RALEIGH, N.C. In a fierce defensive battle with some history-making offense along the way, Miami scored 24 second-half points to defeat North Carolina State 27-13 on Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium and win its fourth road game in a season for the first time since 2010.
UM true freshman receiver Ahmmon Richards set the single-season freshman receiving yards record for the Hurricanes with 117 yards on a career-high nine receptions, giving him 849 yards and breaking the previous record of 840 yards by “The Playmaker” Michael Irvin — a record that was set in 1985 and stood for 31 years.
“Yeah, I knew there was a chance,” Richards said of breaking the record. “But, honestly, I just wanted to win.”
Not to be outdone, UM sophomore running back Mark Walton surpassed the coveted 1,000-yard rushing mark with his 24-yard touchdown run that gave the Canes breathing room with 2:06 left.
“Just trusting everything that the coaches put in,” said Walton, who gained 120 yards on 19 carries and scored three touchdowns against the nation’s fourth-ranked rushing defense.
UM coach Mark Richt was thrilled all the way around, praising the offense and the defense’s “fantastic” play, as well as the exceptional punting by Justin Vogel.
“We made some beautiful plays when it counted the most,” Richt said. “Got some turnovers. … Really proud of everybody. Just a great effort.”
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said he was “obviously disappointed” for his senior class in its final home game at Carter-Finley. The Wolfpack needs a victory in its finale next Saturday at neighboring North Carolina to qualify for a bowl.
“Obviously, we didn’t make enough plays when we needed to,” Doeren said.
UM held N.C. State (5-6, 2-5) to 329 yards (119 rushing) and raised its record to 7-4 and 4-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, improving its future bowl status with its third consecutive victory after four losses in a row.
Canes quarterback Brad Kaaya completed 22 of 38 passes for 286 yards.
Scoring in the second half for UM after a 3-3 halftime tie: Walton three times with runs of 30, 1 and the 24-yard clincher; and Michael Badgley with a 22-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
“Usual halftime adjustments,” said Kaaya, who was sacked twice in the first half but was kept clean in the second half. “See what they do and verify what we saw, on film. We realized we had to run the ball to be able to finish out some of our long drives. We were having some pretty good drives, [but] we just couldn’t punch it in, couldn’t finish them out.
“[Offensive line] coach [Stacy] Searels and Coach Richt did a good job of making our adjustments and allowing our O-line to create some seams for Mark. We knew something would give at some point.”
N.C. State had a third-quarter 3-yard touchdown run by Matt Dayes, the Weston Cypress Bay High graduate who on Saturday became the first Wolfpack tailback since 2002 to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in a season. His touchdown narrowed UM’s lead to 17-10 before Badgley’s 22-yarder.
The Pack scored again on a 25-yard field goal by Connor Haskins with 5:23 left to make it 20-13.
UM had two second-half turnovers, the first career interception by freshman cornerback Malek Young and a fumble recovery by safety Jaquan Johnson after Bra’Lon Cherry coughed up the ball on a punt return early in the fourth quarter.
“It felt great,” Young said. “Just be urgent to the ball and you do what the coach says and it’s going to fall in your hands.”
A third-down pass interference by N.C. State with 2:56 left gave UM the first down and secured the victory.
Miami returns home next Saturday for the regular-season finale — Senior Day — against Duke.
“The season went by so fast,” said true freshman middle linebacker Shaquille Quarterman, who has played outstanding all season and had eight tackles and a quarterback hurry on Saturday. “We push each other to do everything right and to be the best defense we can be because we have the talent to do it. And now we have the coaches that put us in the position to do it. So, there’s no slowing down. We want to be great. We want to bring Miami back to where it was, and reaching that standard again is our No. 1 goal.”