The margin of victory wasn’t pretty but Miami still showed big strides against the FIU Panthers. The defense was relentless all day long, tossing FIU’s offensive line around like it was a Division III unit. Everyone got a piece of the action at d-line, holding the Panthers to less than 50 total yards for the majority of the game.
We got to see N’Kosi Perry in all his glory, finally stepping foot on the field to play minutes that mattered. Anyone at QB could’ve won last Saturday but Richt giving the game to his redshirt freshman, even if it was pre-determined, showed that he was willing to had the keys to Perry. That feeling was only solidified with the parsing out of this week’s practice reps, where Perry received all 1st-team snaps.
But not to bury the lead any further, the Hurricanes had a stunning revelation Saturday and it wasn’t how dominant the defense was or Perry’s promising outing. It was the return of the dormant rushing attack, a unit that has sputtered and struggled to get it going, even against teams like Savannah State.
Prior to Saturday, we had seen flashes of brilliance, like when Deejay Dallas torched Toledo for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Rosier also had success on the ground that day, gaining 80 yards and three trips to the endzone. The rushing attack wasn’t quite fully on track against Toledo, but Saturday proved that it might be back just in time for ACC play.
Miami’s stable of rushers is absurdly impressive. Four of the Canes’ backs could easily start for almost any team and it’s not exaggeration to say that, behind Alabama, this might be the best corps of runningbacks in the nation. Finally The U has started to show it, as Travis Homer had a huge day against FIU, looking like his powerful and nimble self as he gained over 100 yards on the ground and had an impressive 8.8 yards per carry. Besides Homer, Dallas, Lorenzo Lingard and Cam’ron Davis all got in on the action. Each back rushed for at least four yards per carry and proved Miami could withstand an injury to one of their backs.
The most impressive part of Saturday’s performance in the run game was the offensive line, a unit that has been maligned by just about everyone since even before the season started. With so much uncertainty, it seemed the only thing that was known was that the unit would be average at best. It looked worse than that through the first few outings, struggling to run block and unable to consistently open rushing lanes for their backs. Their performance against Savannah State was especially bad. Against an FCS team, and a bad one at that, Miami’s push in the run game was inconsistent and, despite the “good” numbers, they ought to have been much better considering the level of competition.
But the line showed flashes, able to help Deejay Dallas work over the Rockets’ rushing defense and showing up in an even bigger way against FIU. Miami’s offensive line, especially the interior of Jahair Jones, Tyler Gauthier and Corey Gaynor, opened big rushing gaps all day long, taking the pressure off Perry and giving the Canes the balanced attack they have mostly lacked this season.
The offensive line is going to have to keep rocking and rolling as Miami begins the ACC part of their schedule, starting with a visit from the North Carolina Tar Heels on Thursday night. UNC hasn’t looked especially good this season but won in a shootout against Pittsburgh to open their own ACC schedule. This is a team Miami can jump on early, pound the rock in the interior and send a clear message with a big-time rout. Keeping this running game alive and well is one surefire way to do so.