After a season-opening 31-14 victory over UAB nine days ago, the Miami Hurricanes will face their first true test of the season tonight when they take on Louisville on the road at 7:30pm.
Miami scored 52 points in three quarters and mauled the Cardinals 52-27 in November 2019 behind an ACC-record six touchdown passes from Jarren Williams.
The Cardinals will present a much different challenge to the Hurricanes this season however as tonight’s game will be Miami’s road opener and ACC opener.
Keep reading for three things to keep an eye on during tonight’s game.
Miami’s back seven against Louisville’s pass offense
If there was a negative on defense from Miami’s win over UAB, it was the performance against the pass.
UAB finished the game with 205 yards passing and a touchdown and the Hurricanes did not force a turnover in the contest.
The back seven specifically struggled to cover UAB slot wide receiver Myron Mitchell, who finished the game with eight receptions for 117 yards.
Hurricanes defensive coordinator Blake Baker described the cornerback play as “average” against UAB.
“I didn’t think they played their best game,” Baker said of the cornerbacks. “I thought they could play much, much better.”
Miami’s struggle to cover Mitchell does not bode well for this week’s matchup with Louisville as the Cardinals feature an outstanding slot wide receiver in Miami Northwestern High graduate Tutu Atwell.
Atwell was one of the lone bright spots in Louisville’s loss to Miami in 2019 as he finished with 142 receiving yards and a touchdown.
“Tutu Atwell is as dynamic of a player as we will see,” Baker said. “We got beat by him a couple times last year...The bottom line is...he’s fast. You can’t coach speed. We will have to know where he is at all times.”
Miami will need to scheme with Atwell in mind tonight and perform better when the ball is in the air, as Al Blades Jr. did on this pass breakup.
Miami’s running game against Louisville’s run defense
Miami announced that sophomore Jakai Clark would replace redshirt sophomore Ousman Traore in the starting lineup this week at left guard.
Clark started 12 games last season for Miami as a true freshman at right guard. He played only three snaps against UAB.
Miami head coach Manny Diaz said that Traore did not play poorly against UAB.
“Traore didn’t play poorly,” UM coach Manny Diaz said of the move at LG. He called Jakai Clark a starter-quality lineman and alluded depth Canes have on O-line to be able to make such a move.— David Furones (@DavidFurones_) September 14, 2020
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said that Clark was recovering from an injury early on in training camp.
“We have a lot of confidence in both of those guys,” Lashlee said. “(Clark) has been good these past few weeks.”
How will Miami’s new-look offensive line hold up this week against Louisville?
The Cardinals had three sacks and 10 tackles for a loss in their 35-21 victory last Saturday over Western Kentucky. In 2019, Louisville had five tackles for a loss and one sack in the blowout loss to the Hurricanes.
The offensive line will set the tone for Miami’s offensive performance tonight as it did against UAB. The unit paved the way for the Hurricanes to rack up 337 yards rushing as a team.
If the offensive line allows Miami to run the ball that well on Louisville, the Hurricanes should come out on top tonight.
Miami’s special teams in a potentially close game
Miami’s woes on special teams have been well-publicized over the past few seasons.
Punting issues in 2018, kicking issues in 2019 and poorly-timed turnovers have cost the Hurricanes multiple chances to win games.
In what many expect to be a close game tonight, Miami needs its special teams unit to be on point.
Other than a costly Mark Pope fumbled punt which immediately led to a UAB touchdown, the Hurricanes were great on special teams last Thursday.
Punter Lou Hedley averaged 47.5 yards per punt and twice pinned the Blazers inside the 20-yard line with kicks.
Kicker Jose Borregales was 4-for-4 on extra point attempts and made a 25-yard field goal. The FIU transfer also was 6-for-6 on kickoff attempts being downed for touchbacks.
Minus the costly turnover, this is the type of performance the Hurricanes need from their special teams tonight to win their ACC opener.
Too many times over the past few seasons Miami has been failed by its special teams in major situations. That can’t happen in Louisville tonight.