Duke Johnson had the game that everyone was expecting him to have. The Miami defense had the game that no one thought that they could have. Combine the two and it is easy to see how the Canes escaped with a 22-10 victory over the Duke Blue Devils Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens.
After rushing for 90 or more yards in each of Miami's four prior games this season, the junior from Norland finally broke the century mark as he rushed for 155 yards on 25 carries and scored a touchdown. Duke surpassed Graig Cooper to move into fifth place on the all-time rushing list at UM. Johnson also played most of the game with a "tweaked" ankle.
"I had to fight through the pain tonight," Johnson said following the victory. "This game was so important. We had to get this ACC Coastal victory."
Freshman Joe Yearby had nine carries for 61 yards, but also caught a 47-yard touchdown from fellow true freshman Brad Kaaya. Yearby was running down the right side of the defense on a wheel route out of the backfield and was wide open. He beat the nearest defender by at least seven yards,
"He wasn't necessarily the first guy in the progression," Miami coach Al Golden said after the game. "In fact, I think he was actually the last. Joe just finished the play. He finished his route and Brad kept himself alive. It was an effort play."
Yearby was hoping to get the chance to score against Duke and he knew pre-planned how he and his teammates would celebrate the occasion. It should be noted that his former Central High running mate Dalvin Cook also scored today for FSU in their win over NC State.
"We've talked about it, whenever I scored my first touchdown," Yearby said. "We were all gonna celebrate together." Yearby also admitted after the game that he was a little nervous on the play as he saw the ball heading his way, knowing that he was so wide open and that he needed to score on the play.
Kaaya, making his second ACC start, went 20 of 34 for 223 yards and two scores.
"What really impresses me about Brad is his toughness," Johnson said after the game. "He just cannot be shaken. He is one tough kid."
Kaaya tweeted out after the game that "we play each and every down for this family, this team and this program. No one's opinion matters that it outside this family."
It was only fitting that Kaaya came out firing and led Miami to scores on their first two drives.
The freshman from California started out as hot as a pizza coming out of the oven. He finished the first quarter by hitting on 11 of 16 attempts for 108 yards and it looked like he was going to have another record setting performance. However, that all changed when Miami started to establish the run and take control of the line of scrimmage and play ball control against the Blue Devils, who saw a 12-game regular season winning streak snapped at the hands of the Hurricanes.
Miami got robbed of an apparent 35-yard touchdown in the second quarter as Kaaya hit Dorsett in stride, but it was ruled out of bounds. The replay clearly showed that Dorsett had one foot in bounds and had control of the football.
The story of the game was Miami playing stellar defense. All week the fan base was complaining about the lack of execution and the lack of a proper defensive scheme by the coaching staff.
"We didn't change much schematically," Golden said. "We just executed better."
Herb Waters, the recipient of a 28-yard touchdown pass from Kaaya in the second half was critical of UM fans that denounced the team's defensive unit. Waters also led the team with five receptions for 81 yards and the score.
"Last week we had a lot of outside people bashing our defense," Waters said. "I'm proud of them for ignoring all of the noise tonight."
In their loss to the Blue Devils last season, Miami gave up 358 yards rushing. The Canes gave up 83 yards rushing on Saturday night and had the Blue Devils in third and long on many occasions. Duke only completed two of 16 third down attempts and failed on all three of their attempts on fourth down.
Denzel Perryman and Ladarius Gunter each had second-half interceptions to lead the UM defense. Rafael Kirby led the defense with six tackles, while Thurston Armbrister added five as did Perryman and Jermaine Grace, who grew into his position this week.
NOTES: Golden also admitted to the media after the game that his wife, Kelly, was admitted to a local hospital at approximately 5 am last Saturday, while the Canes were playing at Nebraska. She was released this Thursday and appears to be doing well... Stacey Coley, UM's big-play receiver and kick and punt returner, was kept at bay by the Blue Devils. He only caught two balls for seven yards and was a non-factor in the return game. His shoulder injury could still be bothering him. Braxton Berrios had some playing time tonight in the slot, but only caught one pass....Michael Badgley, filling in again for kicker Matt Goudis, missed an extra point in the first quarter. It was his second such miss this season. He was also woefully short and wide on a 52-yard field goal attempt....Justin Vogel punted eight times on the night with a 43.4 yard average and placed three punts inside the 20 yard line. He continues to impress statistically, but his punts still look like a three-iron knocked down into the wind. He gets no hang time on them and does not give his coverage team enough time to get down to make a play. A speedy returner will hurt the Canes special teams in those situations.