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All about ‘The U’ as No. 7 Miami dominates first half against No. 3 Notre Dame

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The mega-showdown between No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 7 Miami lived up to the early billing… for just one side of the matchup of College Football Playoff contenders. The Hurricanes, behind their raucous crowd (you read that right) were electric from the opening kickoff and used several big plays on both sides of the ball to jump out to a 27-0 lead over the visiting Irish in a nostalgia-filled showdown between rivals.

Mark Richt’s offense picked up where they left off last week against Virginia Tech, looking pretty sharp in picking up numerous chunk plays throughout the half. Quarterback Malik Rosier completed 11 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown through the air, finding his speedy wideout Braxton Berrios from seven yards out in a terrific catch along the sideline for the first points of the night.

The ‘Canes defense was the real standouts early though, forcing a trio of  ‘turnover chain’ appearances. The first — a Brandon Wimbush overthrow off a receiver’s hands that was picked off — led to a Rosier rushing score. The second, also an interception off a bad throw, later turned into three points off a chip shot field goal but the team saved the best for last as Trajan Bandy ran it back 65 yards for a pick-six.

The Irish’s normally productive offense looked out of rhythm on nearly every drive down in South Florida. Wimbush completed only two passes (with two more going to the other team) and was replaced behind center late in the second quarter by backup Ian Book. The team’s highly touted offensive line didn’t seem to block anybody and Heisman contender Josh Adams managed only 33 yards on the ground.

There’s still a long ways to go in this one but after only a half of play down in Miami, it sure seems like ‘The U’ is back for real and are making a strong play to be the No. 1 team in the country come Sunday morning.

Big plays, defense help No. 10 Miami lead No. 13 Virginia Tech at halftime of ACC clash

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It’s been awhile since Virginia Tech and Miami had conference and national championship implications while the defenses were flying around with NFL talent. That’s clearly the case in this year’s matchup however, with the ACC Coastal on the line in South Florida and a massive clash between two College Football Playoff contenders invoking some old memories of their clashes from decades ago.

That didn’t mean there weren’t many big plays on Saturday night however, as No. 10 Miami used several to power their way to a 14-3 lead over No. 13 Virginia Tech heading into the break.

The Hurricanes found the end zone first thanks to a great route by wideout Braxton Berrios, who galloped past the goal line after catching a perfect slant pass from quarterback Malik Rosier. The latter finished the half with 77 yards through the air (to go with 50 yards rushing and an interception) and was looking sharp in his biggest test yet against a feisty Bud Foster defense.

Tailback Travis Homer was responsible for the rest of the team’s points, ripping off a 64 yard touchdown run in the second quarter to finish the half with 71 on the ground.

The ability for the home team to move the ball was a sharp contrast to the visitors. The Hokies managed just one sustained drive in the half and that resulted in a 50 yard field goal after quasi-pitch/fumble from quarterback Josh Jackson. It certainly appeared the offense started to click more and more as the game went on so Justin Fuente’s side is certainly well positioned to mount a comeback after making adjustments in the locker room.

The winner of this one has a clear path to a division title and a potential berth in the College Football Playoff so you can expect a closely contested final two quarters in Miami.

No. 13 Miami scores first win over Florida State since 2009 with late heroics

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It was a long time coming, but No. 13 Miami (4-0, 2-0 ACC) finally has a win over Florida State (1-3, 1-2 ACC) for the first time since 2009. In a game that featured four lead changes in the final half of the fourth quarter, it was Miami with the last laugh with Darrell Langham hauling in a miraculous catch for a 23-yard touchdown pass from Malik Rosier to give the Hurricanes the 24-20 lead, and as it turned out, the win.

The touchdown would be reviewed by the replay officials to determine if Langham’s knee touched the ground prior to the ball crossing the goal line. Had the replay officials had the benefit of using goal-line cameras (it’s 2017, why is this not automatic at this point?), then there is a chance to ball would have been marked shy of the end zone. But because that angle was not available, it remains a guessing game as to how the replay would have played out. And if the ball had been marked short, Miami might have had one chance for the endzone before having to try for a game-tying field goal. As it turns out, the replay upheld the call on the field (officially, the call on the field was not confirmed, but ruled the play stands) and Miami prevented Florida State from returning the ensuing kickoff for a score in the final seconds.

After Miami took a 17-13 lead on a Braxton Berrios touchdown catch in the back of the endzone, James Blackman led the Florida State offense down the field without any fear. Blackman was five-for-five on the late fourth quarter possession, including a 20-yard pass to Auden Tate for the touchdown after it appeared Tate slipped by a couple of confused Miami defenders. The touchdown gave Florida State the 20-17 lead with just under 90 seconds to play in the game.

Miami opened the second half of the game by marching 62 yards on 12 plays to score a game-tying field goal by Michael Badgley. After picking off Florida State quarterback James Blackman on FSU’s first play of the ensuing possession, Miami threatened once again but Malik Rosier had a 2nd down pass from the 32-yard line picked off by Stanford Samuels III. Miami’s defense was locked in though and forced a quick three-and-out, and after a tremendous return by Braxton Berrios to the Florida State 21-yard line, Rosier made up for his earlier turnover with a quick strike to Berrios for the first touchdown of the game and the 10-3 lead.

