The Miami Hurricanes entered Saturday’s Regular Season finale against Duke looking to extend their winning streak to 4 games, and vanquish a team that had endured a tough 2016 season. The Canes were able to do just that, emerging with a 40-21 victory.
The win, highlighted by some stellar individual performances, moved Miami to 8-4 (5-3 ACC) and put the Canes in line for a tier 1 bowl game. The loss dropped Duke to 4-8 (1-7 ACC) on the year. The Blue Devils’ season is over.
It was an up and down game in the first quarter. Miami marched 45 yards in 8 plays, a drive that culminated in a Michael Badgley 46 yard FG to take a 3-0 lead just minutes into the game.
Duke responded with an 8 play, 75 yard TD drive capped by a 6 yard TD pass from Daniel Jones to Jonathan Lloyd to put the Blue Devils in front 7-3.
Not to be outdone, Miami answered with a 72 yard drive, capped by a spectacular diving catch by Mark Walton on a 30 yard TD to put Miami back in front 10-7.
Duke would answer right back, marching 84 yards in 8 plays, capped with another Daniel Jones TD pass to put Duke back in front 14-10, 1 play into the 2nd quarter.
Miami got the ball back and went down the field with ease. That is, until they stalled at the 8 yard line and had to settle for another Michael Badgley FG to make the score 14-13 Duke, with just under 11 minutes left in the first half.
Miami would answer with another Michael Badgley FG, this one from 33 yards, to make the score 16-14. That would end up being the scoreline heading into halftime.
The teams traded punts a couple of times to start the second half, before Miami made a dent on the scoreboard. Facing 1st and 10 on their own 24 after a Duke punt, Brad Kaaya hit David Njoku up the seam. He stiff-armed a defender and ran away from 2 more, tiptoeing up the right sideline for a beautiful 76 yard touchdown. And, after just 1 play, Miami went up 23-14 with 8:30 left in the 3rd Quarter.
Duke drove the ball on the ensuing possession, but missed a 40 yard FG, leaving the score at 23-14. Miami, however, wasted no time in changing that margin.
Brad Kaaya came out dropping dimes on the next drive, hitting Stacy Coley for 33 yards up the right sideline, then hitting Braxton Berrios for 38 yards up the left sideline on consecutive plays. Kaaya and the Canes finished the drive with a 3 yard TD pass to Stacy Coley to extend the lead to 30-14.
Miami’s defense, notoriously stingy in the 2nd halves of games, continued to be just that. After yet another stop, Miami’s offense got the ball back. And, just as he had done many times previously, Brad Kaaya immediately went to work.
On the first completion of the possession, Kaaya hit Stacy Coley for a 38 yard gain up the sideline. This is noteworthy because, with the completion, Brad Kaaya passed Canes legend Ken Dorsey for the most passing yards in Miami Hurricanes History!
Love him or hate you, you have to appreciate the greatness that Brad Kaaya has shown in his time at Miami. Yes, the W/L record leaves some to be desired, but wins aren’t a QB stat, so you’ll live.
ANYWAYS, Miami continued to add to their lead. On the drive in which Kaaya set the all-time passing record, Miami added another Michael Badgley field goal, this one from 43 yards out, to make the score 33-14 Canes at the end of the 3rd quarter.
In the 4th quarter the Canes kept on moving the ball, eating up time, and frustrating a Duke team that came into the game with designs on an upset.
The teams traded punts a couple of times before Miami was able to get into the endzone again. On a 2nd and 8 play, Brad Kaaya hit David Njoku on a play-action pass across the middle for a short gain. Njoku, aided by a gorgeous block by Stacy Coley, got loose up the sideline for a 58 yard score. The play was reviewed, but the refs — correctly — deemed that Njoku was able to stay in-bounds and he walked the tightrope up the sideline, and Miami’s lead was extended to 40-14.
Duke was able to chip back a bit, however. QB Daniel Jones hit WR Quay Chambers for a 12 yard TD with just under 3 minutes remaining in the game, making the score 40-21 Miami.
After the onside kick went out of bounds, Miami was able to salt away the game, using a physical running game. Even with the Canes trying to run out the clock, Miami almost scored one last touchdown. In for his only drive of the day, QB Malik Rosier took off on a naked bootleg and raced down the right sideline, weaving between blockers. He was tackled on the 10 yard line by the last defender back, keeping the score at 40-21 and saving Duke from a more lopsided beating than they already took.
In what may have been their final games at Miami, Brad Kaaya and David Njoku showed why they could be among some of the top underclassmen for the NFL draft. Njoku ended his day with 2 catches for 134 yards and 2 TDs, a line that he said he may have approached in HS, but never in college. And on his record setting day, Kaaya ended 22-35 for 396 yards 4 TDs and 0 INTs.
After the game, both Njoku and Kaaya told the assembled media that they had made no decisions about their NFL futures. “Right now, I’m focused on the bowl game, and I’ll figure it out after that”, Njoku said.
“I don’t really know. I mean, I’m sure I’ll know eventually, but I don’t know right now. I’m sorry”, Kaaya said. When asked directly if he’d thought about leaving for the NFL said: “It’s crossed my mind before. It crosses every kid’s mind.” Kaaya went on to say that he would sit with Coach Richt, and other advisors, and his family before making a decision.
If he stays or goes, Miami may not see a better performance from Brad Kaaya than what we saw today. Duke had a front row seat for the show, and leaves South Florida with their 8th loss of the year.
Told you it wouldn’t come down to a kick return this year. Thanks for making me look good, guys!