With both teams losing their last two games, Miami and Duke will battle it out Saturday night to end their losing streaks and potentially move up in the ACC rankings.
Duke will hit the road for the second straight week to take on Miami at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., Saturday at 7 p.m. The Hurricanes have not lived up to expectations—ranked No. 8 going into the season opener—and are desperate for a win after struggling offensively in October.
“Miami has a really really good football team,” head coach David Cutcliffe said. “So we’ll have to minimize any errors and play at an extremely high level to have an opportunity in this ball game.”
Both teams are coming off two conference losses. After falling to Virginia at home with a struggling offense, Duke went on the road to Pittsburgh and showcased one of the best offensive performances of its season. Daniel Jones threw for almost 400 yards and four touchdowns, but the Panthers were able to pull off a fourth quarter rally to come back and beat the Blue Devils.
Despite losing their season opener to then-No. 25 LSU, the Hurricanes followed up with five wins, including two ACC wins. After blowing out Savannah State and Toledo, head coach Mark Richt decided to experiment at quarterback in the game against neighbor Florida International.
Redshirt freshman quarterback N’Kosi Perry was put in on the third series and played the rest of the game, replacing senior Malik Rosier. Perry was named the starter in the ensuing three ACC games, including against rival Florida State. The Ocala, Fla., native led the Hurricanes to their first home win against the Seminoles since 2004, in a game that saw Florida State blow a 20-point third quarter lead with Miami scoring 21 unanswered points.
However, Perry was taken out of his start against Virginia and replaced by Rosier after throwing two interceptions. Rosier started Miami’s next loss to Boston College, and is slated to start against the Blue Devils this weekend.
“You have an offense that has terrific backs, big freshman tight end that leads them in receiving,” Cutcliffe said. “You have so many different receivers; you’re getting the ball to the backs in the passing game. And both quarterbacks can run the ball.”
Both quarterbacks have struggled with interceptions, each throwing five. Perry paired the five interceptions with 11 touchdowns, while Rosier has only thrown six. However, Rosier leads the team in rushing touchdowns with six, including a 37-yard touchdown run.
Rosier has proven his ability to be a dual-threat quarterback, but hasn’t been able to stay consistent—completing barely over 50 percent of his attempted passes.
When accurate, the quarterbacks have reliable wideouts in Brevin Jordan, Lawrence Cager and Jeff Thomas, who have four, six and three touchdowns, respectively. Thomas had an impressive 67-yard touchdown in Miami’s demolishing of Savannah State 77-0. However, Thomas is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against Duke after suffering a bruised knee against Boston College.
Even without Thomas, Miami’s receiving corps as a whole has totaled 17 touchdowns and over 1600 yards. The Hurricanes have 13 touchdowns at home and 15 in wins, which bodes well for the team if they can get their passing offense going.
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Utilizing both quarterbacks—for Perry’s passing expertise and Rosier’s running—could be the most beneficial for Miami.
While Miami has the potential for an explosive offense, even in its dominating wins, the Hurricanes have struggled to stop the drive. While they held North Carolina to only 10 points, they gave up 27 to Florida State, 17 to FIU, and 24 to Toledo. In the team’s two losses, they gave up 16 and 27 points, and were kept to less than 14 points in both.
That being said, the Hurricanes’ defense has played dominant football, scoring three defensive touchdowns against the Tar Heels—two coming off interceptions and one off a fumble.
“Their defense is arguably the best in the country,” Cutcliffe said. “Their defensive linemen are terrific, pro-prospect type players. Their linebackers are a group of best in the country, and their secondary can cover and tackle… they’re big and fast.”
If Daniel Jones and the Duke offense can find a way to exploit Miami’s inconsistent defense, then Saturday night’s game may be a high-scoring game, as Duke struggled defensively in conference play.
Sitting at fourth in the ACC Coastal, the Hurricanes will surely come out ready to play at their home stadium for the first time since their win over the Seminoles. Facing two of the teams ranked above it—Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh—in the coming weeks, Miami desperately needs a win if it hopes to move up in bowl projections.