D’Eriq King and the Miami Hurricanes did what was needed to bounce back from a disastrous loss to Clemson, taking down Pittsburgh 31-19 at Hard Rock Stadium.
While the score would say otherwise, it simply wasn’t an ideal representation of what King and his offense desire.
“Pitt has one of the best defenses in the country. … We did enough to win today, but there’s always room for improvement,” the redshirt senior said.
King completed 16 of his 31 passes for 222 yards and 4 touchdowns. On the ground, he added 32 yards on 11 carries.
Let’s review the good and bad of King’s performance against his ACC foe, and what he can improve on entering a competitive contest versus Virginia.
1.) Using Will Mallory.
With King’s main target – Brevin Jordan – out, nothing changed in terms of his interest in targeting his tight end core. In this case, it was Will Mallory.
Mallory’s first catch came late in the second quarter, where they connected for a red-zone score. Then in the third quarter, King used an ideal play that helped tailback Cam’Ron Harris score earlier, resulting in a 45-yard touchdown.
“Coach [Rhett] Lashlee deserves a lot of credit for drawing up those plays,” King said. “… He has a lot of trust in us. He dials up plays and he expects us to execute them.”
2.) Taking advantage of a poor Pitt execution.
More than once, Pittsburgh put themselves in their own hole. Whether it be allowing Miami to repeat the same play for a Mallory score or leaving wide receiver Mike Harley extremely open, there’s a reason they couldn’t manage pulling an upset.
Being the veteran he is, King executed to perfection on Pitt’s errors and used them as opportunity to move the sticks and even score. It’ll be vital for him to continue doing what he’s done in all four games with the Hurricanes.
1.) The turnovers.
King has never been one to turn the ball over often. In three years with the Houston Cougars, he only threw 10 interceptions.
He’s got four in the last two games.
Perhaps teams have enough tape on King to exploit him and his obvious deficiencies in the passing game. Or perhaps they’re just planning better and forcing turnovers with disguised looks. Either way, King was a little too careless with the football.
His first interception was not his fault. His pass got batted at the line of scrimmage and was picked off by the outside corner in coverage on Harley.
These things happen in a football game and King could not have done anything to prevent it, as the defensive lineman made a great play.
His second interception came off a pass to Harley. This time, however, he threw it when the senior wideout had three defenders within four yards of him.
King missed out on Jeremiah Payton, who had broken free because the outside corner and strong-side safety were both reading the eyes of the redshirt senior, leaving Payton alone to run right by them. King could have either disguised his decision better or recognized the three defenders in position to make a play on the ball and gone elsewhere with it.
In King’s first four games of the season, he’s completed 60.5 percent of his passes. King only completed 51.6 percent of his passes on Saturday against Pitt, which is severely below his average. He did deal with drops from his receivers like this one to Dee Wiggins on a go route, however.
As it was against Clemson, missing his receivers will continue damaging UM’s offense.
King had more good plays than bad plays. Still, as shown saw with Clemson, if Miami wants any chance to compete with the elite, they’ll need to minimize those bad plays and force opponents to try and make the game a shootout.
King’s four touchdown passes to three different receivers were impressive. He showed his poise to bounce back after his mistakes and deliver strikes down the field. He also made too many mistakes for comfort and continues to struggle to connect on the deep routes with his receivers, which is concerning considering teams are working to shut down UM’s run game and force them to beat them downfield.