CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A couple of defensive stands to start the third quarter had Miami feeling pretty good at Virginia. The Hurricanes were feeling even better after quarterback Stephen Morris led two touchdown drives that gave them a 38-28 lead.
Then Virginia put the ball in the hands of quarterback Michael Rocco.
Rocco led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives that included a winning 10-yard touchdown pass to Jake McGee with 6 seconds to play, and the Cavaliers stunned the Hurricanes 41-40 Saturday.
"They were calling the right plays, and at the end it just slipped away from us," said Miami defensive back Ladarius Gunter.
The Cavaliers' final drive covered 87 yards and 16 plays, and left coach Al Golden lamenting the inability of Miami (5-5, 4-3 ACC) to do anything on offense after a safety and a free kick had set it up at the Virginia 49-yard line.
On third and 6, Miami handed the ball to freshman Duke Johnson, who had been impressive all game. But he was stopped after a 2-yard run by Hokie linebackers, LaRoy Reynolds and Steve Greer.
"I gave (Johnson) the ball in the end on third and 5 because I thought he was the guy that could make them miss and get us the first down," said Golden, a former Virginia assistant. "We knew that they were bringing pressure and thought it was a safe bet inside, and it's unfortunate that we came up short."
Golden also was not happy with his team's inability to stop Virginia (4-6, 2-4).
"It was terrible," Golden said of allowing Virginia to convert nine of 14 third-down plays. "I think we were near 50 percent on offense, and I don't know if we stopped them at all on defense."
Miami lost despite three touchdown passes from Morris and Johnson's big day. The freshman ran for 150 yards, returned a kickoff for a touchdown and threw a TD pass.
But in the end, this day belonged to Rocco.
He threw four touchdown passes in all, and Virginia won its second in a row after a six-game losing streak. It was the Cavaliers' third straight win against the Hurricanes.
The loss also means the Hurricanes need a victory at Duke on Nov. 24 to win their first Coastal Division title and a spot in the ACC Championship Game., possibly against Florida State. The school is still determining whether it would accept the berth or self-impose a postseason ban for the second season in a row while an NCAA investigation into its compliance practices continues.
Miami was without four starters, including second-leading receiver Rashawn Scott, who was suspended indefinitely before the game for violating team rules, the school said. No details were available.
Scott has 35 catches for 512 yards and three touchdowns.
Starting linebacker Denzel Perryman (ankle) and safety Deon Bush (shoulder) stayed home, as did linebacker Eddie Johnson (disciplinary reasons).