Ten Takeaways from Miami’s 47-34 Win over Louisville

Ten Takeaways from Miami’s 47-34 Win over Louisville

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Entering their conference opener, the Hurricanes knew they faced a test.

For the first time in this uncertain season, they’d have to travel in a world that has changed dramatically since their last road trip. And they knew in Louisville, they’d face an opponent with a stable of playmakers, including some from their South Florida backyard.

Players and coaches alike made it clear ahead of Saturday night’s game: none of them expected their matchup against the Cardinals to be an easy one, no matter what happened when the two teams met last fall at Hard Rock Stadium.

And all the preparation they did leading up to the game paid off.

With an entire nation of college football fans watching in prime time, the now 12th-ranked Hurricanes showed off their new high-octane offense, debuted their new Turnover Chain and had a placekicker add his name to the Miami record book.

The ultimate result: a 47-34 Hurricanes win over the Cardinals that raised plenty of eyebrows.

“That’s a very excited locker room right across the hall,” Miami head coach Manny Diaz said immediately after the victory. “It was a hard win, obviously. We expected it to be. It’s hard to win on the road in the conference. It feels good to be 1-0. Everything we thought about Louisville before the game turned out to be true. [They’re a] very dangerous football team. That offense creates so many problems for you. I just am so proud of the way we persevered through.”

Here, before the Hurricanes turn their focus to their annual rivalry showdown against Florida State, 10 things they can take away from their win at Louisville:

1.  The Canes passed their first road test of 2020

 Yes, this road trip was unlike any the Hurricanes have ever faced and Covid safety restrictions meant a very different atmosphere than one might typically encounter at Cardinal Stadium. But there’s no diminishing the fact Miami did something special Saturday night: they beat a top-20 team on the road.

Though Miami picked up a neutral-site win over then 12th-ranked West Virginia in the 2015 Russell Athletic Bowl, the victory over 18th-ranked Louisville marked Miami’s first road win over a top-20 team since 2009 when the Hurricanes beat 18th-ranked Florida State 38-34 in Tallahassee on Sept. 7.

Given all the questions the Hurricanes faced in the days leading up to their first road game of the season, that they opened up conference play with a road win can’t be taken for granted.

Now, they hope it sets the tone for all of their games the rest of the way.

“I think it’s going to give everybody some real food for thought when they play against us,” kicker Jose Borregales said. “I know we’re going to come out every game and be the best we can be and come out with a win, whichever way possible.”

2. The offense showed its ability to make big plays when needed most

For the second straight week, a big third quarter helped make a difference for Miami.

And for the second straight week, the offense stepped up just when the Hurricanes needed it most.

The Hurricanes edged Louisville 17-14 in the third quarter Saturday night, answering two Cardinal scoring drives with touchdowns of their own.

The first? A 75-yard run from Cam’Ron Harris moments after the Cardinals pulled within 20-13. Later in the quarter, when Louisville again cut Miami’s lead to just seven points, the offense responded again, this time with a 75-yard scoring play from quarterback D’Eriq King to running back Jaylan Knighton.

Borregales rounded out the third-quarter scoring for the Hurricanes with a 22-yard field goal and though Louisville managed a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, they were never able to pull within a single score again after the 5:13 mark of the third.

“I think to the first point, as you mentioned a week ago, I think we’re playing good, complimentary ball…The one thing that this team has is that they’re pretty connected, they have each other’s back pretty good,” Diaz said. “We have really adopted that ‘Play the next play mentality,’ so no matter what happens, we just go back out there and go right to work. You don’t ever sense panic or frustration or anything else. We just go do our thing. I think that’s been encouraging.”

3. D’Eriq King delivered another big game

A week ago in his Hurricanes debut, King showed not only his ability to make big plays, but the leadership skills and poise that have quickly made him one of Miami’s go-to players and a team captain,

That trend continued Saturday night at Louisville.

