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Miami Hurricanes

Hurricanes “Turnover Chain” returned early and often Thursday

Florida Football Insiders



Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The “Turnover Chain” was back Thursday night. And back in a BIG way for the Miami Hurricanes.

Bolstered by 6 takeaways and three defensive scores, Miami blew out ACC opponent North Carolina 47-10 at Hard Rock Stadium.

And while a lot of the avalanche of defensive success by Miami can be attributed to the Tarheels being terrible most of the night on offense, the Hurricanes had to be happy that time and again their defense made them pay.

Two defensive scores in the first half help build the 33-10 lead at intermission and then, a “pick-six” iced the game for the Canes for good:


The Hurricanes have now won four straight, but there will still be some question marks as to their level of competition in those four wins. And, last week at home, they struggled to put crosstown rival FIU away.

Miami, had no such problems scoring an “early knockout” of UNC. Defensive linemen Jonathan Garvin (9 yard fumble return) and Joe Jackson (42 yard INT return of a botched screen pass) demoralized the Heels with their big plays.

Carolina coach Larry Fedora tried a quarterback switch during that half, but it didn’t matter. Miami was swarming everywhere and the issue was decided before the fourth quarter.

The Canes went with N’Kosi Perry as their new starting QB and he only had to throw the ball 12 times. Miami got 114 yards rushing from D.J. Dallas. So, the offense was solid.

Nevertheless, coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz have to be happy with what their playmakers on the defensive side of the ball did on Thursday night. They were aggressive and their dominant play spoke for itself.

And now, the reward is the Hurricanes can rest a little and then, begin preparation for the rivalry game with FSU coming to Miami Gardens next Saturday.

Zach Lauer
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Miami Hurricanes

Parrying the thrusts of “Perry Pushers” at Miami

Matt Zemek



Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Look, Miami fans: You have a point. You do. However, you don’t have an AIRTIGHT point, and there is a difference between having a reasonable argument and an unassailable one.

Yes, in the second half of the 2018 season, the Miami Hurricanes WILL need to give N’Kosi Perry more playing time. How much is the real question, but yes, Perry is the future of the program. Accordingly, he needs to get meaningful repetitions in live games to set the stage for 2019 at The U. I get it. We agree. We are not speaking past each other on that issue.

However: Can we settle down a little bit in our reactions to Mark Richt’s handling of the quarterback situation on this roster? Wanting Perry to play a reasonable amount — a proper and logical inclination — is not the only consideration Richt must account for.

There is still a 2018 season to deal with.

As poorly as this season has gone for Richt and Miami, the Hurricanes are still just one game behind Virginia Tech in the ACC Coastal Division race. They will get their chance to play Virginia Tech soon enough. The season is not lost. It is CLOSE to being lost, but it is not a done deal. Not yet. As long as that is the case, the idea of playing Perry with 2019 in mind isn’t yet something which should be at the very top of Richt’s concerns. It should be on his radar screen, but it is not a top-three priority.

This tweet from longtime Miami-based Associated Press writer Tim Reynolds neatly underscores the point that there is no surefire answer for the Canes at quarterback — not right now:

The notion that N’Kosi Perry is OBVIOUSLY the better quarterback than Malik Rosier is flawed. Perry has more upside, but as you can see, he is not profoundly more accurate as a passer, and he has surrendered more interceptions. If Florida State had not had a touchdown wiped away by an officiating call in the second half of the FSU-Miami game, Perry would have eaten the loss in that contest, which preceded Rosier’s stumble against Virginia this past weekend.

Before the ACC season began, the intensity and fervor surrounding the desire for Perry were already conspicuous. Rosier’s disaster against LSU in the season opener began the Perry bandwagon movement in earnest. Yet, Perry has hardly done enough to warrant continued bandwagon support. It’s not as though he has clearly wrested the job away from Rosier on the merits. He is struggling to find himself just as much as Rosier. He is also searching for solutions and the rhythm good quarterbacks need.

Let’s be blunt about this larger issue: Virginia Tech plays Miami on November 17. If the Coastal title is still in play by then, Richt ought to do whatever he sees fit in the attempt to win that game, presuming the Hokies don’t collapse before then and shake up an already volatile division race even more. If, however, Miami loses one of its upcoming games and falls two games out of contention in the division, such that high-end aspirations are no longer realistic, then the rationale behind Perry’s ascension makes total sense.

