No. 22 Miami heads into home opener with new opportunity versus Appalachian State

D'Eriq King looks to the sideline for a play call during Miami's game against Alabama on Sept. 4 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium at Atlanta.
D'Eriq King looks to the sideline for a play call during Miami's game against Alabama on Sept. 4 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium at Atlanta. Photo credit: Josh Halper

After losing its season opener to Alabama 44-13, the Hurricanes need to do everything they can to erase the game from memory.

The Hurricanes have a new task on hand – take care of Appalachian State – arguably one of the top teams in the Sun Belt Conference. The 1-0 Mountaineers are drastically less talented than Alabama but still are a solid football team, defeating East Carolina by two touchdowns in Week 1.

Falling to No. 1 ranked Alabama by a large score differential is most certainly not a good thing but it offers plenty of learning points.

One point of emphasis is that the defensive backfield lacked full strength, as a handful of players, including safety Avantae Williams, were unavailable. Improvement in this area will continue to manifest itself as more players return with the hopes of getting Miami’s defense where it was multiple years ago.

As for the quarterback position, D’Eriq King did not perform poorly after making a successful return from an ACL and meniscus injury in Miami’s bowl game last December. The two interceptions thrown were a result of the pocket collapsing, a play in which King tweaked his knee. He made it clear in the post-game interview that he is determined to lead his team to more offensive proficiency in Week 2. One of the most important things the offense needs to do in order to beat Appalachian State is move the chains. Miami was 1-of-6 on third downs, resulting in consecutive possessions handed to Alabama.

The Sun Belt Conference is usually viewed as a bottom-tier conference in football but recently has produced teams that have been making their presence known. One concerning fact for Canes fans about Appalachian State is that they have a knack to knock off Power Five teams, or at least come close in upset attempts.

In 2019, the Mountaineers beat the North Carolina Tar Heels and the South Carolina Gamecocks. The year prior, they took Penn State, a Big Ten powerhouse, to overtime. Although current graduate quarterback Chase Brice turns the ball over quite a bit, the Mountaineers run the ball hard. The Hurricanes will have to improve tremendously in their tackling abilities from last week, which includes 21 missed tackles, if they want to stop App State’s run game.

As a team formerly known for its stifling defense, Miami head coach Manny Diaz’s defense is in prime shape to force turnovers. Brice, Duke’s former starting quarterback, had 15 interceptions compared to the 10 touchdowns last season with the Blue Devils, something Miami will have to take advantage of. When the offensive line starts collapsing, Brice panics and has tendencies to turn the ball over. If turnovers are forced, this can help put Miami’s offense in good field position.

Miami has a poised defensive line that had 10 tackles for loss, but only produced one sack against Alabama. If they play up to their capabilities and get after Chase Brice, this game will go exactly how the Hurricanes will want it to go.