King Carries Canes to Comeback Win at NC State

by David Villavicencio

RALEIGH, N.C. – It was a four-quarter slugfest, but the Miami Hurricanes landed the final blow with fewer than three minutes remaining to secure a hard-fought road win at NC State.

The back-and-forth battle between No. 10/11 Miami (6-1, 5-1 ACC) and the host Wolfpack (4-3, 4-3 ACC) was filled with momentum shifts, but the Hurricanes made a late charge to come back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and come away with a 44-41 victory inside Carter-Finley Stadium on Friday night.

“Credit to NC State, they gave us all that we could handle. I thought some of their execution and the way they called it and the way they outfought us on the backend at times really presented us without a lot of problems. … Certainly, a lot to clean up, we understand all that, but this team has something about it that we can find a way to win the game. To find a way to win a game like that on the road against a team that was playing very well and for that, I’m very proud.”

Manny Diaz

“Wow, what a game. What a great win,” head coach Manny Diaz said. “Credit to NC State, they gave us all that we could handle. I thought some of their execution and the way they called it and the way they outfought us on the backend at times really presented us without a lot of problems. … Certainly, a lot to clean up, we understand all that, but this team has something about it that we can find a way to win the game. To find a way to win a game like that on the road against a team that was playing very well and for that, I’m very proud.”

The Wolfpack opened the fourth quarter with a 53-yard field goal by Dunn that out NC State ahead by 10 points, 41-31. But Miami answered; as kicker Jose Borregales converted a 38-yard field goal attempt to bring the Canes back within seven points with 11:04 remaining in the game.

After forcing a punt, the Hurricanes got within a yard of the end zone and appeared to score twice but had those plays nullified. The first was a run by Cam’ron Harris that was stopped by the replay official’s review of the previous play. After replay determined quarterback D’Eriq King was short of the goal line, Harris got in the end zone again but the play was negated by a false start from right tackle Jarrid Williams.

With the Canes backed up to the NC State 5, Diaz sent the kicking unit on the field and Borregales made a 22-yard field goal to put Miami within four points with 6:12 left to play.

“As a competitor, I wanted to stay on the field, but it made sense to kick the field goal,” King said. “That shows you what kind of coach Coach Diaz is; he trusts the defense. It made sense to kick the field goal and I am glad that we did. They got the stop and we went down there and scored. Of course, I wanted to stay on the field to try and punch it in.”

Diaz trusted his defense and the Canes rewarded their head coach for having faith in them, as Te’Cory Couch sacked Hockman for a five-yard loss on third-and-9 from the NC State 37 that forced a punt and gave Miami the ball with 3:51 on the clock.

The Hurricanes needed just five plays to travel 84 yards and regain the lead, as King hit Harley for two big plays on the drive, a 35-yard gain to bring Miami near midfield and a 54-yard pass and catch in which Harley outran the Wolfpack defense to put Miami ahead, 44-41.

“I had no doubt that we were going to win that game. I wanted a chance at the end to go down there and score. I thought the offensive line played great and the receivers made plays all night."

- DEriq King

I was just super confident,” King said. “I had no doubt that we were going to win that game. I wanted a chance at the end to go down there and score. I thought the offensive line played great and the receivers made plays all night. Shoutout to the defense for getting the stop on the last couple drives. We just finished the game. As far as me and how I was feeling, I was just feeling confident. I was just going to let it rip all night, keep throwing the ball and running the ball when I had to. I was just playing free; going out there and trying to play the best that I could play.”

King was nearly unstoppable on Friday night, accounting for 535 total yards and five passing touchdowns. The redshirt senior completed 31-of-41 pass attempts for 430 yards and led Miami with 105 rushing yards on 15 carries. He became the third player and first Hurricane to throw for 400 yards, five touchdowns, zero interceptions and rush for 100 yards in a single game in the last 20 years.

“What D’Eriq King did tonight was phenomenal,” Diaz said. “Throwing for 430 [yards] and running for 105 [yards], that’s absolutely remarkable and was at his best when his best was needed. And then to have Mike Harley go for 153 and to make the play right there at the end, that’s what you want your seniors to do. You want them to make those plays. He’ll remember that for the rest of his life.”