If Miami loses before the Virginia Tech game and can no longer maintain a prominent presence in the Coastal race, THAT is the time when the “play Perry for 2019” argument must win the day. That is when Richt has to give up this season in order to prepare for the next one…

.. but not until then.

Yes, N’Kosi Perry needs more playing time, but Miami and its coaching staff shouldn’t give up on 2018 just yet. It is a little too early for that.

Rosier can start. Perry could play a few drives or even a quarter. As long as Miami stays in the Coastal race, Richt owes this year’s team his best shot. Only if things get worse should Richt think about sacrificing what is left of 2018 in service of 2019.

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Miami Hurricanes

Miami loss casts dark cloud over Mark Richt

Matt Zemek



Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It is true that in 2017, Mark Richt did more for Miami football than his two immediate predecessors did in nearly a full decade. In one resplendent season — ending in an Orange Bowl bid — Richt eclipsed both Randy Shannon and Al Golden. For a brief time, “The U” was back. For that alone, Richt has given his alma mater a gift.

However, the mandate for any coach at Miami is not to have one great season, but to keep the program at the top of the college football pyramid, to make big games and splashy occasions a regular annual part of fall Saturdays.

Why is Miami’s loss to Virginia in Week 7 of the 2018 season so painful? Sure, it’s the loss of a game in the standings to ACC Coastal Division leader Virginia Tech. Yes, it’s the loss of a game which basically forces Miami to win out to have any chance of making a “New Year’s Six” bowl this season — good luck with that. Of course, the loss stings because a 10-win regular season is now extremely unlikely. This team will have to be flawless over the next several weeks to make that happen.

Yet, what is by far the most damaging aspect of this major setback in Charlottesville — a sloppy, feeble and dumb 16-13 decision endured at the hands of the Cavaliers — is that it reinforced every last doubt about the 2018 Canes and the larger Miami program.

Typically, a win over Florida State — especially after being down by 20 points in the second half — would send Miami soaring with confidence into the rest of its season. In a context when Miami-FSU mattered, the outcome of that game would represent a springboard for the winner. If one of college football’s most important rivalries from 1987 through 2005 had truly regained in 2018 the importance it once owned, Miami would have become not just a new team this season; it would have become the team it was meant to be, the team it was expected to be at the start of this season.

If Miami beating Florida State truly was the in-season catapult to greatness it annually proved to be back in The U’s glory days, this season would become a lot like last season:

Double-digit wins. A division title at a time when chief competitor Virginia Tech is in a down year. Another date with Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. A big bowl game — the “New Year’s Six.”

If beating Florida State still contained the stature and cachet and value of the olden days, Miami would have turned its attention to Virginia, brought its working boots, and kicked the ever-loving daylights out of the Cavaliers, who are not terrible, but hardly rate anywhere close to their best years under George Welsh nearly 30 years ago.

If Miami was still MIAMI — the way it was last year — and if beating Florida State still carried anything close the level of resonance and importance it once did, this game on Saturday night in Charlottesville would have been taken care of with businesslike efficiency.

Miami would have gotten off to a solid, decisive start, or at the very least, punched back if UVA landed an early blow. Miami would have prevented a sluggish first three quarters, removing the burden of having to scramble desperately in the fourth quarter to make something happen. Miami would have been sharper on offense, with better play from either N’Kosi Perry or Malik Rosier, whoever was given the keys to the offense.

Miami would have served notice that it was a restored team. It would have shown that the Florida State game snapped the Canes back into a state of focus… and the look and feel of a high-quality team which had found its bearings.

Instead, Miami did……… THAT.

Whatever THAT was.

Instead, Miami didn’t control the line of scrimmage. Instead, Miami tossed three interceptions. Instead, Miami dug itself a familiar hole heading into the fourth quarter. Instead, Mark Richt didn’t make any profound adjustments. Instead, brain-dead decisions and penalties doomed the Canes just when they were on the cusp of giving themselves a chance to steal another win in the final minutes.