Florida State tied the game in the fourth quarter with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Izzo and the Seminoles took a 13-10 lead on their next possession with a Ricky Aguayo field goal from 38 yards out. But Miami answered with a go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing possession as the teams got set to exchange the lead four times in the final minutes.

Miami remains undefeated now and is looking like a team that may have what it needs to finally reach the ACC Championship Game, but back-to-back games against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame in November will probably determine one way or the other if Miami should be thrown in the conversation for the College Football Playoff. Meanwhile, Florida State’s struggles are starting to really grow concerning.

This marked the first time Jimbo Fisher lost a game against Miami as the head coach of Florida State. Under Fisher, Florida State was 15-1 against FBS-level competition from the state of Florida before today, with the only other loss coming against Florida in 2012. This was Miami’s first win against Florida State since 2009, when Bobby Bowden was the head coach of the Seminoles.

Next up for Florida State is a road trip to Durham, North Carolina next week to play Duke. The Blue Devils have lost back-to-back games against Miami and Virginia and will be hoping not to fall in a deeper hole in the Coastal Division next week.  Miami will return home for a key Coastal Division showdown with Georgia Tech. The Yellow-Jackets are 2-0 in ACC play and will be coming off a bye week to prepare for the Hurricanes.

Miami captures first bowl win in a decade thanks to victory over West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl

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Mark Richt returned to his alma mater this year to win national championships but his first task in the postseason was to end Miami’s decade-long drought of frustration when it came to bowl games.

After Wednesday’s 31-14 Russell Athletic Bowl triumph over West Virginia, you can cross that one off the list for the head coach in his first season in Coral Gables.

Quarterback Brad Kaaya bounced back from a slow start to light the Mountaineers vaunted secondary on fire (282 yards, four touchdowns) and the Hurricanes used a nice second quarter surge to leave any doubt about the final outcome in this one for their first win in the postseason since 2006.

Keying that run was terrific young wideout Ahmmon Richards, who turned a short pass into a 51 yard catch-and-run for the team’s first touchdown. That would be the first of five straight scoring drives for Miami that included big plays from David Njoku and Braxton Berrios to find the end zone among others. The rushing attack wasn’t much to write about for the team (82 total yards) but with so much success through the air it’s no surprise to see them trend away from it until needing to kill the clock late in the fourth quarter.

Things didn’t start out all that bad for West Virginia, which had a swarming defense early in the game that didn’t allow a first down in the entire first quarter. Things quickly went down hill after allowing the first score however and the team never could get on track offensively as quarterback Skyler Howard proved ineffective. Even the normally productive running game for the Mountaineers failed to get much going on the night as their signal-caller led them in most statistical categories on the ground.

As a result, Miami was able to move on and capture their ninth win to close out a very good debut year with the school for Richt and his new coaching staff. While the Hurricanes will suffer some key losses to graduation and the NFL Draft, the team likely returns their quarterback and a host of playmakers on both sides of the ball and should enter the top 20 of next year’s preseason polls with plenty of momentum.

WVU does pick up their third loss of the season in the process for what was otherwise a very impressive bounce-back campaign for the team — the bowl performance notwithstanding after getting beat up down in Orlando.

Late offensive surge helps Miami take halftime lead in Russell Athletic Bowl

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This postseason has seen several bowl droughts end in impressive fashion but if Miami wants to break their decade-long streak of losses, they better pick things up against West Virginia in the second half of the Russell Athletic Bowl.

The Hurricanes showed flashes of that with a late offensive surge to take a 21-7 lead into halftime against a  Mountaineers squad that played very solid defensively but were hurt by a few missed tackles and broken plays.

It took until several minutes into the second quarter for the Hurricanes to even pickup a first down (and that came thanks to a pass interference flag), but quarterback Brad Kaaya shook off a rough start to finish 14-of-22 for 186 yards and three touchdowns to completely flip momentum in the game during the final minutes of the half. That was a performance made all the more impressive considering how much the offensive line struggled early in the contest and the fact that the team had virtually no running game to lean on with tailback Joseph Yearby not seeing any carries for an unknown reason.

Speedster Ahmmon Richards jump-started Miami by taking a short pass 51 yards to the house for a nifty catch-and-run that tied the game up late in the second quarter. That seemed to inject some life into the team, which followed that up with a six play, 59 yard drive on the next series that was capped off with a Malcolm Lewis touchdown in the back of the end zone. Braxton Berrios added another score on a wide-open 26 yard catch.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen expressed his frustrations at the Mountaineers offensively countless times in the half too. They averaged just 2.8 yards per play, turned the ball over on a fumble and managed just four third down conversions.

When it was announced, the Russell Athletic Bowl was expected to be one of the better games this postseason but that isn’t exactly how things have turned out after a rather lackluster two quarters in Orlando. Luckily for both teams, there’s still plenty of time left in this one for things to get interesting.