The Hurricanes kept their ACC Coastal hopes alive with a 27-21 win over the Virginia Cavaliers at Sun Life Stadium. As the group turns its focus to the North Carolina Tar Heels next week, here are three takeaways from Saturday’s game.
Redshirt freshman tight end David Njoku is a playmaker
Just by looking at Njoku, you can see he is as physically gifted as they come. At 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds, he is a big and dependable target for sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya. He is steadily improving in each game this season and caught his first touchdown pass of his career on Saturday from five yards out. Later in the game, Njoku showed his pure athleticism when he caught a pass over the middle and nearly outran Virginia safety Quin Blanding to the endzone on a 58-yard reception.
“He’s a crazy athlete. He’s a true freak. He does everything you want from a big-time skill guy,” Kaaya said of Njoku. “He’s getting better each week. The sky is the limit for David.”
Njoku has serious potential and he knows it. “There’s always room to improve,” Njoku said. “You can never be happy with where you are at any point because that’s when you get beat.” Look for Njoku to get more and more targets as the season progresses.
Brad Kaaya is back
Miami’s star signal caller cleared all concussion protocols on Friday night and started for the Canes on Saturday. He missed a few passes high, but otherwise had a solid outing. This is a great sign for Miami, as Kaaya wasn’t himself after suffering a concussion in the second quarter of the game against Clemson.
“I’ve taken hits before. I’ve taken hits all season. That hit a couple of weeks ago, I felt different,” Kaaya said. “I didn’t feel like myself. My reactions aren’t as quick. My mental clarity isn’t as sharp.”
Moving forward, Kaaya will look to continue what has been a solid sophomore campaign. Even after missing a game, Kaaya is second in the ACC in total passing yards (2,132) and fourth in total yards (2,063).
The horizontal defense needs work
Saturday’s win wasn’t perfect, as the Canes’ defense looked vulnerable when the Cavaliers spread them out. Whether it was jet sweeps, pitches or screens, Virginia used the entire 160-foot width of the field to move the ball against Miami. In particular, running back Taquan Mizzell gashed Miami, gaining 91 yards on 18 carries and catching eight passes for 40 yards. The Canes had no answer for his backfield sweeps or short catches on the outside.
Miami still faces Georgia Tech and North Carolina – two teams that thrive off of spreading out opposing defenses. The Canes will need to focus on this aspect of their defense as they prepare for these pivotal in-division games.