N’Kosi Perry, Hurricanes’ defense and Mike Harley excel in win against FIU

Quarterback N'Kosi Perry directs traffic at the line of scrimmage against Florida International University Sept. 22 at Hard Rock Stadium. Perry finished with a career-high 224 yards and three touchdowns on 17-for-25 passing. Photo credit: Josh Halper

Miami picked up a 31-17 win over crosstown foe Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 22 at Hard Rock Stadium.

While UM extended its win streak to three games, the Hurricanes learned more about their team heading into conference play.

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The Miami faithful harmoniously chanted “Per-ry! Per-ry! Per-ry!”

Quarterback N’Kosi Perry started a perfect 10-for-10 and orchestrated back-to-back touchdown scoring drives to put UM in front of FIU, 14-0.

The redshirt freshman was inserted under center replacing fifth-year senior Malik Rosier, who fans heavily booed at Hard Rock Stadium just two weeks prior.

It was Mark Richt’s plan entering Saturday’s game against the Panthers to embed Perry during Miami’s third possession.

And Perry answered the call.

The Ocala, Florida native finished 17-for-25 for a career-high 224 yards and three touchdowns.

“It felt good,” said Perry, who was ranked the nation’s No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in 2017 by ESPN out of high school. “I was very comfortable…I didn’t know what [Richt] had planned in his mind, all I knew is, I’d be ready when he called my name…I’m definitely proud of myself, I’m proud of my team.

Yet, Richt isn’t ready to designate Perry his starting quarterback for No. 16 Miami’s next game against North Carolina.

“We’ll decide this week,” Richt said. “Like I said, my quote would be ‘When the time comes, whoever I think is the best guy to give us the chance to win will be the guy. He’ll be playing.’”

If Richt elects to start Perry against the Tar Heels, it’ll mark the first time since the 6-foot-4, 195-pound quarterback’s senior year of high school football in 2016 at Ocala Vanguard that he started under center.

“It’s not like Malik has done anything wrong by any means,” Richt said. “He’s done a lot of great things for us. What’s happening is Cade and N’Kosi are growing up…Somewhere along the line, I gotta, you know, like a bird kicks the [baby] out of the nest and makes him fly, it’s about that time.”

Perry’s teammates were impressed with his performance and noted his play wasn’t all that surprising.

“I have a lot of confidence in Kosi,” defensive lineman Gerald Willis III said. “He has shown me a lot in practice. He plays like he’s an older guy and I’m really happy for him that’s he’s getting a chance and opportunity to showcase his talent.”

Miami’s defense shaping up to be one of the best in the country

The Hurricanes started play against the Panthers as the nation’s leader in both tackles for loss and third-down conversion percentage.

Though preseason All-American safety Jaquan Johnson was unavailable because of injury, Miami’s defense dominated.

One game after the Panthers tied a school record for points in a 63-24 victory over UMass, UM held FIU to just 187 total yards and notched 11 tackles for loss. The Panthers had 0 yards in the first quarter and 14 yards at halftime, before Miami put into its reserves.

FIU totaled just 17 rushing yards on 24 attempts and went 3-of-14 on third downs.

“Our guys were dominant,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “We’re seeing the benefit of again our third-down defense, we’re not on the field for many plays, offense possessing the ball, time of possession is starting to go in our favor and I could have no complains.”

Wills finished with three tackles for loss for the third time this season and Sheldrick Redwine forced the lone turnover with an interception.

Mike Harley breaks out

The Hurricanes depth at wide receiver has been well documented.

However, with 2016 Freshman All-American Ahmmon Richards unavailable because of a knee injury and leading receiver Jeff Thomas exiting the game because of dehydration, UM needed someone to elevate their game.

Sophomore Mike Harley shouldered the burden.

Harley registered a career-best seven catches for 76 yards. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida had just nine catches for 91 yards last season in 11 games.

“Me and Mike know each other,” Perry said. “Mike had to step up. I knew Mike was ready for the moment and he capitalized.”