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After the Storm: Duke

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Stefan Adams

Managing Editor
Feb 9, 2018
The Miami Hurricanes earned a true blowout win over the Duke Blue Devils this weekend, emptying the benches early in their 48-0 shutout victory. After a rewatch of the game, here were my takeaways and grades.

**It was a true complete performance from the Canes. After three straight close nail-biters that came down to the final drive, the Canes finally put together the much-needed convincing win over the Blue Devils they have been looking for. When both the offense and the defense can come together and essentially end an ACC road game in the first half, you can see it’s simply a thing of beauty. It was the most complete game Miami has pitched in 2020; compared to the FSU domination where Miami’s defense still gave up 10 points and 330 yards, UM’s stop-unit completely shutdown Duke in keeping them off the scoreboard entirely and holding David Cutcliffe’s attack to a meager 177 total yards of offense.

It was the type of showing that we were calling for on the podcast last week, and the Hurricanes were able to deliver in impressive fashion. Yes, it was against now 2-8 Duke, but this effort was made all the more notable when you consider Miami took two weeks off from practice and hadn’t played a game in three weeks. Plus, they actually had their most players out with COVID issues in any game to date (15), but this team still keeps on fighting through with limited depth. I love the way UM has come together in this difficult season and have kept on track to finishing the year strong when they could’ve easily fallen off the wagon at many different points.

**Miami unlocked a bunch of “First Since” achievements.
The Hurricanes joined the ACC all the way back in 2004, so in a sense, it is surprising to note that the intraleague shutout vs. Duke was their first-ever since jumping to the conference. It was also Miami’s first shutout of a Power 5 opponent since goose-egging Syracuse 59-0 at home in 2001. It was actually UM’s first shutout of any FBS opponent since holding FIU scoreless in 2006, 35-0.

The Saturday beatdown was also notable when looking at the margin; the victory marked the Hurricanes’ first conference win by 45+ points since they beat Duke in 2005 by a score of 52-7. It was also Miami’s largest road win versus an ACC opponent since 1983, when the Canes toppled the Blue Devils, 56-17. There’s certainly a common theme here.

**UM’s run game reappeared in a dominant way. After a tremendous start to the season that saw them average 232.3 ypg and rank among the top 10 rushing teams in the country after three games, Miami’s running game had slowed down massively over the past 5 games (128 ypg in that span) and UM tumbled into the 60’s in rushing overall. With the passing game finally starting to click, we have talked for weeks about how the Canes really needed to reestablish the run in a consistent way if this offense was ever going to reach its full potential, and specifically pointed out on last week’s podcast how this would be the week to do it against a Duke team that was 97th in the country and giving up 200+ ypg on the ground coming in. The Canes responded with their first 200 yard running day since week 3 vs. FSU, pummeling Duke for 220 yards on the ground, which was their best effort against a P5 opponent this year.

That improvement can’t happen without your offensive line getting push up front, something the Canes were able to achieve often against Duke. No, Duke isn’t a great team at stopping the run, but maybe it wasn’t a coincidence to see Miami’s ground game explode with OL Navaughn Donaldson returning to the field at LG. In particular, Donaldson absolutely bulldozed a path for Cam’Ron Harris on his 34-yard TD run in the first quarter. While Donaldson does have his flaws, he also gives Miami an element that they’ve been sorely lacking on the OL this season: Raw power. UM’s offensive line performed admirably in the passing game as well, ceding just one sack to a Duke team that came into the game #8 in the country at sacking the QB; that sack came in the 4th quarter, well after the backups had entered the game. Garin Justice noted during the week that the OL is currently the healthiest its been since the opener, and that was certainly on display on Saturday.

**D’Eriq King continues to make running this offense look effortless. What we’ve seen from King during Miami’s 5-game winning streak is what happens when a QB develops good timing with his receivers, has a complete mind-meld with his coordinator, and is not only able to execute exactly what is called in pretty much any given situation, but is also able to improvise and let the game come to him when necessary. In the romp over Duke, King finished 16-24 (66.7%) for 248 passing yards, 3 TD’s, and no turnovers yet again, while also contributing 46 rushing yards and a TD on the ground in just three quarters of play. Amazingly, King has zero turnovers over the last 4 games, and only 4 total turnovers this year, which is mind-boggling when you consider he has touched the ball 397 times in 2020.

This was also arguably King’s best game in terms of running the zone read, something he hadn’t done much of when he came to Miami; most of his rushing yards this season had come on scrambles out of the pockets. You can tell Rhett Lashlee is starting to trust King’s decision-making more and more in this area, and this makes UM’s offense even more dynamic.

