all the rest of the players on the team," Groh said.

Asked if he felt bad for ruining what was supposed to be a celebratory night for Miami, Sewell paused before a grin stretched across his face.

"No, not really," he said.

Tailback Mikell Simpson ran for 93 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 54 more yards.

Defensively, UVa hounded Miami all night, sacking 'Canes quarterback Kyle Wright four times, intercepting three passes and notching its first shutout since a 23-0 win against North Carolina last October.

"It was a long time coming for us," Long said. "We can still improve. We're not going to sit on this and be satisfied. We're going to try to get better."

It was the Cavaliers' most lopsided road win since a 53-0 victory over Navy in 1992. Once a pushover away from Scott Stadium, the Cavaliers have four road wins in a season for the first time since 1999.

Virginia went 96 yards in seven plays on its first drive before Sewell, who was 3-for-3 for 64 yards on the drive, hit Maurice Covington for a 29-yard touchdown to go up 7-0.

The Cavaliers spent the rest of the half hounding Miami into mistakes. Virginia started its next five possessions in Hurricanes territory.

Vic Hall and Jon Copper intercepted passes on back-to-back drives, but UVa couldn't capitalize on either. The Hurricanes couldn't avoid trouble when Zidenberg blocked a punt late in the first quarter, however. The Cavaliers started at the 4-yard line and went ahead 14-0 on Keith Payne's 5-yard touchdown run.

Byron Glaspy's interception on Miami's next possession led to a 33-yard field goal by Chris Gould to make it 17-0. Virginia would get 1-yard touchdown runs from Sewell and Simpson to take a 31-0 lead into the locker room.

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