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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The D’Eriq King era is off to a good start at Miami.
The Hurricanes broke open a close game with two touchdowns in the final four minutes of the third quarter and rolled to a 31-14 victory over Alabama-Birmingham on Thursday in their season opener at Hard Rock Stadium.
More than anything, the victory is a relief for coach Manny Diaz, who is coming off a difficult first year that ended with three consecutive losses and a 6-7 record.
Miami unveiled its up-tempo offense under new coordinator Rhett Lashlee and King, the transfer quarterback from Houston. Miami totaled 492 yards, including 337 on the ground.
Junior running back Cam’Ron Harris led the Hurricanes with 134 yards and two touchdowns, including a 66-yard run late in the first quarter that wiped out a 7-0 UAB lead.
King threw for 141 yards (15 of 23) and a touchdown, and rushed for 83 yards and one score, showing off his ability to escape pressure. He extended his NCAA-record streak with at least one rushing and one passing touchdown to 16 consecutive games.
King’s most impressive stretch came late in the third quarter. After UAB cut Miami’s lead to 17-14, he led the Hurricanes on consecutive scoring drives of seven plays, one covering 71 yards and the other 75 yards, to put away the win.
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Here are our five takeaways from the victory:.
Canes run wild: Miami was 120th nationally in rushing offense last season, averaging 118.1 yards per game. The Hurricanes eclipsed that number early in the second quarter and then broke open the game by keeping the ball on the ground.
Harris is going to carry the load this year. His most impressive run was the 66-yard touchdown, but he proved to be a workhorse with 17 carries. King will help that running attack with his athleticism and Miami received solid production from both of its freshman backups, Jaylan Knighton (59 yards) and Donald Chaney (52 yards).
D’Eriq’s debut: King improved as the game progressed after a shaky start, especially in the passing game. All of his damage early was with his legs, including a 12-yard touchdown run that gave Miami a 14-7 lead. Several times he was able to make something out of a play that was going nowhere, including a 25-yard scramble on third-and-9 early in the third quarter.
The flip side to that was he missed wide-open targets a few times, including Jeremiah Payton in the end zone early in the third quarter. That drive then stalled, ending with a 25-yard Jose Borregales field goal. King did find tight end Brevin Jordan three times for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Portal paying off: Miami is going to benefit big time this year from the transfer portal. Besides King, who is a graduate transfer, two of Miami’s best defensive players arrived courtesy of the portal.
Defensive end Quincy Roche was solid and registered his first sack as a member of the Hurricanes and the 27th of his career, which leads all active players in the FBS. Roche, who transferred from Temple, was the AAC defensive player of the year.
Jaelen Phillips, the other starting defensive end, pressured the UAB quarterbacks from the other side. Phillips, who started his career at UCLA and sat out the 2019 season after transferring, broke up two passes and recorded a half sack.
Harris to the house: With the Hurricanes offense sputtering early, Lashlee decided to gamble on a fourth-and-1 from the UM 34 late in the first quarter and it paid off in a big way. Once Harris burst through the middle of the line it was nothing but open field ahead. The 66-yard touchdown tied the game at 7-7 and was the longest run of Harris’ career.
Miami had 42 yards on its first 12 plays before Harris broke free. Harris started left and then cut back to a hole on the right side.
Social distancing: Hard Rock Stadium looked very strange, even for a Canes game. The stadium is limiting capacity to 13,000 for UM games, but there still were plenty of good seats available.
The announced attendance was 8,153, but the actual attendance was about 3,000 fewer, making social distancing pretty easy in a stadium that holds about 65,000. Seats were available in every section of the stadium, although several were covered in each row. In some rows all but one seat was unavailable while clusters of seats were available for families in others.
The sidelines also had a different look. The benches were removed from the Miami sideline, replaced with wooden chairs strategically placed several feet apart. Those, chairs, though were mostly unused as most players opted to stand.
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