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Film Preview: Miami at NC State, 11/6

The ‘Canes head north to Raleigh to face the rollercoaster Wolfpack

Independence Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. Miami Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes (5-1) head north to Raleigh, NC to face the NC State Wolfpack (4-2) on Friday, November 6th at 7:30pm on ESPN. Both programs had a Halloween weekend off week to prepare for Friday night’s primetime showdown. NCSU is coming off of a blowout loss to rival UNC, while Miami heads into the contest coming off of win over UVA.

The ‘Canes are ranked 21st per Bill Connelly’s SP+ rankings. Miami is also ranked 44th on offense, 17th on defense, and 2nd in the kicking game. NCSU is ranked 66th overall. The Pack are also 60th on offense 74th on defense, and 19th in kicking.

Miami and NCSU have played two of the same teams thus far, UVA and Pitt, with both teams coming away with wins in those two games.

The offense

The Pack offense is scoring almost 32 points per game in 2020. That’s good for 41st of 103 FBS schools currently playing football. Because of injury and performance, NCSU has played three quarterbacks in six games this season. Devin Leary is completing about 60% of his passes, averaging 8.1 yards per attempt, and have thrown eight touchdowns with only two interceptions. But the ‘Canes have lucked out again (re: Pitt), Leary is still out heading into Friday’s game.

Instead NCSU will probably start freshman Ben Finley. While Bailey Hockman and Finley have struggled, Finley clearly has more upside. Finley has completed 65% of his passes but for only 7.2 yards per attempt. He’s tossed a touchdown and two interceptions.

Above- Miami DB’s have struggled to switch coverage responsibilities under Manny Diaz since 2016. This simple slide-corner combination hits against UNC and looks like something easy to hit against Miami, too.

The Packs running duo is Ricky Person Jr and Zonovan Knight. The duo have combined for over 750 yards on the ground and six touchdowns. Person has also thrown a touchdown pass in 2020, which is something to watch out for against Miami’s aggressive safeties Bubba Bolden, Amari Carter and Gurvan Hall.

Above- NC State is terrible on offense and UNC got the turnover you expect Miami to get every time. Diaz-Baker preach turnovers and it should be no different against a Pack offense that throws interceptions and fumbles the ball at ridiculous rates.

The NCSU receiving threats have explosive play potential. Emeka Emezie is six-foot-three, 220 pounds and has averaged 16.1 yards per catch while hauling in three scores. He’s joined by Devin Carter (18.7 yards per catch), Cary Angeline (15.4 ypc and five TD’s) and Thayer Thomas has been the possession guy hauling in 15 balls and a TD.

Above- The Pack hit a skinny post against a bad UNC look. The Heels have a CB playing outside leverage without safety help, and a bail technique. Miami needs to jam this WR if playing outside leverage, or can give space but with inside technique.

UNC’s average defense picked up three sacks, three tackles for loss and three pressures against the Pack two weeks ago.

The defense

The NCSU defense is giving up 34 points per game in ‘20, which is good for 74th of 103 in FBS. The Wolfpack play a high-risk, high-reward style of defense in their 3-3-5 look (above). Do you remember West Virginia’s defense from the Russell Athletic Bowl in 2016? It’s the same defensive coordinator, Tony Gibson. Gibson loves to blitz, using faster “hybrid” type players (picture four or five Gilbert Frierson’s running around) in a slant-angle defensive line scheme.

Above- UNC runs a form of counter against NCSU with the back side guard kicking out a linebacker rather than a defensive end, and the wrapping h-back able to work all the way up field to a safety. NCSU slanted to the play, but the UNC counter-scheme blocked down agains the Pack slant.

Against UNC, Gibson guessed right a bunch of times coming away with three sacks, seven TFL’s, and and two hurries. But the system Gibson plays puts his cornerbacks and safeties in 1-on-1 matchups that Miami WR’s have to win. Dyami Brown did it against NCSU catching seven balls for 150 yards. Mike Harley needs to have that game.

Above- UNC runs inside zone read with the H wrapping across the formation as a lead blocker for the QB. Howell also had a post-snap RPO fade route to his WR. Very Rich Rodriguez of Phil Longo. And it works. NCSU’s D-Line slants the wrong way, the the H doesn’t even see the most dangerous man, but Howell makes him miss and scores.

UNC gashed the Pack defense for 326 rushing yards and five TD’s. Miami has to hit the run game immediately, and use those tight ends in a variety of ways as blockers against run pressure. The Pack have 20 players with a TFL in 2020. They also have 12 players with sacks. In comparison, Miami has 16 players with a TFL, and 10 with a sack.

Above- NCSU is going to bring pressure, and the offensive line and D’Eriq King have to be ready for it. King has to have an internal clock that on quick game he has to release the ball in 1.8 seconds, three step game is 2.2-2.5 seconds, and five step needs to get out before 2.8 seconds.

The Pack defensive backs have a ton of pass break ups and Miami’s receivers need to do more than, “Don’t be soft.” Let’s hope Rob Likens has a few actual coaching points for his players, as “DBS” is, 1- something that isn’t a coaching point and 2- let’s hope he coaches ‘what to do’ vs ‘what not to do.’

What looks really open? SLANTS. Rhett Lashlee must get slants and skinny posts going at Miami.

Above- one of my favorite concepts is slant-wheel (“Switch” to some). Back in the day we called it Caddy and it hit just like this in the red zone.


My Canyonero keys to victory against NCSU this summer were to keep it simple on defense, to get pressure with the front four on defense, and to not get rattled against the 3-3-5 defense of NCSU while on offense.

I still believe in KISS on defense. Make the checks and coverage switches easy to figure out. Stop slowing down your defensive players. Let Quincy Roche, Nesta Jade Silvera, the young linebackers and Bubba Bolden, et al. play fast.

In that same point, Miami has to get back to Finley with just a four man rush. NCSU doesn’t have a good offense and Miami is supposed to have a top-20 defense. Why the need to pressure and leave holes in the coverage?

The third key is to not lose composure against the 3-3-5. It’s a counter-punch game like an old NFL game. Rhett Lashlee has to stay calm, do what he does, and mix up the play calling. He can’t only run to the H’s side on every 1st down, and get behind the chains.

Prediction: Miami by 10