Is that a win streak I smell? *eyes emoji* Whether you start counting a win streak at two or three games, it feels good to see Miami back to their winning ways and put together back-to-back victories.
This past Saturday Miami (6-4, 3-3 ACC) traveled north to Virginia (2-8, 1-5) and defeated the Cavs 34-14, the first Canes win at UVA since 2008. The biggest takeaway from the game was Miami’s dominance in the run game and the great play from the offensive line. The Canes rushed for 222 yards and two touchdowns on the day, highlighted by a 111-yard, one-touchdown performance by sophomore tailback Mark Walton. Walton is now up to 885 rushing yards on the season and is well on pace to break the coveted 1,000-yard season. Hitting that mark would give the Canes a 1,000-yard rusher for the third consecutive season, something that hasn’t been accomplished in more than a decade.
Another top performer from Saturday is a name you should get accustom to hearing, freshman receiver Ahmmon Richards. The phenom led all receivers with 100 yards and a touchdown on just three catches; the chunk of that yardage accumulated on a 77-yard touchdown reception.
When you realize that @CanesFootball standout Ahmmon Richards (@AhmmonR2) is only a freshman pic.twitter.com/4VRSIynvQL— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) November 16, 2016
Ahmmon Richards leads all freshmen in the country, redshirt or not, in receiving yards (632) and yards/catch (20.39) pic.twitter.com/u2R0goKK28— John Clough (@John_Clough) November 7, 2016
Moving forward, the NC State Wolfpack (5-5, 2-4) are next on the schedule, and playing the Pack on the road is never an easy task. Although they are 5-5, NC State should not be taken lightly. The majority of the starters consists of juniors and seniors, and no freshman receive legitimate playing time. On the other sideline, they will see a team that started four freshman on defense alone, and Richards on the offensive of the ball.
Let’s take a look at the last time these two teams played:
What a thriller that game was! Morris threw for an ACC single-game record 566 yards in the win for the Canes. Three things I miss from that clip: the O-line (DAWGS), Jedd Fisch’s offense, and Stephen Morris’ arm...MY LORD! What I don’t miss...watching that old defense! Just makes me cringe.
Miami Offensive Line vs. NC State Front Seven
After coming off a very strong performance, the Miami O-line will most likely face their toughest challenge this season. Yes, even after matchups with FSU, VT & UNC, the Wolfpack will by far be the best defensive line the Canes will see all season. They may not be the most athletic or known, but this group is big, physical and strong against the run. Going into Saturday, NC State is currently ranked fourth in the entire country in rush defense, only giving up 99 yards per game. They are also giving up 23.1 points per game.
The two names to look out for are their two defensive ends, Bradley Chubb & Darian Roseboro. Chubb (6’4” 275) currently leads the conference in tackles for loss (18) and has totaled nine sacks on the season. Chubb and the Wolfpack defense have not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season. The same unit held Dalvin Cook to 65 yards on 18 carries.
The Canes O-line will certainly have their hands full, especially with starting LT Trevor Darling battling his way back from a lower body injury. Against UVA, LG Kc McDermott filled in nicely for Darling in his absence. That unit has become a bit of a revolving door, as McDermott is now playing LT, Tyree St. Louis is playing RT in place of injured starter Sunny Odogwu, & sophomore Tyler Gauthier & senior Alex Gall made their first career starts at LG and center, respectively. RG Danny Isadora is the only Canes lineman to still be playing his opening day position.
Over the past two weeks vs. Pitt & UVA, the Miami offense has rushed for 200 yards in each game. Mark Walton reached the century mark in each of those contests as well. A 100-yard performance and 200 total rushing yards may be a tall tale to ask against one of the nation’s top rush defenses, but in order for Miami to control the game and play it the way they want it to be played, they will certainly need help from the ground game.
Of the final four games of the season, this is the game that was most likely going to give the Canes the most trouble. Going on the road in conference is never easy, no matter the opponent. The Wolfpack definitely are a formidable opponent that should not be taken lightly.
On the offensive side of the ball, Miami must contain NC State tailback Matt Dayes. The workhorse back has rushed for over 100 yards in seven games this season and has racked up 939 yards on the ground. The senior will be playing with a chip on his shoulder, as he is a Ft. Lauderdale native and he and his team will be fighting for bowl eligibility. With games against Miami and at UNC left on the schedule, their best chance to get to six wins will be this upcoming Saturday.
Despite various injuries and attrition, the Miami defense is still playing very well and statistically remains one of the best in the country. If they can control Dayes and make the Wolfpack one dimensional, it could spell a long day for the NC State offense. With NC State being a lethal run-defending team, I fully expect Kaaya to total 40+ passes and make up yards through the air.