While everyone else wandered off the field and back to the locker room following practice Tuesday in Coral Gables, one unit stuck around.
Tyler Gauthier described practice for he and the rest of the offensive linemen as, “horrible.” They flinched over and over again, and at the end of practice Stacy Searels had them hitting a blocking sled while everyone else was already off the field.
The Miami Hurricanes’ offensive linemen had to do this. It was their punishment for a bad practice following a bad game. DeeJay Dallas didn’t, but he was there anyway, punishing himself for what he deemed was his own poor performance Saturday.
“Just everybody holding each other accountable,” Dallas said Tuesday in Coral Gables. “I feel like I let my teammates down Saturday a little bit, so we just have to go over there and reassure them that I still have their backs.”
By the lofty standards he’s established for himself, Dallas did struggle in the 28-27 win against Florida State at Hard Rock Stadium. The sophomore ran for only 31 yards on 10 carries. His 3.1 average yards per carry was his worst since the Miami’s stunning loss to Pittsburgh in November of last season.
As soon as the No. 16 Hurricanes returned to practice ahead of a road game against Virginia on Saturday, Dallas tried to set the tone for a better week. Every time a player flinches during practice, coach Mark Richt makes him run a lap. As mistakes piled up, Searels lined up an additional punishment for after practice. Dallas chose to make it about more than just one unit having a rough day.
“He wants to make us better. DeeJay brings a leadership role to this team that’s beneficial,” Gauthier said. “It shows he wants to be better than that. The offensive line came out here and, I’m going to be honest, we practiced like crap today. That’s why we were doing that. DeeJay came over to help us out. I got a lot of respect for DeeJay for doing that.”
Saturday in Miami Gardens marked the first game this season with a truly significant disparity in touches between Dallas and Travis Homer. The starting running back logged 21 carries in the win after not out-carrying Dallas by more than eight in any previous game this year.
Homer wasn’t particularly explosive either — he totaled only 70 yards on the ground for an average of 3.3 yards per carry — but the flow of the game was simply better suited to Homer’s downhill running style.
The two tailback’s complementary styles have helped the Hurricanes’ put together a top-50 rushing offense, averaging more than 4.6 yards per carry. With an inexperienced quarterback at the helm and a No. 1 wide receiver whose career came to an end earlier this season, Dallas and Homer make up arguably the most reliable unit on Miami’s offense. If Dallas bounces back Saturday, the Hurricanes will be in good shape to avoid an upset in Charlottesville.
History suggests he will. After the loss to the Panthers in 2017, Dallas ran for 7.3 yards per carry in an ACC Championship loss to Clemson the next weekend, then 8.6 yards per carry in an Orange Bowl loss to Wisconsin to wrap up the season. Until Saturday, Dallas hadn’t run for fewer than 4.0 yards per carry in a game this season.
“You’ll see,” Dallas said. “We’ve got Saturday coming.”