MIAMI GARDENS – Another thrilling end sealed a 31-30 victory for the University of Miami over No. 18 North Carolina State in Hard Rock Stadium.
The Hurricanes (3-4, 1-2 ACC) have suffered through consecutive, last-second heartbreaking losses – a missed field goal against Virginia and an intercepted tip pass closing North Carolina.
Had safety Kamren Kinchens not forced a turnover on fourth-and-8 with 2:49 to go after a 6-yard completion from Devin Leary to Thayer Thomas, Miami could’ve found itself in a scenario it knows all too well.
“This team is resilient,” head coach Manny Diaz said. “It’s part of our culture as a program.”
After the game, Diaz called the fight in his team “special, noting they had yet to see the “reward in the win.”
All of that changed this week.
1. Van Dyke shows improvement
Entering Week 8, quarterback Tyler Van Dyke completed just 47 percent of passes in his two starts against FBS opponents.
In the sophomore’s first appearance against Virginia, Miami was down 16-7 at the half. The following week at Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels held a 31-17 lead.
However, in both instances, Van Dyke’s performance improved considerably in the second half. The Hurricanes came within two-points of victory versus the Cavaliers and caught up to North Carolina to finish 45-42.
Against North Carolina State, Van Dyke figured out how to put things together early – namely a 25-yard touchdown pass to Charleston Rambo in the first and a 53-yarder on fourth-and-1 to Jaylan Knighton.
The back-up boasted a much-improved completion rate of 68 percent, leading Miami to a 14-10 lead until Devin Leary commanded a late-scoring 77-yard drive to give the Wolfpack (5-2, 2-1) the lead at the half.
By the end of the game, Van Dyke completed 76 percent of his passes for 325 yards and four touchdowns.
To Diaz, both Van Dyke and the Hurricanes’ transformation came as a result of the quarterback’s confidence seen in press conferences leading up to Saturday.
Diaz knew that Van Dyke’s comments “could’ve gone one of two ways,” but was proud to see the young quarterback “do stuff veterans do” in his fourth start and have the “courage to trust his progression.”
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2. Shifts at defense show
Veteran quarterback Devin Leary struggled against Miami, completing 24 of 42 attempts for 310 yards and two touchdowns – but it came as a result of his own merit more so than the Hurricanes’.
Miami did win in quarterback hurries with seven. The Hurricanes, though, allowed 421 yards.
Diaz promised during the week to reward younger players who were showing improvement and backed that up with three changes in the starting lineup.
Freshmen Marcus Clarke and Jahfari Harvey replaced sophomore Te’Cory Couch and sixth-year Zach McCloud at cornerback and defensive end, respectively.
Redshirt sophomore Zac Smith stepped in for senior Waynmon Steed at weakside linebacker.
3. Lack of discipline exposed
Penalties ate at yardage for both teams, and Miami’s were more costly.
The Hurricanes’ discipline has been questioned throughout the season, entering Saturday’s matchup averaging 68.3 yards in penalties per game.
Against North Carolina State, Miami posted nine penalties for 66 yards. Calls for a face mask, unnecessary roughness, and unsportsmanlike conduct totaled 34 yards.
The most detrimental? A 5-yard penalty after safety Bubba Bolden ran into the kicker on a 45-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter.
Christopher Dunn’s next effort would be good for 40-yards bringing the Wolfpack to within one point with more than five minutes remaining.
4. Knighton steps up
With injuries costing running backs Cam’Ron Harris and Donald Chaney their seasons, Jaylan Knighton had a big task for his first start of the year against the highest-ranked defense in the ACC.
The redshirt freshman posted 83 rushing yards with a long of 28.
“Physically, I just run hard and do my job,” the Deerfield Beach native said.
And Knighton proved to be just as great of a force as a receiver, recording another 83 yards and the 53 yard touchdown that gave Miami a 14-3 lead.