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Game 12 Preview: Scouting Miami

Game 12 Preview: Scouting Miami

THE MATCHUP: PITT (4-7) VS MIAMI (10-0)
WHEN: 12:00 P.M. EST
WHERE: HEINZ FIELD, PITTSBURGH, PA
HOW TO WATCH: ABC
HOW TO LISTEN: 93.7 THE FAN & THE PITT IMG SPORTS NETWORK

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Friday’s matchup against the 2nd ranked Miami Hurricanes will mark the end of Pitt’s 2017 football season, regardless of the outcome. In what has been a disappointing year for many Panther fans, a victory over the Hurricanes would certainly make the season more palatable, and create momentum heading into the offseason. But Miami enters Friday fielding a 15-game win-streak, the longest in the FBS, and might present the toughest opponent the 4-win Panthers have seen all season.

In just his second year as Miami’s head coach, Mark Richt has returned “The U” to the elite of college football. With a perfect 10-0 record (their game at Arkansas State was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma), the Hurricanes have clinched the ACC Coastal Division and remain a legitimate contender for a berth in the College Football Playoff. They own victories over the likes of Florida State and Virginia Tech, and they absolutely dismantled the previously 3rd ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish two weeks ago, 41-8.

Much of the credit for Miami’s ascension towards the top of the polls is owed to their defense. With their newly famous turnover chain and a restored swagger befitting of “The U,” Miami’s defense is beginning to resemble its dominant units from the early 2000’s. Although the Hurricanes allow 361.1 yards-per-game (40th), their 17.7 points-per-game ranks 15th in the FBS, and they make the kind of plays that win games; Miami is first in sacks-per-game (3.8), tied for 2nd in interceptions (17), tied for 3rd in forced turnovers (27) and 4th in team tackles-for-loss (9.0). They have also held quarterbacks to a passing efficiency of 107.3, ranking 7th in the FBS.

The Canes feature playmakers throughout their entire defense, starting up front. Their line is highlighted by three defensive ends: Joe Jackson, Chad Thomas and Trent Harris. Together, the three have combined for 100 tackles, 29.5 tackles-for-loss, 17 sacks and 1 forced fumble. Also, defensive tackle R.J. McIntosh disrupts plays from the middle, registering 7.5 tackles-for-loss and 2.5 sacks on the season.

Last year’s trio of promising freshman linebackers is now a group of seasoned sophomores. In just their second years, Shaquille Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud are all doing their part to restore Miami’s candidacy for the title of “Linebacker U.” As a group, they have totaled 141 tackles, 15 tackles-for-loss, 7.5 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery.

Miami’s turnover-seeking secondary is highlighted by rover safety Jaquan Johnson and cornerback Michael Jackson. With 4 interceptions apiece, 2 fumble recoveries and 1 forced fumble, Johnson and Jackson have worn the turnover chain a total of 9 times. Johnson also leads the team in total tackles with 75, demonstrating the ability to consistently track down ball carriers on top of forcing turnovers.

The Hurricanes haven’t received quite as much recognition on offense this season as on defense, likely because players who score a touchdown don’t wear an attention-grabbing gold chain. However, they rank 35th in total offense (442.0 yards-per-game), 34th in scoring offense (33.7 points-per-game), and present an overall dangerous attack with terrific team speed. The Hurricanes do rank 112th in time of possession, though, which could present one matchup that bodes well for Pitt; the Panthers rank 20th in time of possession.

At quarterback, Malik Rosier has taken over behind center following the graduation of four-year starter, Brad Kaaya. Rosier, who balanced football and baseball at Miami prior to Richt’s arrival, is a dual-threat quarterback capable of moving the chains in multiple ways. Through the air, he has completed 184-of-326 passes for 2,620 yards, 23 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. His 14.24 yards-per-completion is tied for 12th in the FBS, showing that he is more than a dink-and-dunk passer. And on the ground, he holds 100 carries for 377 and 5 touchdowns.

Rosier’s top receiving targets this season have been Braxton Berrios and Christopher Herndon. Berrios, a 5-foot-9-inch senior slot receiver who has stepped up while Ahmmon Richards works through injuries, has 41 receptions for 522 yards and 8 touchdowns (all team-leads). Herndon, a semi-finalist for the John Mackey Award, is the most recent Hurricane tight end to earn national recognition. With 37 receptions for 436 yards and 4 touchdowns, the senior could become yet another Miami tight end to find his way into the NFL.

Also, Jeff Thomas, the star of the 2017 Under Armour All-America Game, is showing why almost every top program in college football recruited his services. With a 78-yard touchdown reception already on his rèsumè, the true freshman is proving that his big play ability translates well to the college game.

At running back, Miami featured one of the most explosive ball carriers in college football entering the season, Mark Walton. However, Walton was forced to undergo season-ending ankle surgery following the Canes’ victory over Florida State, making way for sophomore Travis Homer to assume the role of primary back. Averaging 6.5 yards-per-carry with a long of 64 yards, Homer possesses some explosion himself. Overall, he has 130 carries for 849 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Lastly, kicker Michael Badgely returns after earning third-team All-ACC honors in 2016. Badgely, the program’s all-time leader in field goals made, has been named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award after converting 15-of-18 field goals on the year.

