The Miami Hurricanes didn’t need a fourth quarter comeback this time. But they did need some fourth quarter padding.
With the No. 8 Canes up by just one with under three minutes left to play, sophomore running back Travis Homer found a wide open gap and rushed down the middle for a 33-yard touchdown.
Then, the Miami defense did what it had done all afternoon – get pressure on Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey. UM forced a stop on fourth down and went on to defeat the Syracuse Orange 27-19 on Saturday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium.
“We for some reason can’t find a way to play well on both sides of the ball at the same time,” Miami head coach Mark Richt said after the game. “We take turns. It would be nice to be more consistent.”
Miami (6-0, 4-0 ACC) starting quarterback Malik Rosier completed 65 percent of his passes for a career-high 344 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. His favorite target of the night was senior tight end Christopher Herndon, who caught a career-high 10 balls for 96 yards and a touchdown.
“Once I get going, it’s hard to stop me,” Herndon said.
An inspired Hurricanes defense stepped up to the challenge of the Orange’s (4-4, 2-2 ACC) fast-paced, up-tempo style offense, consistently disrupting Dungey and forcing him to throw four interceptions. He completed just 32 percent of his passes for 137 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown.
The Hurricanes got off to a quicker start than in previous weeks, but the Orange found their back into the game.
“It’s kind of repetitive,” Rosier said about having close games week after week. “I blame this game on myself. There were multiple times in the red zone that we dropped balls and I missed targets. That’s what we have to fix – that and third downs.”
Miami had another late fourth quarter drive leading to a key touchdown, here's what the man under center had to say after the game: pic.twitter.com/5DGvuClGAw
— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) October 21, 2017
Syracuse’s top receivers Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips, who came into the game ranked No. 2 and No. 5 in receptions per game, respectively, combined for nine catches, but neither eclipsed 100 yards individually.
Most of the Syracuse offense came on the ground – it outran Miami 264-136 in that category. Running back Dontae Strickland led the Orange with 105 yards rushing on 14 carries. Dungey carried the ball 20 times for 100 yards as well.
Along with forcing four turnovers, Miami’s defense collected nine tackles for loss and four sacks. Sophomore linebacker Michael Pinckney was locked in the entire afternoon with nine total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Junior cornerback Michael Jackson caught two interceptions – the first time a UM defender has had multiple interceptions in a game since Artie Burns in 2015.
“We come into every week and prepare like it’s the biggest game of our lives,” Pinckney said. “Everybody is doubting us right now, so we have a chip on our shoulder to prove that we are one of the best teams in America.”
"Everyone's doubting us right now. We have a chip on our shoulder."- Michael Pinckney pic.twitter.com/kga5FP3hZO
— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) October 22, 2017
Both teams were coming off exhilarating wins – the Hurricanes had defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on a game-winning field goal and the Orange defeated the reigning champion Clemson Tigers by three last weekend.
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Canes remain the only undefeated team in the ACC.
“Just seeing your team stay strong and pull through, that’s the best,” Homer said. “We’re 6-0, but that’s not our final goal.”
"We're 6-0, but that's not our final goal." – Travis Homer pic.twitter.com/haPY0cJD0o
— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) October 21, 2017
Miami next travels to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to face off against the Tar Heels at noon Oct. 28.
– All-ACC receiver Ahmmon Richards was back on the field for the Canes after missing the Georgia Tech game with a nagging hamstring injury. His speed was there, but his usual reliable hands were not. Despite puling in six catches for 99 yards, he dropped four passes from Rosier.
“I was a little too excited I would say,” Richards said. “I was just trying to make a play, but it felt great just getting back in front of the fans and just being able to play a whole game.”
– Freshman receiver Jeff Thomas showed off his explosive speed on a 48-yard touchdown where he ran right around his defender and blew past him with ease for the score. It was the first touchdown of his Miami career.
– Homer, who rushed for 95 yards on 20 carries, has scored in four of the six games this season.
– The attendance at the stadium totaled 56,158.
“I’m thankful we won – our fans were awesome,” Richt said.