- - Friday, October 28, 2011

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Walking out of the locker room after a 28-21 victory Thursday night, Virginia cornerback Chase Minnifield was asked what kind of message the Cavaliers sent with their victory against Miami.

“We like everybody doubting us,” he said. “We’d rather have the doubt than the support.”

After going through a security line and boarding a bus for the airport, he followed that up with a tweet: “If you only with us when we WIN then we don’t want ya.”

It’s a message that started at the top, when Virginia coach Mike London gathered his team on Sunday after a loss to N.C. State in front of an indifferent fan base.

He told his players to circle the wagons, that if the Cavaliers were going to turn things around, it was going to happen inside the room.

That’s exactly what happened, and the result was a statement victory in front of a national audience.

The victory was made even sweeter for the staff because of the two players who were the stars.

Junior running back Perry Jones, who often gets yardage without touchdowns, found himself the center of attention. He passed the ball for a 37-yard touchdown (the ball went 45 yards in the air), and ran 78 yards for a crucial score to open the fourth quarter.

“The kids call him Superman for a reason,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said.

The other player was junior LaRoy Reynolds, a converted safety finding his home at linebacker. He shut down the Hurricanes on fourth-and-1 inside the red zone in the game’s final minutes.

It was a drive that appeared to confirm everybody’s fears about Virginia — the Miami line looked stronger and more dominant, until the play that mattered.

“They hurt us on a couple things, which we knew they had the capability,” defensive line coach Jeff Hanson said. “We did such a great job against them defensively all night, then toward the end our kids just rose to the occasion and made the stop.”

Reynolds knew what was at stake, and when asked his thoughts after making the stop, he said that he wanted to stay ready.

“I thought we might have to go back on the field,” he said. “And we did.”

The Wahoos had to make another late stop, keeping Miami from getting into the end zone on a last-ditch attempt by the Hurricanes.

The decisive play may have been Jones’ 78-yard touchdown catch, which came on a third-and-2 situation.

That’s traditionally a running situation, especially for a team that has thrived on the run, but instead offensive coordinator Bill Lazor spread out the backfield.

Quarterback Michael Rocco suspected man-to-man coverage, and sent Perry Jones in motion. It confirmed that Rocco had the matchup he wanted — Jones wasn’t being covered by a cornerback.

“Perry’s special when he’s got a linebacker on him,” Rocco said. “We ran a post route, hit him in stride, and he took it to the house.”

Now the Cavaliers are 5-3 entering the final games of the season, including a home game against Duke where they’ll be heavily favored.

A representative from the Independence Bowl was on hand to chat with U.Va. staff after the game. It seems like an obtainable goal, but the Virginia players say they knew that all along.

• Read Michael Phillips’ blog at: https://www2.timesdispatch.com/list/sports-college-uva/

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