Michael Rocco set a school record for consecutive completions, then threw the winning touchdown pass to tight end Jake McGee with six seconds left as Virginia edged Miami 41-40.
"You try to look at it as just another catch," McGee said, "but, when you're in a pressure situation like that, it's always good when you can rise to the occasion."
The 6-foot-5 sophomore soared above two smaller Miami defensive backs, came down with one foot in bounds and then tumbled out of the end zone.
A review showed that McGee clearly had a foot inbounds.
"I wasn't positive," McGee said. "It was a little nerve-wracking until I saw the official motion 'touchdown.' "
"We had a little communication along the way," said McGee, whose touchdown reception was his team-high fifth of the season. "He basically told me, 'Don't screw it up,' except he said it nicer than that.
" I know the ball was coming to me unless I did a terrible job of getting open."
The play was executed perfectly, according to U.Va. offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.
"Mike put the ball exactly where you talk about," Lazor said. "Behind the defense, on the back line, is the least guarded part of the field. "
Rocco, who has been sharing time with Phillip Sims for the past two games, entered the game for the last time after Miami had scored with 11:38 remaining to go ahead 38-28.
Rocco took the Cavaliers on a 12-play, 71-yard drive capped by a 5-yard touchdown pass to Darius Jennings with 5:33 left. That was the 18th straight completion for Rocco, who broke a school record of 14 set by Matt Blundin in 1991.
U.Va. trailed by only a field goal, but the game would take several bizarre turns. After stopping Miami on downs, the Cavaliers took over at their 12-yard line with 4:27 left. However, when Rocco dropped back to pass on second down, he was called for intentional grounding in the end zone. Thus, a safety was ruled.
U.Va. head coach Mike London challenged the decision, but to no avail. The free kick went to Miami
freshman Duke Johnson, who already returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
Johnson, who finished with 368 all-purpose yards, returned it 33 yards to the U.Va. 47. Miami turned conservative at that point, running three plays into the middle and punted with 2:38 left. The ball was downed at the U.Va. 14-yard line.
McGee finished the day with four receptions for 26 yards, just two for 13 yards before the final drive. U.Va.'s breakout player was sophomore Dominique Terrell, who had nine receptions for 127 yards.
Terrell got the final drive started with a 28-yard reception, but an even bigger play came with U.Va. facing a fourth-and-7 from the Miami 31. A pass from Rocco to Jennings fell incomplete, but Miami defender Thomas Finnie was called for holding.
It was the second straight victory for Virginia (4-6, 2-4 ACC) after six straight losses. The Cavaliers are 5-1 in November over the past two seasons after previously losing 13 consecutive November games.
U.Va. also has beaten Miami, the Coastal Division leader before Saturday, three straight times. The Hurricanes (5-5, 4-3) are coached by former U.Va. defensive coordinator Al Golden, returning to Charlottesville for the first time since 2005.
Miami quarterback Stephen Morris threw for three touchdowns, giving him six TD passes in five quarters at Scott Stadium, where he engineered a furious comeback in a 24-19 loss in 2010. He didn't seem to miss second-leading receiver Rashawn Scott, left at home following a violation of team rules.
"We're not going to go backwards," Golden said. "We're not going back to the days where everyone does their own thing and we turn into individuals. We had enough talent here to win the game and didn't do it."