The Miami Hurricanes came out of the gate firing against the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday, scoring 10 first-quarter points and looking like they would end the game by halftime.
But the ‘Canes (4-1, 1-0 ACC) were unable to maintain momentum and struggled in their 24-14 win against Duke (1-4, 0-2 ACC).
The defense forced a quick punt to open the game, much like they did against Texas A&M. On the ensuing drive, running back Javarris James slashed through the Blue Devil defense to set up a Kyle Wright touchdown pass. A Francesco Zampogna field goal put the ‘Canes up 10-0. That would be the end of Miami scoring until the fourth quarter.
“It always happens when you go out and score on the first drive and then get a field goal on the second drive,” said Miami Head Coach Randy Shannon of his team’s offensive struggles. “But we kept preaching to them that we have to keep playing, keep getting points and, on defense, keep winning field positions.”
The rest of the first half was a defensive struggle, keyed by a brilliant play from the UM front four.
Linemen Vegas Franklin, Eric Moncur and Calais Campbell all made plays in the Duke backfield, harassing Blue Devil quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. However, the third quarter was all Blue Devils, as they scored to cut the lead to 10-7 at the end of the quarter.
“We’re not where we need to be at,” Shannon said. “We came off a tough, big win against Texas A&M, and there’s always a tendency to slack off a little bit against the next opponent. We got into that lull and, as a coaching staff, we have to get those guys going 100 miles-per-hour all the time and not wait until the last five minutes to get them to say we need to finish this team off.”
Halfway through the fourth quarter, the ‘Canes recognized the need to finish the hard-battling Blue Devils. Running back Graig Cooper powered into the end zone to cap off a scoring drive.
But, after a Blue Devil touchdown pass, the ‘Canes found themselves on the ropes, clinging to a 17-14 lead in a home game against a conference doormat that had lost 23 of its previous 24 games. Still, Miami allowed Duke back in their territory, before a defensive stand lead to a turnover on downs.
Cooper then ran for a big first down across midfield. On the next play, Wright found tight end DajLeon Farr in the flat for a completion. Farr then turned upfield and ran 33 yards for a touchdown, giving Miami a 10 point lead and the win.
“We expected it to be this close,” Cooper said. “Coach told us that if we didn’t finish them off it would be real close. If I get an opportunity, I am going to take it and try to run with it. It felt real good.”
While it was not the blowout that most expected, the win did show a resolve to compete. At the end of the day, the Hurricanes are 1-0 in ACC play.
“That was a big win for us this week against Duke,” Shannon said. “It was an exciting game, a tough game, but it was our first win in the ACC and that was the biggest thing we needed to get done.”
Dan Stein may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.