With its back against the wall, Miami (2-4, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) has a prime opportunity to turn its season around against No. 18 North Carolina State (5-1, 2-0 ACC).
The last time the Hurricanes and the Wolfpack stepped on the gridiron together, injured graduate quarterback D’Eriq King delivered one of the most remarkable performances in program history, completing 31-of-44 passes for 430 yards and five touchdowns to go along with another 105 yards on the ground.
The Canes will not have King in this season’s matchup, but redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Van Dyke is confident that Miami’s offense will still produce similar results.
“[Miami] put up 44 points last year on [North Carolina State],” Van Dyke said. “They’re still the same guys we played last year.”
This will be Van Dyke’s fourth career start. He struggled last weekend against North Carolina, throwing three interceptions and completing less than 50 percent of his passes.
In contrast to Van Dyke, North Carolina State quarterback Devin Leary will be making his 15th career start. Leary, a redshirt sophomore from Sicklerville, New Jersey, has thrown for 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions this season.
Leary’s most glaring weakness as a quarterback is his mobility; he has rushed for -35 yards on the season, with his longest run being only eight yards. The Hurricanes must capitalize on Leary’s lack of mobility by applying pressure on the third-year quarterback.
Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz has been under fire as of late for his team’s performances on defense, a unit that Diaz calls the plays for.
“I’m not pleased with the performance of our defense,” Diaz said. “It’s well below our standards.”
Diaz has been very forthright on the challenges that the nationally ranked Wolfpack will present the Canes with.
“[North Carolina State’s] victory versus Clemson speaks for itself,” Diaz said. “Very balanced team offensively, defensively and special teams.”
Diaz will be looking towards contributions from some of his younger underclassmen in Saturday’s contest against the Wolfpack. One underclassman who is expected to make his mark is freshman safety James Williams, who was recently named to 247Sports’ Midseason True Freshman All-American team. Williams was tied for third in total tackles last weekend for Miami with six.
Another underclassman expected to have a major impact this Saturday is freshman running back Jaylan Knighton, who has been propelled atop the running back depth chart as a result of junior running back Cam’Ron Harris’s season-ending injury. Second-year freshman Don Chaney, Jr. saw his season cut short after Week 2 due to an ACL tear in his right knee.
Knighton led the Hurricanes in both rushing and receiving yards in last weekend’s matchup against North Carolina, finishing the game with 165 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.
“I feel like I’m doing good, but there’s always room to get better,” Knighton said. “There’s little things I have to work on like picking up my feet, not tripping up, getting better at making one guy miss.
Knighton and the Hurricanes will take on the Wolfpack, who visit Miami for the first time since 2012, on Saturday at 7:30 p.m at Hard Rock Stadium.