Ten postscripts from UM’s 27-13 win at NC State:
• After UM’s fourth loss in a row, we mentioned that Mark Walton was averaged just 3.0 yards per carry against Power 5 conference schools and had failed to top 3.0 per carry in 12 of 16 games against Power 5 schools.
Walton has been extraordinary since then, with no performance more impressive than Saturday’s against a stout NC State run defense.
The Wolfpack entered third in the nation in run defense, allowing 99 yards rushing per game and 3.0 per carry.
Walton ran for 120 yards on 19 carries (a 6.3 average) and scored three touchdowns, including a 24-yarder to ice the game.
Walton averaged 2.8, 3.4, 3.5 and 2.5 yards in UM’s four losses.
Since then, he averaged 8.9 against Pittsburgh (14 for 125), 6.9 against Virginia (16 for 111) and 6.3 today.
Not only is Walton over 1000 yards for the season, but he now has 23 touchdowns in 24 career games and is on pace to break the Hurricanes’ all-time TD record if he stays all four years. He had touchdown runs from 30, 1 and 24 yards.
Walton deserves a large share of the credit for his turnaround, but UM’s offensive line is also creating more space.
“You got to block well,” Mark Richt said. “But he broke some tackles. It was a great job by him. He had some broken tackles that turned into big runs.”
Said Walton: “O-line did a great job of adjusting to the defense and I was hitting it. They came in with the [No. 3] defense stopping the run, just wanted to show we can run the ball.”
• UM has produced some magnificent players at receiver, led by Michael Irvin. But Ahmmon Richards could end up among the Hurricanes’ all-timers at the position.
Richards, appropriately, topped Irvin’s record for receiving yardage at a freshman. (Irvin had 840 yards in 1985.)
Richards closed with 9 catches for 117 yards, and his 21.5 per catch average (third in the country) actually went down.
“The first time I saw his high school tape, I knew he would be a great one,” Richt said. “He’s a beautiful kid. He stuck with his commitment, paid off for him and our team. The kid has got talent. The kid has got some humility and some character. He could have gone anywhere in America. Even going through a coaching change, he did not waver. I can’t tell you how happy I am with that. I’m sure he is, too.”
The record was meaningful for Richards: “This was one of my goals to break the record. That means everything to me and my family back home. I know they’re proud of me.”
• Since struggling at times against FSU, North Carolina and Virginia Tech, Brad Kaaya has played pretty well since, with seven touchdowns and two picks over the past four games.
He’s still missing some throws – including overthrowing a wide-open Stacy Coley in the second half – but he also makes dynamic throws that catch the eyes of NFL teams, including the missile to Coley for a 51-yard gain. He closed Saturday 22 for 38 for 286 yards.
He’s now 276 yards from surpassing Ken Dorsey’s career passing yardage record at UM.
• Coley, incidentally, hasn’t started the past two games, with UM opting to open with Richards and Malcolm Lewis at receiver. Unclear if that’s motivated Coley, but the 51-yard catch and run was Coley at his best.
• After getting just five carries in five October games, Gus Edwards carried the ball multiple times on UM’s final scoring drive that was capped by Walton’s 24-yard TD run. Edwards’ numbers were modest (5 carries for 12 yards) – after running 11 times for 68 yards last week – but he has done enough in practice to earn meaningful playing time.
Joe Yearby had only two carries for 15 yards.
• With Trevor Darling still sidelined, Kc McDermott again started at left tackle and committed four penalties.
“Four penalties – that’s not good,” he said on WQAM. “But I just kept going… Coach Richt has made a priority that this will be a team that never, ever quits. We have never given up on anything. I’m so proud of this team.”
The line generally played well in the second half.
• Cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph said he got emotional when Malek Young committed to UM, and the freshman from Coconut Creek continues to impress, including an interception Saturday.
Young made his second consecutive start, opposite Corn Elder, who – as usual – made a couple of terrific plays in pass coverage.
• Shaq Quarterman had eight tackles, and Manny Diaz continues getting every ounce out this group. The front seven was stout except for NC State’s late TD drive.
“Our players are loving it,” Richt said of Diaz’s system. “They are getting a chance… to get all those tackles for loss. Our defensive played beautifully. Coach Diaz has been the catalyst behind it all.”
• Richt, on WQAM: “This was an excellent team. The more I watch tape of this [NC State] team, the better they get. They are a field goal away from beating Clemson, a dropped interception from beating FSU.”
Richt once again implored fans to come to Saturday’s home game (against Duke): “We have to show recruits that we can put people in the house.”
• At 7-4, UM believes it could end up playing a bowl in Yankee Stadium or Jacksonville if it beats Duke to finish 8-4. The Duke start time will be announced late Saturday night or Sunday morning…. UM outgained NC State, 415-329, and the Wolfpack was just 5 for 17 on third down…. UM, which led 3-0 after 15 minutes, has outscored opponents, 75-44, in the first quarter this season.