After a convincing win Oct. 23 at Virginia Tech, many Hurricanes fans headed into Homecoming weekend wondering if Miami could pull off another big win two weeks in a row.
The second quarter began with North Carolina pinned deep in its own territory and in punt formation. The snap sailed over punter Tommy Hibbard’s head and out of the end zone for a safety. Miami won 47-20, but the score was not indicative of North Carolina’s struggles against Miami’s dominating offense.
Carolina briefly gained some momentum when UM quarterback Brad Kaaya was sacked after a young and inexperienced Sunny Odogwu was put in at right tackle. Linebacker Cayson Collins recovered the fumble and returned it for the touchdown, but kicker Nick Weiler missed the extra point leaving Miami with a 9-6 lead.
Kaaya found tight end Clive Walford in the end zone twice in the second quarter, first with a 14-yard bullet pass down the middle, and then another 14-yarder that the big, athletic tight end leapt high in the air to catch. However, it was the first play from scrimmage with 2:55 left in the half at Miami’s 10-yard line that sent 51,000 people strong to their feet.
Kaaya handed it off to Duke Johnson, who broke two tackles and then found a hole and broke into the clear, with two defenders trailing close behind all the way to the end zone.
Duke tied his own personal record with a 90-yard rushing touchdown. The rush also put him at more than 3,000 rushing yards for his career.
Duke finished the afternoon with 177 on the ground and 49 receiving yards, including a 37-yard third-quarter touchdown.
“We had the mindset going in that if we can score on one play, that’s what we wanted to do,” Johnson said. “Coach Coley called a great play, and when I got to midfield, I started slowly getting tired, but I refused to get run down again by North Carolina.”
By the end of the first half, Miami led 30-6, holding a North Carolina team that scored 37.4 points per game to only one defensive touchdown. Golden was thrilled with Johnson’s performance.
“There’s a difference between a talented running back and a skilled running back. This guy is skilled right now,” Golden said. “He has the experience and wisdom to know when to press, when to cut … the way he’s seeing it, his tracks are really good, there’s not a lot of cuts on air, he’s pressing the line of scrimmage well, he’s coachable, he’s practicing at a level that none of us have seen and he’s stronger. He’s markedly stronger than he was at any point in his career.”
Miami’s greatest success was applying pressure on Marquise Williams the whole game. The defense sacked the quarterback six times. That number also applied to Carolina’s ground game. Yes, the Tar Heels finished with six rushing yards.
Golden said the team’s defense has taken a blue-collar, unselfish approach to the game since Georgia Tech on Oct. 4.
“I think it’s been the last three weeks. It was 41-13 against Cincinnati and I whole sale subbed,” Golden said. “They’re playing hard right now. They’re tackling better, playing very unselfish right now, getting off the field on third down better. They’re making progress.”
Miami has two weeks to get ready for the biggest matchup of the year, against a possibly undefeated, AP No. 2 Florida State team. FSU plays Virginia during Miami’s bye-week. A Canes victory would be the biggest upset in the rivalry’s history.
Miami and Florida State kick off Nov. 15 at Sun Life Stadium.