**Miami was able to get their young players some all-important developmental snaps. When you win big like the Canes did on Saturday, you get the privilege of emptying your bench and seeing which of your young players can begin converting practice success to gameday. The Canes got really good looks at some freshmen at key positions of need, including at corner with Marcus Clarke (3 tackles, INT) and Isaiah Dunson (2 tackles) who both looked like they will contribute at Miami at some point down the line. It also can’t be understated how huge it was to see Jalen Rivers getting work at RT, as the promising offensive lineman continues to show off intriguing positional versatility to go along with great size and quick feet. Other freshmen that we hadn’t seen much of in 2020 that saw time included LB Tirek Austin-Cave, DL Elijah Roberts, DE Chantz Williams, S Keshawn Washington, OT Chris Washington, and TE Dominic Mammarelli.

It may not seem like much, but accelerating younger players comfortability at the college level and getting rid of the butterflies takes experience and snaps, so it’s better to get them out of the way as much as possible in a game where a mental mistake here or there isn’t going to doom you. The coaches were also blessed with essentially a quarter of tape to evaluate guys that were basically unknown quantities and these players can now start gaining the trust of the staff to gradually be put in higher leverage situations. These types of blowouts are so crucial in building depth up and down the roster, so credit to the staff for shrewdly taking full advantage.

**Jaelan Phillips’ 2020 success isn’t a shock, even after his lack of early production. Phillips had another monster game vs. Duke, recording 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, and arguably had another sack stolen from him by the statistician in the contest. He now officially has 9.5 TFL and 5 sacks in his last three games, all vs. P5 opponents. Of course, most who know Phillips’ pedigree aren’t that surprised at the production, but the UCLA transfer had more than a few detractors questioning him after a start to the 2020 season that saw him record just 1.5 sacks in 6 games in his 4th year of college. That criticism was fair in a sense, however, anybody watching closely could see the flashes of raw pass rushing moves he possessed and all the close calls he just missed out on in terms of making plays behind the line of scrimmage. Following a half season to get his mojo back after a year off from competitive football, you’ve seen Phillips blossom into one of the best pass rushers in the country while doing pretty much whatever he wanted vs. Duke last week, including an 11-yard TFL on 4th and 1 where he stayed home on a reverse and shut it down in its track. Phillips’ confidence is through the roof right now and nobody would blame him much if he ended up trying his luck in the NFL in 2021.


Offense: A+

48 points scored and 524 total yards. Nearly as good as it’s going to get in most aspects, and finally got the run game activated. Only 1 three and out. Incredible 7.7 ypp. Converted 4-10 (40%) on third downs. 1 giveaway. 4-5 in the red zone, with lone “miss” a kneel down at the end of the game. OL surrendered only 6 TFL and 1 sack against a talented defensive line.

Defense: A+

0 points and 177 yards allowed. Very good havoc stats with 3 sacks and 13 TFL. 5 turnovers forced was a major feather in the cap after being deficient in this area most of the year. Allowed 5 for 15 (33.3%) on third downs. 2.8 ypp allowed. This defense swarmed to the ball all night and made their presence known from the opening whistle. Quite simply, a much-deserved shutout.

Special Teams: B

Jose Borregales missed his first legitimate FG attempt this season, but then responded by converting his next 2 kicks, including blasting a 52-yarder through the uprights, plus all 6 XP’s. Lou Hedley had his lowest output of the season, but didn’t have many opportunities on just two punts and was still solid overall with a 41.5 ypp average. Another game, another muffed punt for UM returners that nearly could have been a turnover; one of Miami’s best returns of the year was also wiped out by a double block in the back penalty. Coverage units forced and recovered a fumble.

Coaching: A+

One of Miami’s best games in terms of penalties (just 3 for 26 yards), a welcome reversal for what has been one of the most penalized teams in 2020. Continue to find ways to win despite key starters and depth contributors sitting out with COVID. Can’t hate on both gameplan and execution on the offense and defense.


Jan 6, 2017
The dominance against lowly Duke was simply amazing. Especially if Hurricane fan takes into all the outside factors the coaching staff and team had to deal with. Yes, a lot of Hurricane fans are going to say, well it was Duke. So be it. But this is the kind of dominating performance a legitimate Top Ten Hurricane should accomplish!

Oh. One more thought. LAY THE POINTS against Carolina Blue!!


Jun 26, 2012
Please come back King!
jay baruchel please GIF


Dec 2, 2012
Yes would be nice to have a coach for just special teams. Unfortunately limited to how many coaches a team can have on a staff. Which position coach do you suggest gets eliminated so we can do this?
Consolidate the 2 DB positions into one. Back up the Brinks Truck and hire T-Rob to coach DB's and move Banda to Special Teams. He recruits too well to let go, so give him a raise and another fancy title and there you have it. Will it happen? Probably not, but we do discuss a lot of hypotheticals on this board.


Nov 8, 2018
I get it, me also I had time to breath and relax during the game. My blood pressure was normal this time.