By J.T. Wilcox | Staff Writer

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MIAMI GARDENS (CBS Miami) – Every game won’t be as thrilling as an eight-lateral kickoff return for a win.

Neither will every game be as gut-wrenching as suffering the worst loss in school history.

Typically they fall somewhere in the middle.

The middle was good for Miami Saturday as the Hurricanes manufactured a 27-21 win over visiting Virginia – staying alive in the ACC Coastal division race and becoming bowl eligible – benefiting from 286 passing yards from Brad Kaaya and a couple of timely kicks by Michael Badgley.

Miami (6-3, 3-2 ACC) clung to a 24-18 lead with 7:08 left in the fourth quarter after a Virginia field goal. But the Canes responded with an 11-play, 58-yard drive that took just under five minutes off the clock before Badgley knocked through a 39-yard kick to push the lead to 27-18.

The Cavaliers (3-6, 2-3) tried to put together a desperation drive for a touchdown, but it stalled and they settled for a 47-yard Ian Frye field goal – his fourth successful on the day – cutting UM’s lead down to 27-21 with 35 seconds left to play.

Virginia tried an onside kick, which the Canes recovered, allowing the team to take a knee and come away with the win in front of an announced crowd of 40,963 fans.

Interim head coach Larry Scott said he wasn’t surprised the game came down to the final minutes.

“When you’re in divisional play, you expect every game to be tight and you expect every game to come down to the final minutes…probably down to a kick or something,” Scott said after improving to 2-0 as a head coach. “It was a hard-fought, four-quarter game. We were ready for that. This time of year you work on all the little detailed things – your hands team, onside kicks. We worked hard this week on sudden situations.”

“It was a good, tough win,” Scott said.

Virginia has always seemed to make it tough on UM. Though Virginia came in with a sub .500 record, the Cavs were winners of four of the last five meetings with the Hurricanes and they came into Saturday’s matchup looking to build on their win over Georgia Tech this past week.

After trailing 14-8 at halftime, Virginia took a 15-14 lead 10 minutes into the third quarter after going on a six-play, 80-yard drive that running back Olamide Zaccheaus finished with a 3-yard touchdown run.

Miami didn’t trail for long. The Canes marched down the field thanks to a pair of Mark Walton runs and a personal foul penalty on the Cavaliers and settled for a 28-yard Badgley kick to retake the lead at 17-15.

UM’s running game came up big in the second half. After having just 41 total yards on the ground in the first 30 minutes, Miami churned out 102 rushing yards in the second half.

Joe Yearby led the team with 78 yards on 17 carries while Walton finished with 11 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown – his team-best sixth of the season.

“This time of year, you have to run to win,” Coach Scott said. “Sometimes you have to put the saddle on your guys up front and your running backs and say ‘we need to chop wood here and get four yards per carry, we have to go be tough’. The guys accepted that challenge in the second half.”

Miami ended up gaining 4.3 yards per carry Saturday.

The Canes also benefited from the healthy return of its starting quarterback. Kaaya, who missed last week’s game at Duke with a concussion, returned to practice earlier this week and started Saturday.

Cleared by doctors, Kaaya completed 20 of 26 passes and threw a pair of touchdown passes – one to Stacy Coley, who finished with a game-high 132 yards on seven receptions, and the other to David Njoku, the first of his career.

Kaaya did have two glaring mistakes. Early in the first quarter, with the Canes backed up deep in their own territory, Virginia put pressure on Kaaya and he tried to throw a pass away but it floated to the middle of the field with no UM player in the vicinity and was called for intentional grounding in the end zone – resulting in a safety.

The other was a third quarter interception in which Virginia’s Darious Latimore made a great play – tipping the ball out of the air, to himself and juggling it twice before coming down with the ball.

Kaaya said his performance Saturday “wasn’t great” but also said he was happy to be back on the field.

“It felt great just being back out there this week,” Kaaya said. “I practiced this week and got cleared to play on Friday night so it was just a good feeling to be back out there with the team.”

“It was a bit hard getting used to the rhythm of the game, but I settled into to. Though I was able to practice some this week, practice and a game are a whole different story.”

Coley sure must have been glad to see Kaaya back.

“It felt great just having his presence out there on the field,” said Coley, who caught a 67-yard touchdown pass during the first half. “It just felt great for him to be back, for him to be healthy and playing like he’s playing right now.”

Though Kaaya played, Miami was without junior cornerback Artie Burns. Though Burns played last week at Duke and wasn’t on the team’s injury report this week, he made himself a late scratch – dealing with the loss and Thursday funeral of his mother, Dana Smith.

Burns was seen on the sideline with the team during the game in shorts.

“We had to let Artie make the best decision for him and his family,” Scott said. “We didn’t want to put any pressure on Artie that he had to show up and play. When you go through the process of the funeral and saying your last goodbye – that’s a real emotion…we told Artie to take the time he needs.”

“The fact that he found a way to muster enough to be here with his team says a lot about how strong the kid is. He handled it like a professional,” Scott added.

Miami’s next test is a road trip to North Carolina, a team that the Hurricanes defeated 47-20 last year – the last team that UM defeated during the 2014 season before losing its final four games.

The Tar Heels are the No. 1 team in the Coastal division after improving to 8-1 (5-0 ACC) after beating down rival Duke 66-31 Saturday.

It’s been the Canes’ goal all season to finally win the Coastal division, and a win in Chapel Hill would go a very long way towards that.

The magnitude of the game isn’t lost on freshman safety Jaquan Johnson, who got his first interception of his career Saturday.

“[North Carolina] is looking forward to killing our dreams,” Johnson began. “So we have to go up there ready.”