Now that the whole election thing is over, let’s return to the sporting arena.
Historically, the Panthers may be the perfect medicine for Hurricane football. It was Miami’s 10th win in their last 11 games against Pitt.
As the skies opened up throughout the day, so did Miami’s offense. And finally.
Since their October 1 win against Georgia Tech (their last before beating Pitt), Miami had been held to under 20 points in three of their last four games. Even with putting up 27 points against Notre Dame, if not for a special teams touchdown Miami would be right at the 20-point mark. Again.
But Saturday was a different story. Much-maligned quarterback Brad Kaaya had one of his better games as a ‘Cane. He tossed four touchdowns for the third time in his Miami career and second time this year (Florida A&M). He also ran one in for a touchdown from one yard out in the second quarter.
The offensive line showed up as well, giving Kaaya opportunities aplenty to survey the field and find the open man. Coach Mark Richt was well aware of the negative criticism his line has received.
“First of all, I know the line has been taking a lot of grief, but they played their tails off today,” Richt acknowledged.
Kaaya attempted a season-high 47 passes for 356 yards. His 32 completions were also a season-high, while his 68.1% completion percentage was his second-highest in Atlantic Coast Conference play behind his 68.4% against Georgia Tech. Kaaya’s season-high, including ACC and non-conference games, was a 77.8% mark against App State.
Even if Kaaya can keep a hot hand against Virginia, it still might not be enough to quiet his critics (including myself) which have grown increasingly louder since the Georgia Tech win. Virginia is only 2-7 on the season and, as it turns out, Miami plays bottom-dwellers North Carolina State (4-5) and Duke (3-6) in their last two games. Looking good against weak defenses is what Kaaya should do.
Perhaps a bowl victory, which would be Miami’s first since beating Nevada in the MPC Computers Bowl in 2006, will be enough to change the perception of Kaaya.
Miami runningback Mark Walton was finally able to find some space against the Pitt defense. He topped the 100 yard mark with 125 yards for the first time since he had 130 yards against App State in mid-September. He did so on only 14 carries, which ended up tying for his second-lowest total of the season.
Even with the decrease in touches Walton averaged a juicy 8.9 yards per carry, aided by his 55 yard scamper late in the fourth quarter. Minus that carry, Walton was still averaging a solid 5.4 yards with each rush.
Walton needs to keep producing in order to help keep some of the pressure off Kaaya.
Wide-receiver Stacy Coley caught another touchdown for a fade on another beautifully thrown ball by Kaaya. He’s made catches like this throughout his career, displaying his exceptional hands, concentration, ball-tracking and body control skills.
I can watch a new iteration of that catch each week.
Coley had two receiving touchdowns on the day. Wide-receiver Ahmmon Richards added 144 receiving yards as well.
The defense recorded two turnovers while the offense was perfect in the same category. Safety Rayshawn Jenkins came up with his 9th career interception while Chad Thomas recovered a fumble forced by Kendrick Norton. Both turnovers came in a decisive third quarter as the ‘Canes extended their lead to 34-21. As has been the case several times this season, Miami’s second-half defense shined.
“We’ve had a lot of forced fumbles this year and coach has been telling us ‘don’t let up’, ‘just keep going’,” Thomas said after the game.
Improvement can be made when it comes to the pass rush, however, as Miami only recorded one sack on the day.
Miami (5-4) plays the Virginia Cavaliers (2-7) at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va. at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Alex Goldman is a senior majoring in journalism with a minor in political science. He is currently the Sports Editor of distractionmagazine.com. He’s a Northern California native and loves snowboarding, writing, and above all the Green Bay Packers.