The redshirt senior was 18-of-30 for 325 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He was a part of several big plays for the Hurricanes, tossing a 17-yard scoring pass to tight end Will Mallory, throwing a 75-yard touchdown pass to running back Jaylan Knighton and later, connecting with tight end Brevin Jordan on a 47-yard scoring play.

With King at the helm, Miami totaled 485 yards of offense, averaged 8.1 yards per play and scored on all three of its red zone opportunities.

His teammates, understandably, appreciate him.

“That dude is a monster. That dude is a beast,” Jordan said of King. “I love D’Eriq. He’s a guy.”

4. Turnover Chain 4.0 makes its debut

New season, new Turnover Chain? Absolutely and Saturday night, everyone got to see it.

After not forcing a turnover in their season-opening win last week against UAB, the Hurricanes defense had three takeaways against Louisville and that meant the debut of Miami’s new Turnover Chain.

This year’s version features a glittering homage to the Hurricanes’ home.

A state of Florida charm weighing 300 grams hangs on a chain that weighs two kilograms and is about 30 inches long. There are 1,400 sapphire stones in an orange-and-green U that sparkles across the state outline and the tri-county area of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach is highlighted by orange and green stones.

Cornerback Al Blades Jr. was the first one to don the chain this year after his second-quarter interception of a Malik Cunningham pass attempt. Safety Amari Carter and linebacker Zach McCloud got Turnover Chain moments of their own.

blades chain

And as Diaz promised ahead of the season opener, safety precautions were taken, with the Chain being sanitized and cleaned after every use and players donning masks on the sideline before celebrating with it.

“It was phenomenal,” Blades said of the opportunity to debut the Chain. “I think the best part of me always making plays like that is having your teammates around you. That’s really the glory of making plays like that. It wouldn’t be possible without your teammates, so, it’s good to have them around you. … The ice is nice. The whole thing with the Chain is to really emphasize us taking over South Florida.”

5. Jose Borregales has a career night

A season ago, kicker Jose Borregales had a record-breaking season at FIU.

It’s now taken him just two games as a Hurricane to add his name to the Miami record book.

The graduate transfer connected on a 57-yard field goal in Saturday’s win, tying a Miami record shared by former Hurricanes kickers Michael Badgley and Danny Miller.

The kick was the longest of Borregales’ career and was the highlight of a 17-point performance in which he connected on all four of his field goal attempts and all five of his point-after attempts.

After the win, he got plenty of praise from Diaz and King, who cited his confidence and consistency as being game-changers for the Hurricanes.

Not a bad night for a South Florida kid who grew up hoping to kick at Miami one day.

“This is a dream come true. Like I said before, this is my dream school. Being able to play for the Hurricanes has been my dream since I was born, basically,” Borregales said. “To be here and be the guy that gives the team confidence, it’s a dream come true.”

6. The defense did enough to help the Canes win

Miami’s defense expected Louisville’s offense would be a significant early-season test and more than once, the Cardinals showed their own ability to make big plays and pile up yards.

Louisville outgained Miami 516-485 overall and outrushed the Hurricanes 209-160. The Cardinals managed five scoring drives of more than 75 yards, but were just 4-of-14 on third-down conversion opportunities and were forced to settle for field goals on two of those drives.

The Hurricanes were able to force three Louisville turnovers, totaled 10 tackles for loss, notched three sacks and forced four QB hurries.

There are, both Diaz and his players noted, things Miami knows it must improve on defensively as it moves deeper into ACC play, but the Hurricanes did enough to get the win and that, they believe, was key this early in the season.

“They present such problems in their motions and condensed formations that you don’t really get to cover the guys the way you normally would. The pass issues are one thing, but going in all along, it was really the run game. Now, they attempted 50 rushing attempts to get the yards, but I still thought watching the film, we’ve got to take a really close look at some of those runs that were hitting us,” Diaz said. “Boy, it sure felt like they were getting the edge on us with some help of grabbing some jerseys, stuff like that. I don’t know, we have to look at that. …

“I do think we did a good job on third-down possession downs. They were able to get a couple of fourth and shorts converted and then even making them kick those field goals in the first half when they had six points for a long time… They are what they are. They’re one of the best offenses in our league and their quarterback is really improved, so they were a handful.”

