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The Miami Hurricanes went into last year’s game at Virginia saying they weren’t sure if Tyler Van Dyke would start at quarterback after he was hurt the previous game against Duke.
Van Dyke, of course, didn’t start, and the Hurricanes won 14-12 in a wild, four-overtime game in which there were eight consecutive field goals before UM redshirt freshman and now former Hurricane Jake Garcia got his first college start. Garcia struggled but rushed for a two-point conversion in the final overtime.
On Saturday, Miami (5-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) hosts Virginia (2-5, 1-2) at Hard Rock Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff (ACC Network) in a game with strangely similar storylines. Van Dyke, a fourth-year junior, was hurt two weeks ago at North Carolina and has had an ailing right knee, ribs and back since then. He didn’t play against Clemson last week.
Van Dyke — wearing a brace on his right knee — and 2023 backup Emory Williams each took reps with the first-team this week, a source said. Williams is the true freshman who led Miami to a double-overtime victory against Clemson in his first collegiate start last Saturday. The Canes are leaning heavily toward starting Van Dyke on Saturday, but he is not 100 percent, so the decision might not be known until game time.
Cristobal on Monday said UM’s regular starter was “good to go” during the coach’s only news conference leading to Saturday. He said Van Dyke “doesn’t have anything that’s that serious. But if it takes a certain turn, you could delay it. And that’s really what ended up happening [against Clemson].’’
Cristobal also said Van Dyke was “good to go’’ the previous Monday heading into the Clemson game, then said his condition “flared up’’ later in the week and caught the program “off guard.’’
Neither quarterback was made available for comment this week.
Whoever starts will be facing an energized Virginia team that lost its first five games of this season before defeating the FCS’s William & Mary, and much more importantly, upsetting No. 10 North Carolina 31-27 on the road last weekend. The Cavaliers came into the game with the nation’s No. 122 ranked rushing offense (99.5 yards a game), then reeled off 228 ground yards against the same Tar Heels team that held Miami to 91 rushing yards the previous week.
Virginia began this week ranked 85th nationally in total offense (117.9 yards rushing/243.4 yards a game passing) and 92nd in total defense (172.1 rushing yards/223.4 passing yards allowed per game).
The Hurricanes are 10th in total offense (481.9), 21st in total defense (313.6), seventh in rushing defense (79.6), 11th in both sacks and team tackles for loss and 15th in scoring (36.3-point average).
Miami’s offensive line has been particularly potent this season, and managed to keep Williams virtually clean last week against the then-No. 5 defense. Its defense, which last week coordinator Lance Guidry changed to a 3-3 alignment from its usual 4-2 front, was smothering all game.
Virginia coach Tony Elliot was asked on Tuesday if the challenge would be to match UM’s physicality after the Canes held Clemson to 31 rushing yards.
“It’s a challenge every week in the ACC,’’ he said. “...We knew it was going to be a physical battle this past week and same thing this week. The biggest thing with Miami, and just trying to get our guys to make sure they understand, is that [Miami] is a few plays away from being undefeated and being a potentially top-10 ranked team.
“They’re a different team than the team we played last year, and it starts in the trenches — on both sides of the ball.”
UM, which will celebrate homecoming Saturday, leads the all-time series 12-8. Until last week, the Cavaliers had not won back-to-back games since the 2021 season.
The Canes must win out and hope for some results outside their control to reach the ACC title game Dec. 2 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Cristobal indicated the Canes realize “more and more” how difficult it is to win against any opponent, and no matter how good they’ve been the week before, another challenge awaits.
“Conference play is playoff football,’’ Cristobal told WQAM this week. “Every Saturday is absolutely wild and crazy. It makes sense the more our guys get to see the reality that college football is. Everybody has good players. And if you think you have the best players... and [that we] can just walk into our stadium and get it done, you’re out of your mind.’’