You could say this game was kind of a big deal for the Duke Blue Devils.
Some even called this ACC matchup against the Miami Hurricanes potentially “program changing”.
Duke started their season better than even their most ardent supporters expected, riding high into Wallace Wade Stadium on a Friday night in Durham undefeated at 4-0, with a win putting them in the driver’s seat of the ACC Coastal.
They hadn’t seen anything quite like these Hurricanes, though.
The Blue Devils would walk off their home field utterly exasperated by a big play Hurricane offense and a suffocating Miami defense, and UM rolled to a surprisingly easy 31-6 victory over the Blue Devils.
The Canes had 8 plays of 25 yards or more on their way to 31 points, leaving a previously stingy Duke defense wondering what went wrong. Miami QB Malik Rosier started a perfect 9-9 in the first quarter before the Duke pass rush seemed to disrupt his timing a bit. Still, Rosier finished 15-26 for 270 yards and 2 TD’s against 1 interception, adding in some key runs to churn out first downs when Miami’s traditional ground game was looking ineffective.
However, just like last weekend against Toledo, Miami’s offense was streaky. Miami started out hot, scoring touchdowns on their first two drives. After Duke adjusted though, they used a savage pass rush to shut the Canes out of the endzone until the 4th quarter, when Rosier’s most significant pass of the day went 49 yards for a TD to Ahmmon Richards that effectively put the game out of reach for Duke.
Richards, playing in his first game of the season coming off a hamstring injury, finished with 3 catches, each for 25 plus yards, and 106 yards in total, looking every bit like the dominant star receiver we’ve come to expect.
Even with an offensive lull, the game never really felt in doubt for UM because of a swarming defense that held the Duke offense, which was averaging 40.5 points a game, to just 2 field goals. LB Mike Pinckney led the way and was all over the field with 10 tackles, 1.5 TFL, a sack and an acrobatic pick off a tipped throw from Duke QB Daniel Jones.
Miami’s secondary, under fire after constantly letting receivers run free and having mental busts in their last game against Toledo, stuck to the Duke wideouts like glue all night, while Joe Jackson and a ferocious defensive line harassed Jones in the pocket, recording 5 sacks. Jones finished 21-41 for a measly 166 yards and 1 interception in what was a complete effort by Manny Diaz’s unit.
Duke received the ball first and moved with ease on the opening drive, going 13 plays for 65 yards. However, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe made the call to go for it on 4th and one from the Miami 13 yard line. It was the wrong call, as Mike Pinckney blitzed from his linebacker spot and dropped Duke QB Daniel Jones for a big sack.
That play sparked some emotion from the Canes, giving the offense a springboard to go 76 yards in 5 plays to kick off the scoring. A dynamic 39 yard catch and run from Mark Walton gave the Canes the ball deep in Duke territory. Then, Rosier dropped back, hung in the pocket, and took a hit, but was just able to throw a strike to Braxton Berrios on a deep post for a 27 yard TD.
After a Blue Devils 3 and out, Rosier would stay hot, finding Ahmmon Richards down the right sideline for his first catch of the season. Richards tapped his toes for a pickup of 29. Then, Rosier showed off his wheels, taking 2 carries for 19 yards; the initial one picked up a first down, while the next moved the ball to the Duke one yard line. A successful QB sneak on third down gave Miami a 14-0 lead, quieting the Duke faithful at Wallace Wade Stadium.
A shifty kick return from Duke returner Shaun Wilson gave the Blue Devils great field position on their own 43. A third down pickup by Chris Taylor and a late hit from Miami DT Kendrick Norton got Duke down to the Miami 14, but this time on 4th down, Cutcliffe elected to take the points and Duke kicker Austin Parker put the Blue Devils on the board. 14-3 Canes.
Both defenses would stiffen up after that and Miami and Duke traded punts. On Duke’s subsequent possession, Michael Jackson had blanket coverage on a Jones pass and got a hand in, tipping the ball high enough for a somersaulting Pickney to intercept it. Turnover Chain time!
The turnover chain is the greatest innovation in the history of this amazing sport. pic.twitter.com/JBcX6WO1jP— David Wilson (@DBWilson2) September 30, 2017
Starting in Duke territory, the Canes picked up a big third down on a 25 yard pass to Berrios, and a Rosier run again put the ball on the Blue Devil inch yard line. The QB sneak that worked in the first quarter was stopped by the Duke goal line defense this time, and a toss to Walton was stuffed for a loss on third down, prompting Richt to bring on the FG team. Michael Badgley knocked it through to give the Canes a 17-3 lead. The Blue Devils stayed composed, though, and drove 57 yards in the final 3 minutes of the half, getting another FG from Parker to send both teams into the locker room at a score of 17-6.
The Canes punted to open up the second half and the Duke ground game came out on fire, gashing UM for 35 yards on 4 straight carries. Manny Diaz’s unit would hold strong though, with Demetrius Jackson and Trent Harris swarming Jones on 3rd down for a sack to end the Blue Devils’ promising campaign.