Added Blades, “There’s a lot of things we’re going to go back and look at on film. There’s always room for improvement. We’re going to go back and look at the film…when the game is over with, we’re looking to improve so we’re going to look at everything we can go over and we’re going to get better.”

7. Penalties rear their ugly head

A week ago, the Hurricanes played about as clean a game as possible in a season opener when they were penalized just three times for 37 yards in their win over UAB.

Saturday, they just about matched that number with 8 minutes left in the first quarter.

By the end of the night, the Hurricanes were penalized 11 times for 89 yards and some – like a personal foul for a late hit out of bounds – weren’t the kinds of inadvertent mistakes coaches can stomach if they happen while trying to make an aggressive play.

Expect cleaning up the penalty issue to be something Diaz and his staff address this week.

“We can still be so much better,” Diaz said. “Obviously, the penalties were just drive killers. A lot of times really just kept us in the way of ourselves.”

8. Tight End U Shines Again

Jordan and Mallory – Miami’s two highly touted tight ends – each found their way into the end zone in Saturday’s win and showed, once again, how tough a matchup they can each be for opposing defenses.

Mallory gave the Hurricanes their first score of the night when he scored on a 17-yard touchdown pass from King. Jordan, meanwhile, finished as Miami’s leading receiver with seven catches for 120 yards. His 47-yard touchdown catch in the fourth capped the Hurricanes’ scoring for the night.

“Those were the plays that we designed throughout the week that we knew were going to work,” Jordan said. “We were just waiting for the moment to call them, but we knew all week because of the looks they give us, the defense they play, we were like, ‘Alright, yeah, this is a weak side. This is a weak situation.’ That was the situation we practiced all week. We knew you know this play was going to be open and this play was going to be open. We were just waiting for the moment to call it.”

9. Cam’Ron Harris Puts Together Another Big Game

Another game, another big night for Miami’s lead back.

For the second straight week, Harris – a junior – rushed for more than 100 yards and found his way into the end zone.

He finished with a team-high nine carries for another team-high 134 yards. That was after posting a 134-yard performance against UAB in the opener.

In both games, the running back scored on big plays, too. Against Louisville, it was a 75-yard run. Against UAB, he had a 66-yard run.

Consistent, reliable and explosive – and like his quarterback, appreciative of the players helping him perform. Both King and Harris have now shared their Touchdown Rings with their offensive linemen, something Harris alluded to in his post-game news conference.

“Shoutout to the o-line again. Thankful for them,” Harris said. “I wouldn’t have a long run if it weren’t for them. I’ve just been hitting the downhill, pressing a lot, pressing a lot and when I see the outside lane, I hit it and go.”

10. It is officially FSU Week

Season opener, check. ACC opener, check. Game against their biggest rival? Up next.

The Hurricanes will return to Hard Rock Stadium next week to open their home conference slate and they’ll do it against a familiar foe: Florida State.

The Seminoles enter the matchup looking for their first win of the season after a 16-13 loss to Georgia Tech in their opener. The Hurricanes come in with a pair of wins and their highest Associated Press Top 25 ranking in two years.

But, as anyone familiar with the Miami-Florida State rivalry knows, records and rankings don’t necessarily matter in this series and the Hurricanes are expecting another hard-fought game when the Seminoles come calling for another nationally televised prime time showdown.

“As a Hurricane, you come here, this is one of the biggest, if not the most important, games of the season,” Blades said. “When you leave here, everyone’s always going to ask you ‘What was your record against Florida State?’ It’s our job to make sure we prepare as well as we can and come out and dominate because this game is a game where everyone’s edge, everyone’s emotions are higher…We have to make sure we stay in line and come out prepared and ready to dominate.”