The Hurricanes traveled to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers, who were riding a four-game winning streak. Miami lost a week ago against a Georgia Tech team that had just one win on the season, so not many gave Manny Diaz and the Hurricanes much of a chance on the road against a formidable opponent. Not to mention the cold and rainy weather conditions, which Miami has traditionally struggled in.
But ultimately the Hurricanes defense kept this team alive for four quarters by not allowing the Panthers into the end zone and forcing three first half turnovers, which gave a struggling Miami offense just enough to sneak out of Heinz Field with a 16-12 victory to move to 4-4 on the year and 2-3 in the ACC.
Here is how it happened:
Pittsburgh opened with a nine play 47-yard drive that ironically finished with a 54-yard field goal — something Miami could only dream of in 2019.
The Hurricanes offense couldn't move after N’Kosi Perry misses a wide open Will Mallory about 15-yards down the field which ultimately killed the drive.
But the Hurricanes defense responded — specifically somebody we didn't expect to see again this season. Zach McCloud tipped a Kenny Pickett pass that floated in the air over the intended receiver and into the hands of Hurricanes corner D.J. Ivey for an interception.
But after an eight play 30-yard drive, the Hurricanes were once again stalled in the redzone and were forced to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Camden Price, which was actually GOOD. It tied the game at 3 with 5:26 left in the first quarter.
Pickett and the Panthers offense seemed to be putting together a great drive on the following possession with their second nine play drive of the first quarter, but Canes safety Bubba Bolden stripped a would be first down reception by Taysir Mack that landed in the hands of Gurvan Hall for the teams second turnover of the game.
The Hurricanes offense wasn't able to capitalize off the possession and went three and out, but the Hurricanes came up with another huge turnover on defense. D.J. Ivey recorded his second interception of the game on an errant Pickett pass that put Miami in the red zone.
On the first play of the drive, Perry hit tight end Brevin Jordan on a nine-yard pass which brought the Hurricanes inside the 10 and Cam’Ron Harris punched it in from the 1 to give the Hurricanes a 10-3 lead with 12:00 left in the second quarter.
And when the Panthers got the ball back, they continued to stay in rhythm and avoided mistakes. They put together a 10 play 80-yard drive that took 4:17 off the clock, but Miami was able to make a redzone stop — holding them to just 3 points and brining the score to 10-6.
The Hurricanes defense looked sluggish and Pickett was able to break off on some big runs by outrunning Hurricanes defenders, including linebacker Shaq Quarterman. It wasn't the best of drives of halves for the senior linebacker apart from a big pass deflection in the first quarter.
However, no harm, no foul. Miami was out gained by 114 yards in the first half, they gave up 6-11 third downs on defense (story of the season), and the offense was just 1-6 on third down. There was hardly any reason for the Hurricanes to be winning.
Perry had just 77 yards passing in the half and the Hurricanes backs averaged just 2.1 yards per carry. The three turnovers were ultimately the difference.
The Hurricanes got the ball back first after halftime and Perry over threw Mike Harley by a mile and it was intercepted by Pitt DB Demarii Mathis. After a facemark penalty on the tackle by Harley, Pitt took over on Miami’s 17 but were disrupted by a Greg Rousseau sack, his second of the game, which held the Panthers to yet another field goal to keep a 10-9 lead.
With 7:49 left in the third, Miami started to put together one of their best offensive drives the game. It started with a 14-yard rush by Harris, then a 15-yard pass to Osborn followed by a gain of 12 by Dee Wiggins, but that was all it turned out to be. Perry drastically overthrew Wiggins on fourth down and it was a turnover on downs.
Then the Hurricanes defense, once again, forced the Pitt offense to kick a field goal after another long and grueling 14 play 64-yard drive to give the Panthers a 12-10 lead, their first of the game.
Through three and a half quarters, Miami’s defense gave up four drives of over nine plays, but only gave up 12 points. It resembled the Virginia game in many ways.
On the ensuing drive, Jarren Wiliams came into the game for Perry, who was injured during the third quarter of the game. His first attempt of the game was nearly intercepted by safety Paris Ford after it bounced off the chest of Osborn for what should have been a first down.
Deep in their own territory, Lou Hedley boomed a 61-yard punt which really became a 46-yarder due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Australian punter.
A huge three and out by the defense gave the Hurricanes another chance to drive down the field and win it in. With their backs against the wall on 4th and 1 after Harris went down on a stuffed 3rd down run, offensive coordinator Dan Enos called a great, gutsy play to Osborn that gave the Hurricanes a fresh set of downs.
On 3rd and 2, Jarren Williams scrambled for an 8-yard gain to convert just the second third down of the game. That heroic effort from a guy who has dealt with a plethora of adversity throughout his Hurricanes career led to a 32-yard touchdown pass to Osborn, who finished with 6 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown, to give the Hurricanes a 16-12 lead with 0:58 seconds left in the game to complete a nine play 62-yard drive.
The Hurricanes defense did what they had to do. Greg Rousseau had a huge sack on 3rd and 10, his third of the game and eighth on the year, which forced a 4th a 15 that was unsuccessful.
Miami finished the game with 114 less yards than Pittsburgh, held the ball for almost seven minutes less than them and converted on just two third downs throughout the whole game, but still found a way to win.
To say it was a huge win would be an overstatement. The Hurricanes moving to .500 on the year is hardly something to celebrate. But many Miami teams of the past would have flattened down and given up for the rest of the year given the circumstances of what happened a week ago — especially against a good team.
This year, they fought the entire way through when many didn't expect them to and won an ugly game that they just as easily could have lost.
Next week, Miami travels to take on the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium in one of the best rivalries in the sport of college football.