The Miami Hurricanes (5-5, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)) have had a turbulent season, but arguably their hardest challenge is yet to come.
With a trip to South Carolina, the ‘Canes have a chance to bury many of their frustrations this weekend when they put their three-game road win streak to the test against the No. 9 Clemson Tigers (9-1, 7-0 ACC) on Saturday.
“They’ve been an elite team for a long time,” Miami head coach Mario Cristobal said. “Elite talent, big, explosive, fast, powerful guys, playmakers across the board. Really impressive up front on both sides of the ball.”
Miami enters the game after defeating Georgia Tech in one of its best performances of the year last week. Scoring a season-high against an FBS opponent, the Hurricanes totaled 35 points and saw a boost in the rushing attack.
After season-long struggles, inaction and fumbling issues, running back Jaylan Knighton rushed for 7.4 yards per carry, scoring a touchdown in 16 carries.
“I never got down on myself, just come back to work. Come back, hold the ball tighter, get the job done, just like what coach asked,” Knighton said.
Knighton was hardly the only force on the ground, however, as freshman quarterback Jacurri Brown ran for 87 yards in 19 rushing attempts while throwing for three touchdowns in the air in his first collegiate start.
“He’s brought a lot of energy to our team,” offensive coordinator Josh Gattis said. “He went out and managed the game the way he needed to. He was great in his decision-making. He didn’t make any critical mistakes.”
Additionally, it was a record-setting day for safety Kamren Kinchens, who had a 99-yard pick-six and two other interceptions. Kinchens’ three interceptions tied Miami’s single-game record.
Without having named a starting quarterback, Cristobal and the ‘Canes look to keep this momentum riding into Death Valley against the Tigers’ elite defense, which gives up only 21 points per game.
Clemson allows just 111.9 yards per game on the ground, and Miami will have to execute at an extreme level to create the holes necessary for the backs to succeed.
The Tigers’ front seven includes two players who made the ACC’s preseason all-conference team, defensive linemen Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee. Murphy’s 6.5 sacks rank fifth in the ACC.
Clemson’s offense has also had a strong season, averaging 34.2 points per game, which ranks 29th in the country.
“They have good players. From the quarterback to the running back to the offensive line, just all good players,” Miami defensive lineman Jordan Miller said of Clemson’s offense.
Second-year starting quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei has looked more comfortable in the pocket than he did last season, throwing for 2179 yards, 19 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 10 games this season.
Last season, Uiagalelei threw for just nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
“D.J., great quarterback. He can use his legs very well, you can see he is the second-leading rusher on the team,” Kinchens said.
On the ground, the Tigers are led by sophomore Will Shipley, whose 899 yards and 12 touchdowns rank second in the ACC behind Pittsburgh’s Israel Abanikanda.
Miami will look to win at Memorial Stadium for the first time since 2010. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 on Saturday.