‘That was pretty spectacular,’ Richt says of defense that scored three times
The Miami Hurricanes’ excitement, exuberance and elation from Thursday night’s Atlantic Coast Conference opener is already long over.
It was a night in which the No. 16 Hurricanes rolled to a 47-10 win over North Carolina at Hard Rock Stadium, putting up the largest margin of victory in an ACC game over coach Mark Richt’s two-plus year tenure leading the program
It was a night in which the defense forced six turnovers and tied a school record by returning three for touchdowns.
It was a night in which the Hurricanes saw yet another glimpse of their future at the quarterback position with redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry earning his first career start.
Above all, though, the coaches and players still weren’t satisfied with their performance and know there is still a lot they can improve on heading into Florida State week and throughout the rest of the season with the ACC Coastal appearing to be a wide open race at this point.
“We are going to be our biggest critics,” said defensive lineman Jon Garvin, who wore the Hurricanes’ Turnover Chain twice on Thursday and scored Miami’s first defensive touchdown. “We are going to go in there, in the film room we are not going to be smiling in there. Like it is going to be serious. Even if we did have a good game it still could be better. That is the way it always is.”
There are definitely positives Miami (4-1, 1-0 ACC) will see in the film room when the team reconvenes on Sunday.
For the defense, there are the 14 tackles for loss and a 2-for-13 efficiency on third down in addition to those six turnovers — the most in a single game by a UM defense since 2010. In just five games, the Hurricanes have already recorded 60 tackles for loss and are holding opponents to a miniscule 17.14 conversion rate on third down. Both marks lead the nation.
“That was a sight to see,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said.
But for all the great the defense showed, it was also gashed in the run game. Excluding three sacks, the Tar Hells ran for 237 yards on 37 carries, a 6.4 yard average per touch. Of those runs, 13 went for at least 10 yards and 5 went at least 20.
“They had some new things that they had not shown the first couple games of the season,” Diaz said. “But it was just, you know, a guy would do something wrong on this play, and a guy would do something wrong on that play. … We weren’t playing clean, in the run game.”
The offense showed strides in the first half with Perry leading the charge.
After having to punt on the opening drive, Miami scored on each of its next four possessions on a pair of field goals by Bubba Baxa, a 4-yard rush by Deejay Dallas and a 5-yard touchdown pass from Perry to Darrell Langham. Add the defense’s two first-half touchdowns, and the score was 33-10 at halftime.
Perry completed his first five passes for 74 yards, including a 28-yard dart to Mike Harley to open the game, and went 7-for-10 with 121 yards and a touchdown after two quarters.
“He was putting the ball on the money,” Richt said. “I’m very impressed with that. He made good decisions.”
The second half showed where Perry needs room for improvement.
He turned the ball over on each of his first two drives in the second half. The first came on a strip-sack when North Carolina defensive end Malik Carney came rushing into the backfield. Fellow defensive lineman Jeremiah Clarke recovered. The second was an interception on a pass to Brevin Jordan in tight coverage.
Perry only attempted one more pass on the night, a fourth-quarter completion to Jordan for 4 yards.
He had help from his run game, too. The one-two punch of Travis Homer and Dallas combined for 202 rushing yards on 25 carries, averaging an absurd 8.1 yards per carry.
“It was good,” Perry said. “It can always be better. There’s always room for improvement.”
A common theme for the night.