By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Sports Writer
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) – Malik Rosier threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score, and No. 2 Miami pulled off its biggest comeback in five years by holding off Virginia 44-28 on Saturday to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 15 games.
Jaquan Johnson had an interception return for a touchdown for Miami (10-0, 7-0 Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 3 CFP), which went on a 30-0 run in the second half to remain unbeaten. The Hurricanes erased a pair of 14-point deficits, and had lost 15 consecutive games in which they trailed at any point by such a margin.
But the defense got a pair of fourth-down stops in Virginia territory in the fourth quarter, and the Hurricanes finished off their first 7-0 home regular season since 1988.
Travis Homer rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown for Miami, which looks to close out a perfect ACC regular-season slate at Pittsburgh on Friday. The Hurricanes already had a spot in the ACC championship game against Clemson on Dec. 2 secured.
Kurt Benkert was brilliant for Virginia (6-5, 3-4), completing 28 of 37 passes for 384 yards and four touchdowns.
The game started at noon, and it wasn’t until 2:21 p.m. that Benkert took aim at a receiver and missed. He started 18 for 19 for 288 yards and four touchdowns in a little over a half, the only incompletion in that span being an intentional one – he threw the ball away to avoid what would have been a sack by Miami’s Chad Thomas.
Benkert’s 20th throw wasn’t incomplete, technically. It was just to the wrong team.
Johnson’s fourth interception of the season became a 30-yard return for a score. It was Miami’s second touchdown in seven seconds, tied the game at 28 – and before long, the Hurricanes would turn trouble into a runaway.
Virginia came out flying, with Benkert throwing long touchdown passes on two of the Cavaliers’ first three possessions. A methodical nine-play, 75-yard march on the opening possession was capped by a 33-yard scoring toss to Olamide Zaccheaus, and Joe Reed got loose for a 75-yard touchdown grab later in the first to make it 14-0.
Down 14-7 in the second quarter, Homer recovered a punt that Virginia muffed – making him the first offensive player to wear Miami’s famed Turnover Chain. He barely had the bling on before the Hurricanes tied it on a 36-yard TD catch by Dayall Harris.
Virginia got a spectacular grab from Andre Levrone with 33 seconds left in the half to take the lead back, and restored the 14-point cushion early in the third by cashing in on a blocked punt. Daniel Hamm became Benkert’s fourth TD pass recipient of the day, and Miami was in big trouble down 28-14.
Lawrence Cager caught a nine-yard pass for a score on Miami’s next possession, then Johnson had the pick-6 moments later and Miami was on its way.
Virginia: The Cavaliers just could not run the football at all, finishing with 55 yards on 28 carries – and their best was a harmless 23-yard scamper by Jordan Ellis as time expired. And in time, Miami’s defense figured Virginia out; the Cavaliers got two touchdowns in their first three possessions, then only two TDs in their next 12.
Miami: The last time Miami overcame a 14-point deficit was Sept. 22, 2012, against Georgia Tech, a game where the Hurricanes erased a 17-point hole and won in overtime. A hangover of sorts was expected after a pair of prime-time, raucous-environment wins against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, and Miami awoke just in time.
The CFP committee had Miami in its top three in the most recent ranking. Now the Hurricanes will have to wait and wonder if the committee will penalize Miami for a slow start.
Benkert moved up three spots to No. 3 on the Cavaliers’ all-time passing list, and went from eighth to third on their single-season yardage list. Matt Schaub threw for 2,976 yards in 2002 and 2,952 yards in 2003; Benkert is now within 99 yards of him for the season record. Benkert also has 25 TD passes this season, three shy of Schaub’s school record in 2002.
Virginia: Hosts Virginia Tech on Friday.
Miami: Visits Pittsburgh on Friday.