Don’t look now, but Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya and wide receiver Rashawn Scott are developing into the best pitch-catch combination in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
In Saturday’s 30-20 victory over Virginia Tech at Sun Life Stadium, Kaaya threw touchdown passes of 7 and 2 yards to Scott as the Canes came out on top in their ACC Coastal Division opener, beating the Hokies in back-to-back seasons for the first time since winning three straight from 2000-02.
They weren’t flashy and they didn’t cover a ton of yards, but the connections came at critical times and put Miami over the top in a game it had to have after a deflating loss the previous week to arch-rival Florida State.
Kaaya completed 19 of 30 passes for 296 yards and no interceptions. It was the 14th time in his 19 starts to throw for more than 200 yards. He has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 18 of those 19 games and is quickly becoming the class of quarterbacks in the ACC.
Canes head coach Al Golden couldn’t be more appreciative of the sophomore’s growth as a team leader.
“His courage, his mental toughness, his ability to make plays when we need him,” Golden said in the post-game press conference, referencing a few of Kaaya’s abilities. “He’s poised. He made some big throws when we needed it. Obviously Brad is stepping up his game right now.”
Only four of Kaaya’s completions on Saturday went to Scott (31 yards), but with the game on the line he sought out his favorite target. The first of their two scoring plays came in the final seconds of the first half, breaking a 13-13 tie.
“The first one was around the back of the end zone,” Scott said. “Brad trusted me to catch the ball. Then the other one, I can’t really explain it. It’s just what we do.”
Clinging to a three-point lead in the final two minutes of the game, Kaaya found Scott with a second short touchdown pass to put the game out of reach.
“There’s a chemistry there,” Golden noted.
For the season, Kaaya leads the ACC with 1,499 yards passing. Scott is second in the conference in receiving yards with 415. The two make up the ACC’s most lethal duo, and it isn’t even close. The combination of Virginia QB Matt Johns (1,198 passing yards) and wide receiver Canaan Severin (348 receiving yards) are a distant second.
Scott said that the many hours of practice and watching film is paying off. “We’re close,” Scott said of his relationship with Kaaya. “We both love the game. We have got a passion for it, and we both want to win.”
In a must-win game Saturday, Kaaya admitted to having some butterflies in his stomach prior to kickoff.
“I was a little bit nervous going into this game just because (Virginia Tech defensive coordinator) Bud Foster is a really good coach,” Kaaya said. He’s really good at scheming teams, and you don’t really know what he’s going to throw at you.”
With the help of his more than capable receiver, Kaaya and the Canes (4-2, 1-1) were able to figure it out and remain competitive in a suddenly salty Coastal Division that includes conference unbeatens Pitt (3-0), Duke (2-0) and North Carolina (2-0). All three teams are 5-1 overall.