With the Wolfpack looking to answer, quarterback Bailey Hockman’s pass on first down was intercepted by DJ Ivey and the junior gave Miami the ball back on the NC State 26 with 2:36 left on the clock and the Hurricanes ran down the remaining time to wrap up the victory. Miami’s defense, which allowed 410 yards in the game, held NC State to just six yards of offense in the final quarter.

“If you look at it and without having the exact numbers in front of me, I thought the key was the run game,” Diaz said of the defense’s improvement late in the game. “In the first half, they were running the ball well and making great throws and catches, but they were also able to run the football. In the second half, they ran for 131. I felt like they had around 100 at halftime and I don’t know, but I felt like once we stopped the run game that sooner or later, we would start to make plays in the passing game. There were some throws or catches that they made that were highly contested and they were just coming up with all of them and outfighting us for them. So yes, it was very disappointing to see that, but they had 41, which is way too many, but seven of that in the kicking game. There’s a lot of disappointing things, but when we needed to make plays, the guys believed in each other and they found a way to get it done. I don’t know what they had in the fourth quarter, but it didn’t seem like they had a whole lot. Credit to those guys for not panicking and playing their best when it was needed.”

While the end of the game was a rush of Miami momentum, NC State got off to a strong start to begin the contest.

The Wolfpack took advantage of two big plays on their opening drive, as Hockman hit receiver Emeka Emezie on a vertical route for 33 yards to the Miami 31. One snap later, Hockman scored after catching a pass from Thayer Thomas and running into the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown that gave NC State a 7-0 lead just two minutes and 16 seconds into the game.

Miami countered with a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive that evened the score at 7-7, but the drive almost ended after the opening set of four downs. The Canes faced a fourth-and-1 from the UM 34 and King pulled back the ball on a handoff and burst for a 42-yard run to the NC State 24. The run gave Miami a fresh set of downs and King found tight end Will Mallory five plays later for a three-yard touchdown that tied the game early in the first quarter.

“D’Eriq came ready to play. He came ready to lead us and that is exactly what we did,” Mallory said. “We were able to drive down there and score a bunch, which helped us win the game. The preparation he put in this week, the commitment he has to this team is exactly why we got that [win]. He’s always poised and he just has that confidence in him, so it is very easy for us to follow him and get that win.”

NC State answered right back with another scoring drive, covering 75 yards in eight plays to find the end zone when Hockman connected with Devin Carter on an 11-yard touchdown pass that put the Wolfpack ahead by seven points.

King and the Hurricanes responded with another touchdown, as the redshirt senior hit Dee Wiggins deep down the sideline for a 39-yard touchdown that evened the game at 14-14.

“I can’t be prouder and it’s also the catches that they’re making,” Diaz said of the wide receivers. “Some highly-contested catches, some tough catches in the corner of the end zone and big balls down the field. It’s those explosive plays that change games. So, it’s fun to watch and that’s what we knew. We felt like in this offense as time went on during the season that we would improve in the passing game and they’ve also had to carry double loads because of the guys we’ve had out. Again, Mike Harley leads the way. He got dinged up a little bit and went back in the game and to make that play, man, what a warrior and heroic tonight.”

Miami built off the momentum with some trickery on the kickoff, as Borregales’ onside kick was recovered by UM’s Robert Burns to give the Canes the ball on the NC State 33. But some offensive penalties helped the Wolfpack defense get Miami in third-and-22 from the NC State 47 before forcing a punt by the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes took their first lead of the night less than 90 seconds into the second quarter when King found Harley in the corner of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown that put Miami ahead, 21-14. The touchdown also made King the first Hurricane in 15 years to throw for three touchdowns and rush for 50 yards in the first half of a game.

“Mike is a great guy. On the bus ride over here from the hotel, he texted me and told me that he loved me and let’s go be great tonight. He did that tonight,” King said. “Mike and I are both older guys, so it means a lot to us. We don’t have all the time in the world to play here, so we want to give it our all. Mike’s a leader in the locker room. He keeps me in check sometimes and is just a great guy. I’m so happy that everything is starting to pay off for him.”