THE STATS

PITT

MIAMI

  PITT OPPONENTS MIAMI OPPONENTS
POINTS SCORED 263 305 337 177
Points Per Game 23.9 27.7 33.7 17.7
FIRST DOWNS 216 224 210 208
Rushing 95 86 87 96
Passing 110 122 108 95
Penalty 11 16 15 17
RUSHING YARDAGE 1630 1664 1767 1524
Yards Gained Rushing 1957 1898 1959 1908
Yards Lost Rushing 327 234 192 384
Rushing Attempts 415 384 332 411
Average Yards Per Rush 3.9 4.3 5.3 3.7
Average Yards Per Game 148.2 151.3 176.7 152.4
Rushing Touchdowns 19 14 17 4
PASSING YARDAGE 2419 2863 2653 2117
Comp-Att-Int 206-333-8 201-355-9 187-335-9 190-351-17
Average Yards Per Game 219.9 260.3 265.3 211.7
Passing Touchdowns 11 22 23 13
TOTAL OFFENSE 4049 4527 4420 3641
Total Plays 748 739 667 762
Average Yards Per Play 5.4 6.1 6.6 4.8
Average Yards Per Game 368.1 411.5 442.0 364.1
KICK RETURNS – RETURN YARDS 29-532 24-616 23-498 34-797
PUNT RETURNS – RETURN YARDS 20-318 19-232 12-188 5-19
INTERCEPTION – RETURN YARDS 9-84 8-73 17-228 9-91
KICK RETURN AVERAGE 18.3 25.7 21.7 23.4
PUNT RETURN AVERAGE 15.9 12.2 15.7 3.8
INTERCEPTION RETURN AVERAGE 9.3 9.1 13.4 10.1
FUMBLES – FUMBLES LOST 10-6 9-6 7-2 15-10
PENALTIES – YARDS 41-404 51-409 55-554 64-558
Average Per Game 36.7 37.2 55.4 55.8
PUNTS – YARDS 54-2381 51-2148 53-2008 56-2240
Net Yards Per Punt 38.3 35.9 39.6 40.3
TIME OF POSSESSION PER GAME 32:06 27:54 27:31 32:29
3rd-DOWN CONVERSIONS 52/151 65/155 38/122 63/170
3rd-Down Percentage 34% 42% 31% 37%
4th-Down CONVERSIONS 12/19 8/17 6/9 8/20
4th Down Percentage 63% 47% 67% 40%
SACKS BY – YARDS 19-129 30-218 38-227 18-106
FIELD GOALS/ATTEMPTS 10/18 10/16 15/18 17/17
RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS/ATTEMPTS 22/33 18/34 24/40 12/30

Passing:

COMP ATT YDS TD INT EFFIC
PITT
DiNucci, Ben 88 158 1091 5 5 117.8
Pickett, Kenny 21 37 316 0 1 123.1
MIAMI
Rosier, Malik 184 326 2620 23 9 141.7

Rushing:

CAR YDS AVG TD LONG
PITT
Hall, Darrin 118 598 5.1 9 92
Ollison, Qadree 76 336 4.4 5 32
Henderson, Quadree 32 228 7.1 0 26
MIAMI
Homer, Travis 130 849 6.5 7 64
Walton, Mark 56 428 7.6 3 82
Rosier, Malik 100 377 3.8 5 36

Receiving:

REC YDS TD LONG
PITT
Weah, Jester 35 618 4 74
Araujo-Lopes, Rafael 41 510 2 28
Ffrench, Maurice 25 272 0 32
Mathews, Aaron 15 180 0 20
MIAMI
Berrios, Braxton 41 522 8 55
Herndon, Christopher 37 436 4 51
Richards, Ahmmon 21 392 2 49
Thomas, Jeff 14 306 2 78

Defense:

SOLO TOTAL TFL FF FR INT SACKS
PITT
Idowu, Oluwaeseun 53 86 11.5 1 1 0 5.0
Brightwell, Saleem 42 72 5.0 1 0 1 1.0
Whitehead, Jordan 39 58 0.0 0 1 1 0.0
Zeise, Elijah 31 47 5.0 0 0 0 0.0
Hamlin, Damar 29 40 1.0 0 0 1 0.0
Jackson, Dane 34 38 2.0 0 0 2 1.0
Weaver, Rashad 14 24 4.0 0 0 0 2.0
MIAMI
Johnson, Jaquan 44 75 3.0 1 1 4 1.0
Quarterman, Shaquille 32 58 4.0 0 1 0 2.0
Pinckney, Michael 24 52 7.5 0 0 1 3.5
Jackson, Joe 28 47 10.5 1 0 0 5.5
McIntosh, RJ 20 42 9.5 0 1 0 2.5
Harris, Trent 16 29 10.0 0 0 0 8.0
Thomas, Chad 11 24 8.5 0 0 0 3.5

INJURY REPORT

On the injury front, the following players are out for Miami: running back Mark Walton, wide receivers Dionte Mullins and Evidence Njoku, defensive lineman Demetrius Jackson and linebacker Charles Perry.  All other players appear ready to go.

Like Miami, no one is listed as “probable” or “doubtful” for Pitt, but the following players have been ruled out: Nathan Bossory, Keyshon Camp, George Aston, Matt Flanagan, Malik Henderson and Quintin Wirginis.

HOW/WHERE TO WATCH

Pitt versus Miami kicks off at 12:00 on Saturday at Heinz Field. The game will be aired on ABC and can be heard on 93.7 the Fan. As always, Pittsburgh Sports Now and its staff will provide in-game updates and observations via Twitter.

 


The Sports Now network is growing! Check out our new site PittsburghHockeyNow.com for the best Pittsburgh Penguins news and opinion.

Kenna JAmes at Blush Night Club
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