The Miami Hurricanes took care of business Thursday night, beating UAB 31-14 in their season-opener.
Racking up 337 yards on the ground and 158 yards passing, coach Manny Diaz’s squad came prepared for what this season has to offer.
How did Miami fare against a feisty UAB team? Here are my five takeaways on offense.
Critical down efficiency:
Miami ranked dead last in the country last year in 3rd down efficiency, attaining a putrid 25.97 percent. UM also ranked in the bottom half in the country in fourth-down efficiency, completing 52.17 percent.
That changed on Thursday night, as the Hurricanes completed 41 percent of their 3rd down conversions, going 7 of 17. They also went 2-2 on fourth downs, which led to the first touchdown of the season. Even though it’s just Week 1, the Canes looked much improved in their critical down situations.
Running backs impressed:
The Hurricanes rushed for 337 yards and three touchdowns against the Blazers, as Cam’Ron Harris led the way with 134 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Harris looked way bigger and more powerful Thursday night and made big play after big play for the Canes. He was the first player on the board when he broke off a 66-yard run for a touchdown on 4th and 1. He also ran through a few defenders on his way to the endzone for his second touchdown.
We can’t talk about the running backs without mentioning freshmen Jaylon Knighton and Don Chaney Jr. Knighton rushed for 59 yards on nine carries while Chaney carried the rock 8 times for 52 yards. Both freshmen added a spark to the rushing game and created chunk plays. I expect their production and playing time to only increase in the coming games.
Missed on some key plays:
Miami spent most of the game running the ball, which held them back fro, having a secure lead much sooner. That starts with executing the right plays.
First was a pass play where D’Eriq King overthrew Mike Harley on a go route. Harley had the defender beaten by a couple of yards and would have been in for the touchdown had King hit him. The second was a wide-open Jeremiah Payton in the end-zone where King just flat out missed him scrambling to his right. I understand that these mistakes happen, especially on the first game of the season, however, miscues like these could haunt the Canes down the road in tighter games.
Offensive line impressed:
The biggest question mark heading into Week 1 was if the new look offensive line would improve and if they would react well to the up-tempo Rhett Lashlee style of play.
Personally, the offensive line deserves a ton of credit for the win on Thursday, with the first key point was the lack of penalties.
In UM’s 2019 season opener against Florida, they garnered 14 penalties for 118 yards. Versus UAB, the Hurricanes had only 3 penalties for 30 yards. Only one of those penalties came from the offensive line, however.
The second key point was the 337 yards of rushing the line allowed. It’s known that without a line that can get a good push, you cannot rush the ball effectively. Though the line struggled a bit in the first half, they really found their rhythm in the second and dominated the talented UAB defensive line.
The last key point was the overall cohesiveness and solidness of the line. They weren’t perfect and far from where they need to be in terms of talent and depth, but if Thursday night was any indication of the improvements this line has made, then Miami is in for a much better season than last year.
D’Eriq King or Houdini:
King showed his freakish explosiveness and improvisation last night. I could write in detail on every magical play he made but I’ll let the footage do the talking.
Miami’s offense was far from perfect Thursday night, playing an underrated and talented UAB defense who held their own until later on in the game. We have to see the new up-tempo offense and the new Ferrari at quarterback. The running backs looked legit and extremely explosive, and the offensive line looked much better than a year ago. The offense will only get better as the season goes on and as long as they stay healthy.