No Miami team over the last 40 years had lost five straight games. Thanks to Saturday’s 51-28 win over Pittsburgh at Hard Rock Stadium, the Hurricanes made sure that inglorious statistic would not apply to this year’s team.
After four consecutive losses, Miami came into Saturday’s game as a four-point favorite to end the streak. Thanks to a balanced offense and some key defensive plays, they got the job done.
Quarterback Brad Kaaya had a huge game, throwing for 356 yards and four touchdowns. Mark Walton rushed for 125 yards, including a 55-yard scamper to conclude the scoring late in the fourth period.
Ahmmon Richards had 144 yards receiving while David Njoku and Stacey Coley each had two touchdown receptions.
Pitt was able to stay reasonably close due to some big plays. Following a Hurricane touchdown on the game’s first series, Quadree Henderson took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards to tie the score.
After Miami took a 41-21 lead, Panthers’ Quarterback Nathan Peterman hit wide receiver Jester Weah for a 75-yard touchdown to get within two scores. They would get no closer.
A puzzling decision by the Panthers came late in the game. With only 3:51 remaining and the Hurricanes ahead 44-28, Pittsburgh had a fourth-and-five from their own 16. Coach Pat Narduzzi gave up, electing to punt the ball.
His team followed suit on the following Miami possession. While Walton ran hard on his touchdown scamper, Panthers’ defenders appeared to put something less than full effort into bringing down Walton.
The Hurricane offense certainly made some big plays, but so did the defense. On the second play of the second half, Henderson was hit by Kendrick Norton, forcing a fumble recovered by Chad Thomas only eight yards from their own goal line.
The Hurricanes scored three plays later, stretching the lead to 34-21.
With 8:05 left in the third quarter, Peterman was picked off in the end zone by Rayshawn Jenkins. The play prevented the Panthers from getting within a touchdown.
In addition to the Hurricanes avoiding the five-game losing streak, Hurricanes’ Coach Mark Richt has never lost five straight in his 16 years as a head coach, the last 15 of which were at Georgia. Saturday’s victory was his 150th as a head coach.
“So many really good things happened, I don’t know where to start,” said Richt. “The bottom line is we got a great victory in front of our home crowd, and I’m very thankful.”
Miami (5-4, 2-3 ACC) looks to win their second straight next Saturday against the Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville, Va.