MIAMI (AP) – Sometime in the first few minutes after kickoff Saturday night, Miami’s Duke Johnson will likely take a handoff from Brad Kaaya and run into the Hurricane record books.
And with that, he might be out of things to prove at the college level.
No. 1 in the nation, No. 1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 1 in the Coastal Division, none of that is within reach of Johnson and the Hurricanes this season. But being No. 1 on the Miami all-time rushing list, that’s squarely in Johnson’s sights and he’ll try to get there when the Hurricanes play host to Pittsburgh in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Johnson is 34 yards away from passing Ottis Anderson for the record, which means that if his season average holds true to form, it should take him about five carries to assume the top spot on that list.
“I know it’ll mean a lot to my family,” said Johnson, who many expect to skip his senior season with the Hurricanes and pursue the NFL next year.
The game could be a matchup of the top two running backs in the ACC this season, assuming Pittsburgh’s James Conner — who leads the ACC with 1,600 yards but is questionable for Saturday’s game against the Hurricanes in Miami Gardens, Florida because of a hip injury — actually gets into the lineup.
Pitt could certainly use him. The Panthers (5-6, 3-4) need a win to become bowl-eligible for the seventh straight season.
“Playing Miami, it’s motivation enough,” Panthers coach Paul Chryst said. “Every game’s important. Every game’s crucial. At the end of the year, if you win enough games to earn the right for another game, you’re very appreciative of it. Obviously, our players know and truly want to earn that right.”
Miami (6-5, 3-4) needs a win to avoid finishing ACC play with a losing record, plus to send its seniors out of their last home game on a winning note.
“I’m sure it’s surreal,” Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya said. “I told some of the guys who I’ve talked to individually, let’s finish strong. It’s the seniors’ last game. You can’t take it for granted. We have to finish strong.”
Here’s what to know when Pitt visits Miami:
Kaaya has played in 11 games, and thrown a touchdown pass in every one. Not bad for a freshman season, with him having completed exactly 60 percent — 180 of 300 — passes so far, good for 2,666 yards and 23 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions. His arm isn’t lacking for late-season zip, either; offensive coordinator James Coley was sporting a bruised index finger earlier this week, after taking the brunt of a Kaaya fastball.
PITT IN MIAMI
The Panthers are trying for a rarity, going 2-0 in South Florida in the same season. Pitt won at FIU earlier this year.
Miami has won the last eight games in the series, prevailing in those matchups by a combined 277-110. Pitt’s last win over the Hurricanes was in 1997, a 21-17 win that helped send Miami to a 5-6 record in that probation-marred season. Pitt hasn’t played at Miami since 2003; the teams met in 2003, 2010 and last season, all in Pittsburgh.
Miami WR Phillip Dorsett, who’ll be among the seniors in their last home game as Hurricanes, still leads the nation with an average of 27.8 yards per catch this season. He’ll be facing a Pitt secondary that has yielded six touchdown passes of at least 45 yards, but is still putting up strong numbers. This season, Pitt has held opponents under 200 passing yards six times in 11 games.
The Panthers have a big-time receiver as well in Tyler Boyd, who already has 64 catches for 1,077 yards. He has more catches than any other four Pitt receivers combined, and ranks second in the ACC in receiving yards.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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