The Miami defense was going to be tested in this game. The Pittsburgh Panthers offense came into today’s matchup on a four-game winning streak in which they averaged over 40-points and 346 rushing yards per game. It seemed like Manny Diaz and his group came into the game understanding that stopping the run was essential to containing the ACC Coastal Champions and they have done just that.
Through a half of football, the Pitt offense had just 36 rushing yards on 20 carries and failed to score. The Panthers dynamic duo of running backs, seniors Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall, combined for just 33 yards on 12 carries. Besides a 31-yard run on a jet sweep by Pitt WR Maurice Ffrench, the Hurricanes defense virtually shut down anything Pitt had thrown at them.
Hurricanes senior Jaquan Johnson got in on the fun during the first quarter as he ripped the ball away from Hall, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Trajan Bandy. It was a nice moment for an all-time great Miami Hurricane on his senior night.
Miami got on the board with just over 10 minutes left in the first with a 37-yard Bubba Baxa field goal. The 6 play 62 yard drive could have easily resulted in a touchdown, but N’Kosi Perry missed an open Mike Harley for a chance at six points.
Zach Feagles, quietly, was the MVP of the first half with three punts that pinned the Pitt offense inside their own 10. Pitt QB Kenny Pickett failed to make plays deep in the Panthers own territory which forced them to punt to Deejay Dallas who, led by a MONSTER block by Travis Homer, returned it for a 65-yard touchdown early in the second quarter to make it a 10-0 ballgame.
The Hurricanes offense has, however, continued to struggle. Perry was just 4-18 passing for 37 yards. He wasn’t getting much help from his receivers as they dropped five of his passes. I am not sure what is going on in Ron Dugans’ room, but there needs to be some serious improvement at the position. Simply catching the ball shouldn't be this much of an issue.
The Hurricanes were only able to put up 101 yards of total offense through a half of football and that won’t win you many ball games.
Miami’s offense continued to struggle early in the half. Play-calling could hardly be an excuse as Perry and the Hurricanes receivers’ struggles continued. Perry continued to snuggle as he failed to complete his first three passes of the half and fell to 4-21 (19%).
The defense continued to dominate, but a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on Shaq Quarterman and a pass interference on Sheldrick Redwine put Pitt in a position for Panthers kicker Alex Kessman to nail a 40-yard field goal to shrink the Hurricanes lead to seven.
But Travis Homer had an answer. Perry threw an 11-yard screen to Homer to start the ensuing drive, which he immediately followed with a 64-yard touchdown run to give the Hurricanes a 14-point lead and the offenses first spark late in the third quarter.
After yet another defensive stop, the Hurricanes had the ball with excellent field position after Pitt punter Kirk Christodoulou shanked one right, but freshman running back Cam’Ron Davis fumbled it, giving the ball directly back to the Pickett and the Panthers.
After Joe Jackson and senior CB Michael Jackson Sr. collected back-to-back sacks to force Pitt to punt for the 10th time, the Hurricanes offense would find its groove again.
A career long 41-yard rush by Perry helped lead the Hurricanes offense on a seven play 2:54 second touchdown drive that was capped off by Deejay Dallas as he punched it in from three yards out to give Miami a 24-3 lead which sealed the game
But the story of the day was Travis Homer. On just 8 carries he finished the game with 168 yards (21 yards per carry) and a touchdown while leading the Hurricanes offense despite a poor showing by Perry and Hurricanes receivers.
This was the perfect way to end the season. The seniors deserved to be sent off this way and the Hurricanes defense displayed their dominance in ferocious fashion with six sacks despite being on the field for over 35 minutes. That is how it's done.
Now, let’s go get this bowl W!