DURHAM (CBSMiami) – The Miami Hurricanes will look to establish some consistency on defense when they face their toughest test of the season so far: a road matchup with the unbeaten Duke Blue Devils.
On Friday night, the 14th ranked Hurricanes pay their first visit to Durham, North Carolina since the infamous “Return” game of 2015. On that Halloween Night, Miami trailed Duke 27-24 with six seconds remaining. The only chance the Hurricanes had to win the football game was to take a Duke kickoff back for a touchdown.
Then, this happened.
Corn Elder, who scored the touchdown on that historic play, is now in the NFL. But current Hurricanes starting quarterback Malik Rosier was the starter in that game. He filled in that night for the injured Brad Kaaya.
Friday will mark the second road start of Rosier’s career. The first since that October evening in 2015.
Rosier is off to a nice start in 2017. Through two games, the Mobile, Alabama native has thrown for 550 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception.
Miami’s passing offense has been solid, but their bread and butter comes from the running game. Junior tailback Mark Walton has already rushed for 352 yards with three touchdowns. He leads the nation in yards per carry at 13.0. That number is not likely sustainable, but impressive nevertheless.
Walton’s backup, Travis Homer, is off to a good start. The sophomore has rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns, on an excellent 7.3 yards per carry.
Walton missed over a quarter of the Toledo game after rolling an ankle late in the first half. He did return and managed to eclipse the 200 yard mark in that game. He’s healthy and ready to play against Duke.
And so is receiver Ahmmon Richards. Richards is expected to make his debut against Duke after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury. In 2016, he set Miami’s freshman receiving record with 934 yards.
Friday’s clash with Duke will be the Hurricanes’ first road game of 2017, first ACC game, and the Blue Devils will be the best team they’ve faced yet.
Duke has dominated its schedule so far with a 4-0 start to the season. They enter Friday’s matchup with Miami off consecutive wins over North Carolina, Baylor, and Northwestern.
Blue Devils quarterback Daniel Jones was solid against the Tarheels in his teams ACC opener, throwing for 202 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Jones has 904 yards passing on the year.
Duke’s running back tandem of Shaun Wilson and Brittain Brown have combined for 674 yards and seven touchdowns. The yards per carry has been excellent for each, with Wilson averaging 5.9 YPC and Brown averaging 6.3.
The Hurricanes allow just 3.2 yards per rushing attempt, but that stat is likely deceiving after just two games, with Bethune-Cookman and Toledo as the opponents. Toledo’s offense was strong, but they favor the passing game over the rush.
Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is looking for mental toughness from his group. The Canes defense is 115th in the country in passing yards allowed per game at 286.5. They look for consistency from fifth year senior grad transfer Dee Delaney, who has been picked on at times in the passing game.
Miami’s most consistent cornerback so far has been Malek Young. He was the first to wear the ‘turnover chain’ after an interception against Bethune-Cookman in week one.
Young made headlines on Thursday after sharing his thoughts on Duke quarterback Daniel Jones.
“He takes hits,” Young said. “He don’t like to slide, and what we’re going to do is, the goal is to get him out of the game. Get him out of the game, and it’s going to be a good game.”
While some may misinterpret this line of thought as malicious, Young is talking about aggression. J0nes has already been sacked nine times this season, and the Canes are looking to get in the backfield and create tackles for losses.
Miami has won 3 consecutive head to head matchups with Duke. Miami has only lost twice all time at Durham with the latest of those coming back in 2013. The Canes have scored thirty or more points in each of their past three trips to Duke.
Senior receiver Braxton Berrios, a North Carolina native, comes off his first career one hundred yard receiving game. He caught five passes for 105 and a touchdown against Toledo.
Kickoff for Miami-Duke is set for 7:00 on Friday, September 29th from Durham, North Carolina. You can listen to the game on 560 WQAM.