Two critical reasons why the Miami Hurricanes couldn’t get anything going offensively at No. 1 Clemson in Saturday night’s loss was the inability to establish the running game early and win one-on-one matchups.
It was already under the seven-minute mark in the second quarter by the time Miami had its first rushing attempt by a running back on the fourth offensive series, trailing 14-0 in what turned into a 42-17 final.
“We definitely were wanting to run the football,” said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee on Monday. “We didn’t do it very well, and even once we got behind, probably stayed with it a little too much and was just very ineffective doing so.”
Junior Cam’Ron Harris had eight carries for 3 yards, Donald Chaney Jr.'s lone attempt went for 8 yards and fellow freshman Jaylan Knighton had his one carry go for no gain. The Hurricanes totaled 89 rushing yards mostly from quarterback D’Eriq King’s 56-yard scramble in the second quarter.
“We have to establish the run, and I think we tried,” said Lashlee, also noting the tough down and distances Miami was in after first down. “They dictated to us. We never did any dictating to them, and when you get behind the sticks, as badly as you want to try to run the football, it puts you in a bind.”
Lashlee said he called a run on the first offensive play of the game and of the second series, but King had to pull the ball on the zone-read on one and there was a muffed exchange on the other.
Clemson dominated first-half time of possession, running 25 plays to Miami’s six in the first quarter and putting the Hurricanes in a 14-0 hole by UM’s second possession. Playing from behind and with Clemson stacking the box while leaving receivers in single coverage, Miami wasn’t able to use the pass to set up the run either.
“That inability to throw and catch in some man coverage and things that we had ultimately made it very difficult to run the football,” UM coach Manny Diaz told 560-AM on Monday morning.
“We got whipped in every phase,” added Lashlee. "We got whipped up front. We got whipped on the perimeter. I got whipped. I didn’t do a very good job. We got our tails kicked.
“We didn’t execute, really, anywhere very well. We lost pretty much every one-on-one battle there would be, whether it be blocking, whether it be on the perimeter, throwing and catching. I didn’t do a good job.”
The Hurricanes' three starting receivers — Michael Harley (three receptions, 17 yards), Dee Wiggins (1-24) and Mark Pope (no catches) — didn’t do much to get open against single coverage.
Asked if he is open to playing more of his younger receivers in Jeremiah Payton, Michael Redding III or Keyshawn Smith, who had his first college catch on Saturday, Diaz said, “We are always inclined to play whoever we feel gives us the best chance to win. There is no seniority. That’s not how we make any decision in terms of anybody on the depth chart.”
The Hurricanes can expect Pittsburgh to play them in similar fashion this Saturday as coach Pat Narduzzi has historically liked to stack the box and let his defensive backs play one-on-one coverage.
While it went down in the stats as five sacks allowed by Miami at Clemson, Rhett Lashlee said it was actually four as one was called a sack on a designed run.
Three of them were on D’Eriq King, two of which Lashlee attributed to blocking, while the last one occurred once backup N’Kosi Perry subbed in for King at the end of the game.
“It was a team effort,” Lashlee said. “Obviously, we didn’t protect him well in those third-and-long situations to have those four sacks. They blitzed about every play. We did some good things in protection, but we weren’t able to ever hurt them, and so guess what? They kept doing it.”
Redshirt sophomore John Campbell was back to starting at left tackle after Zion Nelson was there against Florida State. Campbell got beat on one of the sacks. Nelson went in at left tackle when Campbell left with an apparent knee injury and also played some for Jarrid Williams at right tackle.
Manny Diaz on Monday dismissed the notion that Nelson has had any difficulty adjusting to his added weight, going from 285 pounds at the start of last season to 312 this fall camp.
This and that
Safety Bubba Bolden was named ACC Defensive Back of the Week for the second time this season after he blocked two field goals, led UM with 10 tackles and forced a fumble.
Striker Gilbert Frierson also had a strong showing with six tackles, three for loss, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Manny Diaz and defensive coordinator Blake Baker were pleased with the play of backup linebackers in freshman Corey Flagg, who received his first meaningful playing time, and sophomore Sam Brooks. Brooks has been recovering from a a minor foot injury, Diaz and Baker said.
Following the noon kickoff against Pitt at home, the Hurricanes will have an 8 p.m. start against Virginia the following week, also at home. Both will air on ACC Network.
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