This was so reminiscent of Richt’s days at Georgia, when any big win — any sign of improvement and restoration — was immediately followed by a deflating loss which shattered aspirations of playing in the most important games of the year: a conference title game and a prestigious bowl game. So often at the University of Georgia, Richt would stub his toe on a game like this. His team might still have gone 9-3, but that meant an Outback Bowl instead of the Orange Bowl or the Sugar Bowl. Georgia played in a largely irrelevant bowl game and did not reach its highest goals, the goals the fan base and the national pundits both expected.

It is true that even the best coaches have a tough time winning big every single season. There will be individual years which slip through the fingers of programs. The pieces of the puzzle simply aren’t found in time to maximize results. It happens… and only three programs right now — Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State — seem to exist above that level of organic chaos.

Yet, this year seemed to give Richt a roster talented enough to sustain what had been built last year. This year offered Miami and its fans the promise of consolidating 2017’s gains and making Miami a more entrenched power, a program which could stick around as opposed to making an appearance but then reverting to its previous decade of mediocrity under Randy Shannon and Al Golden.

Maybe Miami will still bounce back. Maybe Miami will still win at Virginia Tech and make a late surge to steal the Coastal Division. Those scenarios are still within the realm of possibility. That much can and should be acknowledged at this point.

However, this past Saturday against Virginia was so important because Miami needed to show itself — more than the rest of the nation — that the Florida State game was a turning point and a sign of real growth. Miami needed to prove that it was ready to take hold of the ACC Coastal and its season in general. Miami needed to demonstrate that it had rounded into form or, at the very least, was on the cusp of doing so. Such a demonstration would have been more than enough to beat Virginia.

Miami fell short. Well short.

The Canes basically have to run the table over the next month and a half — let’s not think they have a snowball’s chance in hell against Clemson in December — to get anywhere close to where they want to go.

Given what we have seen all season, and given what we just saw in Charlottesville against UVA, is that a realistic expectation? Not right now.

This looks like an 8-4 season at best, the kind of season which all too often emerged for Mark Richt at Georgia, precisely when his teams were expected to do better.

This is not how The U becomes the annual powerhouse it used to be. This is not how the restoration of the juggernaut of Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis, and early-period Larry Coker returns to the scene.

This was a loss which casts a shadow over a program. Mark Richt has a lot of work to do to make the sun shine brightly again in Coral Gables.

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Miami Hurricanes

Epic second half comeback for Miami over rival FSU

Florida Football Insiders



Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

There have been a lot of memorable games and finishes in the Miami-Florida State rivalry. And Saturday belongs right in the middle of the honor roll.

After being completely outplayed and spotting Florida State a 27 – 7 lead, the Hurricanes stormed back for a wild 28 – 27 victory at Hard Rock stadium.

Quarterback N’kosi Perry threw three second-half touchdown passes to lead the comeback after Florida State had led by 20 points five minutes into the 3rd quarter.

But the real heroes were on the defensive side of the ball for coach Mark Richt’s team. The Canes broke out the “Turnover Chain” with two critical turnovers on a fumble recovery and an interception of a short Deondre Francois. That pass was snatched by Hurricanes linebacker Michael Pickney (above) helping turn the entire game around.

Miami scored two quick touchdowns off of those turnovers and the comeback was on its way. The Noles could only muster 200 yards of offense on the day and did not score an offensive point in the second half.

And the Canes also had the football gods smiling on them, as the comeback was not without controversy.

This after a key moment midway in the 4th quarter. That’s when Florida State appeared to have hit Miami with a trick play touchdown-only to have it waived off by a penalty and, then, not overturned by replay review. QB Deondre Francois’ pass behind the line to D.J. Matthews appeared to be either even with him or a little backwards. However, the officials threw the flag and the replay review official did not overturn the second pass being illegal to Keith Gavin, who would walk in the endzone. Florida State would have led 34-21.

In the end, Perry was good enough for the Hurricanes despite completing only 13 of 32 passes for the game. And Miami’s run game was able to help them pick up critical first downs late and run out the clock.

It’s the first time since 2003 – 04 that Miami has beaten Florida State in back-to-back games. And, this loss will sting for a long time for Florida State fans, who looked like they were going to get to celebrate an unexpected win after the Noles were a 13-point underdog on Saturday.

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