Miami made some noise on their next possession, with a 25 yard catch by Walton on 3rd down moving the chains. Pressure on Rosier killed the drive though, and 3 straight incompletions brought out Miami punter Zach Feagles. Calling Feagles’ punt a “shank” would be offensive to shanked punts everywhere; the ball went off his foot to the right, hit the ground just ahead of the line of scrimmage, and bounced backwards out of bounds for a loss of one.
Another Duke punt gave Miami the opportunity to try and pull away, but Rosier would give the ball right back. Dropping back, Rosier had Richards open with space in front of him, but pressure from the Duke front did not allow him to step into the throw; the ball sailed high and into the arms of Blue Devils corner Bryon Fields Jr.
On their subsequent drive, the Blue Devils tested Miami again on 4th down; and they were again denied when TJ Rahming, draped by Malek Young, dropped a quick slant. The good field position the defense provided didn’t matter much because the Canes offense would continue their struggles since the first quarter and go 3 and out.
Inside their own 20, Cutcliffe kept with the aggressive gameplan and went for it on 4th and inches, picking up a first down on a Jones sneak. The momentum would be short-lived, though; Joe Jackson beat his man and took down Jones in the backfield to force another Duke punt.
With the crowd at Wallace Wade and around the nation falling asleep, it was time for Richards to do what he does best: electrify. Left uncovered on a drag route, Richards took a short pass from Rosier on the left, weaved right and outran the Duke defense for 49 yards to give Miami a 24-6 lead.
Ahmmon Richards with his first touchdown of the year, this one from 50 yards out. pic.twitter.com/XLntHX2UXM— Riley Auman (@junioraumanac) September 30, 2017
Richards scored again on Miami’s next possession, but the officials said he pushed off and called offensive pass interference. Miami had to settle for a long FG attempt, but Badgley pushed the 53 yarder wide left. Miami’s defense was relentless, though. The Canes appeared to stop the Blue Devils on back to back 4th downs, but penalties kept Duke’s offense on the field. Then, Pat Bethel chased down Jones, knocked the ball free, and (after a scrum), was able to recover his own forced fumble. Put on that Turnover Chain, young man!
On the very next play, Travis Homer ensured there would be no dramatic comeback, busting up the seam from 40 yards out to salt the game away. Touchdown Canes. Final: Miami 31 Duke 6.
**Rosier was in complete control of Mark Richt’s offense in this game, especially in the first quarter when he went a perfect 9-9 for 155 yards. He slowed down a bit after that, when Duke’s pass rush seemed to speed him up. But overall, another encouraging outing on the road for a guy making his 4th career start. And Rosier looked to have his timing down with Ahmmon Richards even though it was their first game together. Great sign for the future.
**By the way, really glad to have Richards back. The kid is a star and he didn’t even look to be at full speed yet on his 49 yard touchdown catch and run. It is going to be scary to see what he looks like when he fully works his way into game shape. Richards has the potential to rewrite the record books at Miami, no small feat considering the receivers that have come through here.
**Miami’s defense played a sound game and the secondary was finally able to come together. Make no mistake, this was a very good Duke offense, and while the Blue Devils threatened on some drives, they weren’t able to get into the endzone. Shoutout to both Dee Delaney, who recovered nicely after a horrendous start to his Miami career, and Malek Young, who was like white on rice covering Duke’s best receiver TJ Rahming all night. We even got a Jhavonte Dean sighting and he stuck with his man on the few times he was tested. However, the run defense left much to be desired. The Blue Devil offensive line got some great push most of the time Duke went to the ground game and they had 183 yards rushing. If Duke wasn’t playing from behind all night and didn’t abandon running the ball, this could have been a different game. Something to take a look at on tape for Manny, but the entire unit should be proud by their performance tonight in only giving up 6 points.
**Tackling was a major issue last week against Toledo, and on a short week, it was questionable if it was even possible to clean up. Credit to Manny Diaz and his staff, because there was a noticeable difference in that regard against Duke. Almost every time a Duke runner got to the second level or a receiver caught a pass, they were immediately dropped. There was maybe 2 or 3 missed tackles all game, and that is all coaching folks.
**We still haven’t seen a complete game played by this Miami offense. They got in a rhythm early with two quick TD’s and I though they had Duke on their heels. While some blame has to go on the offensive line for breaking down in protecting Rosier, I wasn’t a fan of Richt’s playcalling after the first quarter. I thought he was very predictable; Richt went to the air constantly and did not try to establish the run at all. Once Duke figured that out, they pinned back their ears and went after Rosier with the blitz and it worked very well. Richt needs to have some semblance of variety in calling plays to keep the defense off balance, something that could come back to haunt Miami against better opponents.
Miami heads to Tallahassee for their annual grudge match with the Florida State Seminoles.
TGIF! Big ACC Coastal win for the Canes, who are getting better with each game and sit at 3-0 going into FSU Week. While there are some things to nitpick, Miami has ultimately done what it needs to do so far and looks like a dangerous team when everything is clicking. Now, time to whip up on some Noles.