University of Miami

Miami defense gets ‘punched in the face’ but fights back in win over Duke

Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, top, is sacked by Miami defensive end Joe Jackson, causing a fumble in the first half of Saturday’s victory. Jackson, a freshman, was a standout with two sacks, giving him 7 1/2 this season.
Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, top, is sacked by Miami defensive end Joe Jackson, causing a fumble in the first half of Saturday’s victory. Jackson, a freshman, was a standout with two sacks, giving him 7 1/2 this season. adiaz@miamiherald.com

The Miami Hurricanes defense continued its resurgent season under the direction of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz in Saturday afternoon’s 40-21 victory over Duke.

After the Blue Devils scored on their first two possessions, the Canes’ defense tightened up and allowed only one more score for the remainder of the game. Highlighted by a 10-for-10 start and two touchdown passes by Duke freshman quarterback Daniel Jones, the Blue Devils offense was rolling early on, amassing 141 yards in the first quarter alone.

“I didn’t like the urgency we started the game with,” Diaz said.. “I don’t feel like we ran to the ball and tackled like Hurricanes either. We had to get punched in the face a few times before we got going, which is unfortunate. However, when we got going, I loved the way that we responded and got stop after stop, allowing our offense to take control of the game.”

Miami’s scoring defense came into the game ranked 16th in the country, allowing an average of 18.7 points per game. Duke’s offense was averaging 23.5 points per game this season, ranking 109th nationally.

The Blue Devils’ second touchdown came on the first play of the second half, and they scored for the third and final time with 2:41 left in the fourth quarter when the game was well out of hand.

Last week, Diaz was nominated for the Broyles award, which goes to the nation’s top assistant coach.

“When you get a nomination like that, that speaks much more to all the people that are around you,” said Diaz, who also credited the “culture” that coach Mark Richt has built in his first season at Miami.

Even with Miami’s success on the defensive side of the ball, Diaz said he thinks his group has not yet reached its full potential.

“Our players have done a good job playing to the standard we’ve set and they’ve embraced,” Diaz said. “For me, and I think every coach would say this, I don’t think our best game has been played yet. Do we have the maturity, the ability, to go out from start to finish and dominate a good football team? That’s still the one thing we have hanging out in front of us.”

Freshman defensive end Joseph Jackson was a standout for the Hurricanes on Saturday as he had two sacks — giving him  7 1/2 this season. Defensive tackle Kendrick Norton also had a sack in the fourth quarter, and senior safety Rayshawn Jenkins led the team with seven solo tackles.

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