Miami Hurricanes ignited by Jaquan Johnson’s pick six


Jaquan Johnson‘s 30-yard pick-six with 9:57 remaining in the third quarter ignited the Miami Hurricanes and tied the game at 28-28. The interception came seven seconds after a Malik Rosier to Lawrence Cager nine-yard touchdown pass narrowed the lead to seven.

The comeback was the Miami Hurricanes second time rallying 14 points down in the game. Johnson’s interception was the fifth straight game in which he had a turnover. Johnson perfectly anticipated the route and timed it perfectly for the pick six.

The interception was Johnson’s third of the year and his first return for a touchdown. After not having a defensive or special teams touchdown all season, Miami now has a pick six in two straight games.

The special teams also contributed a pair of big plays earlier in the game. Trailing 14-0 Virginia tried to surprise Miami with an onside kick. The Hurricanes recovered and scored five plays later to cut the lead to seven.

Later in the first half, starting running back Travis Homer recovered a Virginia muffed punt at the Cavaliers 36-yard line. Rosier hit Dayall Harris on the next play to knot the score at 14. That completed the first comeback from 14 down.

The Cavaliers scored just before halftime to take a 21-14 lead into the locker room. The Cavaliers blocked a Zach Feagles punt after the Hurricanes went three and out. Virginia scored two plays later to push the lead back to 14.

Miami went 63 yards in seven plays to cut the lead to 28-21. The drive was culminated by a Rosier to Lawrence Cager nine-yard touchdown pass with 10:04 remaining in the third quarter. That set up Johnson’s heroics.

Before the Miami defense took the field after the touchdown, Johnson was discussing with his teammates that their unit needed to do something to help the offense out.

"“We were just talking about it on the sideline, that we needed a turnover, we needed a stop, we needed to get some momentum going.”"

Miami Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz and Johnson perfectly baited Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert into the pick six. Johnson discussed it with ESPN’s Andrea Adelson.

"“The quarterback was doing a great job moving out of the pocket, and keeping his eyes down the field and delivering a perfect ball on the run…The defense that was called, we were able to corral him and keep him in the pocket and disguise to make it seem like something was open, and that’s what we did. Once he threw it, I was able to break underneath the route.”"

After the three turnovers forced today, the Miami Hurricanes defense has forced 19 in the last five games. The turnover chain fell one short of becoming the first team to have four turnovers in four consecutive games.

Miami Head Coach Mark Richt spoke about the importance of big plays to momentum.

"“As soon as he caught it, the only guy who could have tackled him stumbled, and you knew it was gonna be a house call,…It was beautiful. Anytime you get an interception for a touchdown or a turnover, that ignites everybody.”"

The focus has been more on the turnover chain than on what the turnovers have actually brought to Miami football. The Hurricanes were able to overcome 81 less total yards than Virginia because they started their drives on short fields.

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The reality is turnovers on defense and big plays on special teams flip the field and give a momentum boost to the team that produces them. It’s been a huge part of Miami’s success this season.