Game Preview: Week 12 vs. Pittsburgh

Game Preview: Week 12 vs. Pittsburgh

Paul Austria
As the 2018 season comes to a close, the Miami Hurricanes (6-5, ACC 3-4) find themselves in a situation they probably didn’t expect to be in during the preseason. Instead of being one game away from the ACC Championship, they’re prepping for a surging 24th-ranked Pittsburgh team that’s on a four-game winning streak looking to spoil Miami’s Senior Day.

Even after a big win that clinched a bowl berth and seemed to increase team morale, drama still crept up and found a way to bite the team. Sophomore WR Jeff Thomas had reportedly gotten into it with coaches this week and missed Wednesday’s practice as coach Richt cited “personal reasons” for his absence.

When practice concluded, the ball had been dropped. Miami’s offense took a huge hit and it wa announced that Jeff Thomas was no longer a a Miami Hurricane. In a tweet later that afternoon, Thomas noted that he did not necessarily get kicked off the team but instead it was a mutual decision between him and coach Mark Richt for Thomas to leave the program. This all comes less than a week after Thomas returned a punt for a touchdown against Virginia Tech but aside from that, he only participated in 28 of the offense’s 69 plays.

It’s crazy to think that going into the season, Miami’s best position skill-wise and depth-wise was wide receiver and by the end of the season, they would go on to lose their two best playmakers at the position (Ahmmon Richards’ career is over after suffering a neck injury).

In Thomas’ absence, the time is now for guys like Lawrence Cager, Darrell Langham, and even Mike Harley to step up, with Harley having the most similar skill set to Thomas. In addition, Miami will be without all of their scholarship tight ends on Saturday due to Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory both suffering injuries in the win against Virginia Tech.

Amidst all the drama at quarterback, it seemed as if N’Kosi Perry has slowly worked his way back into the groove of the offense. In last week’s win over Virginia Tech, Perry threw for 171 yards, connecting on 21 of 34 passes, two touchdowns, and he ran for another.

There were also two drops by RB Travis Homer and WR Dee Wiggins that looked like for-sure touchdowns that could’ve increased those numbers substantially. Is Perry on the verge of not only cementing himself as the main guy at quarterback for now but also for the next couple of years?

“He’s in the driver’s seat,” coach Richt told the Miami Herald. “I’m not going to close the door by any means...But I do see a lot of growth in N’Kosi and I think he’s got the skill set. He can make all the throws and he runs the ball well.”

We also got another glimpse of freshman RB Cam Davis. Davis received more carries due to his performance the previous week and he did not disappoint, running for 77 yards on 7 carries, including a 42-yard TD.

As mentioned, it’s Senior Day for UM and the team is graduating a total of 26 seniors. DT Gerald Willis, QB Malik Rosier, HB Trayone Gray, DE Demetrius Jackson, and LT Tyree St. Louis are some notables who will be appearing in their last home game as a Cane. Even though Willis’ time in Coral Gables was all over the place to say the least, he has been very appreciative of his tenure.

“The U has done so much for me and my life,” Willis told “I will always be thankful and grateful for what the U has done for me and I will always give back to the U when I get the chance to.”

The list also includes 75% of their starting secondary in CB Michael Jackson and safeties Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine.

The Panthers’ (7-4, ACC 6-1) chances of competing for even a bowl game looked very bleak after a loss at Notre Dame on October 13th, which dropped them to 3-4 on the season. Since then, they’ve won four straight games and catapulted themselves to the top spot of the ACC Coastal Division and a scheduled date to face Clemson next week in the ACC Championship. On Monday, coach Pat Narduzzi refused to take any questions about Clemson and is making sure his squad does not look too far ahead.

“We’re putting all our effort, I guarantee you, into this week, into this Miami Hurricane football team,” Narduzzi told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “I’ve already spent more time than normal on Mondays, period. I’m way ahead of where I am. We’ve got plenty of time for the next one.”

Pittsburgh’s running attack has been to the key to their success this season. The 15th-best running game in the nation is led by two players, both averaging more than 6 yards/carry.

Senior RB Qadree Ollison has 1106 yards on the year on 167 carries with 10 TD’s. Only two weeks ago, Ollison had the game of his life when he rushed for 235 yards on only 16 carries and 3 TD’s against Virginia Tech. Backing him up is Darrin Hall, who has 888 yards so far and is averaging 8.8 yards/carry.

Miami’s 33rd ranked run defense will have to keep both backs in check, especially Hall, as he’s been known to pick up yards in hurry. By the time the first defender gets his hands on him, he’s already a few yards past the line of scrimmage.

Both Ollison and Hall had underwhelming performances last week against Wake Forest, but sophomore QB Kenny Picket had his best game of the season, throwing for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns. Should Miami take away the running game, coach Narduzzi thinks Picket has proven he can step up when called upon.

“We know how capable he is,” Narduzzi reiterated. “He’s accurate. He’s smooth. He’s still young. I think everybody wants instant gratification, and he’s a great football player.”

Pitt ended Miami’s 10-game winning streak last season and even though Pitt is the higher ranked team, the Canes are favored by 6.5 points on Saturday. It’s a 3:30 start and you can catch all the action on ESPN.

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