As the No. 16 Miami Hurricanes ran out of their smoke tunnel and onto the field at Hard Rock Stadium on Thursday night, moments before opening Atlantic Coast Conference play against North Carolina, questions still surrounded who Mark Richt would choose to be his starting quarterback.
When the smoke cleared, figuratively and literally, redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry emerged as Miami’s starter, a move Richt said was made a couple days ago and was told to the team at a walkthrough during the week.
And while Perry had his share of moments both good and bad, he did enough on his end to help the Hurricanes to a 47-10 win over the Tar Heels.
Perry’s final stat line: 8-of-12 passing for 125 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He was also sacked twice and lost a fumble in the third quarter.
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“It was good,” Perry said. “It can always be better. There’s always room for improvement.”
Let’s start with the good.
Perry completed his first five passes for 74 yards, including a 28-yard dart to Mike Harley to open the game.
After Miami’s first drive ended in a punt, Perry led the offense to four consecutive first-half scoring to help Miami take a 33-10 lead at halftime.
Perry went into the locker room having completed 7-of-10 passes for 121 yards and a 5-yard touchdown pass to Darrell Langham. Three of those passes went for at least 20 yards, including a 42-yard completion to Harley down the left sideline.
“He was putting the ball on the money,” Richt said. “I’m very impressed with that. He made good decisions.”
And now for the room for improvement.
Perry 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.
“Overall, I thought he played well,” Richt said, “but certainly better in the first half than the second half.”
Perry had help along the way, too.
The defense wreaked havoc on North Carolina all night, forcing six turnovers (with three returned for touchdowns) and recording 14 tackles for loss.
Running backs Deejay Dallas and Travis Homer combined for 202 rushing yards on 25 carries, averaging an absurd 8.1 yards per carry.
And the offensive line gave him a relatively clean pocket.
“I’m very proud,” Perry said. “Proud of the team. Proud of the offensive line. The defense. Everybody. The whole team showed up.”