In their first ACC game of the season, Miami hosts Virginia tonight at Hard Rock Stadium, in a must-win contest for the 2-2 Hurricanes.
I already talked about what Miami needs to do on offense in order to win tonight, so let’s talk about the Canes defense, and what they’ll have to do.
While the Hurricanes must score points against Virginia, whether or not they walk out of Hard Rock tonight with a win will depend primarily on their defense.
I honestly thought the defense would improve under Manny. Smfh.— C.Gary didn't fumble (@Cane303) September 23, 2021
This isn’t your typical Cavaliers team, one that has been known as a power-run offense to go along with a sound defense. This season, Virginia has changed that narrative, throwing the ball all over the place.
Jelani Woods absorbs a big hit & scores for Virginia. Great way to start the 2nd half by the Cavaliers. Brennan Armstrong made a big play earlier in the drive with a 31 yard scramble.— CFB Blitz (@BlitzCfb) September 25, 2021
WAKE FOREST 20
VIRGINIA 10 pic.twitter.com/PeV263opy5
Virginia’s quarterback, Brennan Armstrong, is leading the nation with 426 passing yards per game, he’s 2nd in the nation with 1,705 passing yards for the season, and 6th in passing touchdowns (13). He’s playing as well as any quarterback in college football right now, and he’s primed to present some problems for the Hurricanes defense.
UVA QB Brennan Armstrong has been TEARING through College Football— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 23, 2021
93.9 overall grade (1st)
13 big-time throws (1st)
473 deep passing yards (1st) pic.twitter.com/0vBoyBvxH6
Armstrong has several reliable receivers to throw to as well. Dontayvion Wicks leads UVA with 22 receptions, 460 yards and 4 touchdowns. You also have Billy Kemp IV with 25 catches, for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jelani Woods at tight end has also been productive, with 16 receptions for 247 yards, and 3 touchdowns.
Virginia has plenty of weapons in their passing game, and Miami hasn’t exactly been the most sharp on defense when it comes to coverage. The Hurricanes currently rank 92nd in the country in pass defense, giving up an average of 245 passing yards per game.
Brennan Armstrong : 39/54 for a career-high/new school record 544 yards, 4 TD's, 1 INT & a 81.5 QBR— Lee Harvey (@AyeThatsLee) September 19, 2021
Billy Kemp IV : 8 catches for 106 yards & 2 TD's pic.twitter.com/a5fGJ6JudX
Do I think Miami’s secondary is going to be able to shut down Virginia’s passing attack? No. All UM needs from their defensive backs is to be able to limit Armstrong, bend don’t break. This means Te’cory Couch, Tyrique Stevenson and DJ Ivey will have to play their best game yet at cornerback. Also means Bubba Bolden, James Williams and Gurvan Hall can’t surrender any big plays at safety.
Tyrique Stevenson got burned. Michigan State goes up by two scores and the fans are headed to the exits at Hard Rock Stadium.— David Wilson (@DBWilson2) September 18, 2021
And one more thing on the secondary, NO MISSED TACKLES.
The other key for Miami’s defense is generating some type of pass-rush, something that hasn’t been much of a factor so far in 2021. The Hurricanes defense is averaging just 1.7 sacks per game, which is 83rd in the country.
Canes DT Jared Harrison-Hunte on Miami's pass rush: "Trust and believe those sack numbers are going to go up…we’re going to get the QB down.”— Khobi Price (@khobi_price) September 15, 2021
In order for Miami to win this game, putting pressure on Armstrong is a must. If there’s someone I could see making an impact here it’s Jahfari Harvey, who is tied for the team lead in sacks this year with 2. He also has 9 QB pressures in 2021, and Thursday night could be the game where he becomes a playmaker on defense.
Big question after having two special DEs past two years (Rousseau, then Phillips) was whether Jahfari Harvey and Chantz Williams can become disruptive players. Big plays for both early; Canes up 7-0— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) September 11, 2021
Other than Harvey, Chantz Williams, Zach McCloud and Jared Harrison-Hunte, they’ll have to find ways to get to Armstrong and rattle the talented quarterback. You can be sure that Manny Diaz will also have some special blitz packages, anything to send overwhelming numbers at Armstrong.
Chantz Williams should be starting at defensive end. pic.twitter.com/kq9tsdldRP— Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) September 21, 2021
Getting to the quarterback and being as lockdown in coverage as possible, that’s how the Hurricanes can win this game on defense.
Manny Diaz returned to defensive coordinator following last season because he felt last years defense wasn’t up to Miami standards, well this is your game coach.