Harley caught eight passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns, all game-bests for Miami. The senior, who had 170 yards in a win over UVA on Oct. 24, joined Philip Dorsett and Andre Johnson as the only Hurricanes to post consecutive games with 150 receiving yards. He is one of just six Hurricanes to record multiple 150-yard receiving games.

“It felt really good, really great,” Harley said. “The four years I’ve been here, we’ve had some hard battles and didn’t come out with the victory, but this team is very special. We fought all the way until the end and it put a dagger in their heart. We just took advantage of the time off on a bye week. We came out after a bye week and proved everyone wrong. We came out with a W and we did what we had to do.”

Jaelan Phillips made a big play that kept NC State out of the end zone on the Wolfpack’s next possession. The redshirt junior defensive end, who led Miami with 10 tackles, dropped Hockman for a six-yard sack on third-and-6 from the UM 19 that was followed by a 42-yard field goal by Christopher Dunn that put the Wolfpack within four points, 21-17.

“Our mentality is always to never give up, always be tenacious and play together as a team,” Phillips said. “I think this was an incredible challenge for us as a defense to stay together. When things kind of start to, I don’t want to say fall apart, but when things kind of start to slip a little bit and you lose some yards and some big plays, it’s easy to kind of get disbanded. But I think that we held it together really well and I am just extremely proud of our team.”

NC State jumped back ahead with 2:49 left to play in the first half, as Hockman threw his second touchdown of the night. The left-handed quarterback’s throw landed in the hands of tight end Cary Angeline for a nine-yard touchdown that gave the Wolfpack a 24-21 advantage.

“At halftime, we were on the ropes and the leadership of this team came into the locker room at halftime and calmed everybody down,” Diaz said. “We weren’t ourselves. The penalties… We were just not giving ourselves the chance to win the game and guys were starting to press in the second quarter. You could see the strain on their faces. We came into halftime. We regrouped. We knew it still wouldn’t be easy in the second half. We knew there would be adversity in the second half, but we knew we’d win the game if stuck together and that’s exactly what we did. We stuck together, we didn’t panic, we got some stops on defense and offensively we were just hard to stop all night.”

Facing a three-point deficit at the intermission, striker Gilbert Frierson gave a passionate speech to motivate his team ahead of the final 30 minutes of play. The redshirt sophomore, who finished with six tackles and a tackle for loss, delivered a message that helped uplift his team after a tough first half.

“Just to stay positive. We’re going to have ups and downs during the game, but the first half is the first half,” Frierson said. “Whatever mistakes you made, whatever happened, you can’t fix it. You can only fix it by the next play, play the next play. Let’s be great as a team, let’s all work together, special teams, offense and defense. We all have to fight as one to finish this game however we have to do it. However we have to do it, let’s just get it done and leave with a win.”

The Canes brought the game to its third stalemate when Borregales drilled a 36-yard field goal to give Miami three points on the opening drive of the second half.

But the tie was snapped four minutes later, as Zonovan Knight barreled into the end zone for a one-yard rushing touchdown that put NC State back ahead by seven points, 31-24.

King continued to lead a Miami’s offense that finished with 620 total yards that ranks seventh all-time in a single game in UM history. The dual-threat passer threw his fourth touchdown of the night when he found Mark Pope in the end zone for a game-tying 17-yard touchdown. But the tie would be short-lived, as Knight returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown that put NC State back ahead, 38-31, with 4:45 left in the third quarter.

“When you have a quarterback like D’Eriq, you never feel like you’re out of the game,” Diaz said. “We felt like we could score on them and felt like we could beat them down the field and that ended up being true. What we needed to do was we needed to run the ball a little better in the second half, which everything was so dependent on D’Eriq in the first half. We started finding some cracks in the second half. It was still a hard grind and Cam [Harris] started making some plays and I thought that really spurred on our offense. You have to be able to score points. This is college football in 2020. You have to be able score points to win and that’s all part of it.”