Miami starting quarterback Jarren Williams threw seven passes Saturday against Virginia Tech, and all of them were caught. Unfortunately for Williams, three went to the wrong team.
“It excites you,” Virginia’s Joey Blount said of watching Williams’ three interceptions. “I think the best part about being a DB is you can make the highlight interceptions, go up and get the ball. So yeah, seeing three interceptions from the starting quarterback is definitely exciting. But that also comes with they’re throwing the ball a lot, so you have to be ready for the throws. You’ve got to be on top of your coverage. I think it has a good and bad with it.”
The Hokies intercepted Williams three times before Miami pulled the plug and inserted N’Kosi Perry into the game. Perry helped lead a comeback from 28-0 down by throwing for 422 yards and four touchdowns in relief. The Hurricanes ultimately fell 42-35, but they may have found an answer at quarterback.
With uncertainty surrounding Miami’s quarterback situation, Virginia’s bye week came at a perfect time.
“I'm not sure which player Miami will choose as their quarterback or to play against us,” Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “I'm sure that will be announced or maybe it won't be, prior to us playing. But there is enough film and there is enough information on both and with a little extra time I think that that will be helpful.”
Mendenhall said the team’s focus falls on Miami’s scheme more than the individual players within the scheme. That helps UVa best prepare for whoever the Hurricanes decide to start at quarterback.
Coming into the season, there were rumors that Ohio State transfer Tate Martell may earn the starting quarterback position for the Hurricanes, but he’s since played wide receiver and been used as a wildcat quarterback. He’s still listed as a quarterback on the team’s roster, but he hasn’t factored into the passing game.
While Martell is unlikely to receive the nod on Friday, he’s a dangerous player who could receive direct snaps or line up out of the slot for the Hurricanes. Perry and Williams demand more preparation for their throwing prowess, but there’s a surplus of quarterbacks for the Cavaliers to keep track of on Friday night.
Despite a 2-3 record, Miami possesses elite offensive speed and talent at the skill positions. Regardless of who plays at quarterback, Virginia will have its hands full with the Miami offense.
“Miami is dynamic,” Mendenhall said. “We know their personnel, and I've been in the league long enough now. And some of the players are players we have had exposure to before. And, man, so the skill players are fast, which means on any given play, a ball could be handed off to someone that goes the whole way. The ball could be thrown to someone that can go the whole way.”
In Miami’s 42-35 loss to Virginia Tech, three of the Hurricanes’ five touchdowns were at least 25 yards long. The team posted three touchdown drives under 1 minute and 15 seconds of game time. The team’s quick-strike ability will keep UVa’s attention.
Luckily for the Cavaliers, they excel at limiting big plays and following their assignments. Through five games this season, Virginia has only allowed two offensive touchdowns of 25 yards or more. Miami scored three just last week. Virginia hopes to force Miami to sustain long scoring drives on Friday. That’s an area where the Hurricanes are shaky, especially given the team’s lack of clarity at quarterback.
“You just gotta be diligent,” linebacker Charles Snowden said of defending Miami’s electric offense. “Be disciplined play in, play out, because if they do get off to a slow start, at any moment they could turn that around. So not getting content, not getting satisfied, staying on edge, play in, play out. When you’re playing an offense like that, you just gotta be ready at all times.”
Miami’s offense is chaotic. Quick-strike touchdowns and head-scratching interceptions are the norm for the Hurricanes, and Virginia’s defense hopes to remain steady on Friday. If the Cavaliers can play their game and take advantage of Miami miscues, they’ll leave South Florida with a commanding ACC Coastal lead.