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Braxton Berrios catches a touchdown during UM's 31-6 win over Duke at Wallace Wade Stadium. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Nickel Coverage: No. 14 Canes Shut Down Duke, Roll To 31-6 Win

Miami’s defense was supposed to be the leg that it stands on this season and it finally looked the part as the Hurricanes’ defense racked up five sacks and forced two turnovers to power No. 14 UM to a 31-6 road victory over Duke Friday night at Wade Wallace Stadium.

Five storylines from the Canes’ win:

1. The defense finally looked the part.
Up until Friday’s game, Miami’s defense had left a lot to be desired with its performances in the team’s previous wins. Manny Diaz’s group wasn’t dominant enough against FCS-level Bethune Cookman and they got downright gashed by Toledo and was only bailed out because their offense exploded for 42 second-half points.

Facing a Duke team that was averaging just over 40 points per game, Diaz’s group finally looked like the type of unit that everyone thought they’d be before the season started and kept the Blue Devils out of the end zone Friday.

One of the keys to victory for Miami, which will travel to Tallahassee next week to face rival Florida State, this week was to get pressure on Duke’s dual-threat quarterback Daniel Jones. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound sophomore put up effective and fairly efficient numbers in Duke’s previous four games, but the Hurricanes made him look subpar Friday.

Miami got pressure up the middle on multiple occasions – including once on a big fourth down in the first quarter while the Blue Devils were threatening to take an early lead when sophomore linebacker Michael Pinckney blitzed through the middle of the line and slung Jones to the ground.

Pinckney had himself a night – finishing with a game-high 10 tackles and earning himself some time with the coveted “Turnover Chain” when he did a forward roll to secure an interception off a tipped pass in the second quarter.

Sophomore defensive lineman Pat Bethel also got some time wearing the “Turnover Chain” when he hit the “D-Line Perfecta” – stripping Jones of the ball on a sack and then falling on the ball. Bethel’s sack led to Travis Homer sealing the game with a 40-yard touchdown scamper to give Miami its final 31-6 lead.

Miami gave up 349 total offensive yards to the Blue Devils (4-1, 1-1) but the most impressive part was their holding them to just 5-of-19 on third down conversions.

2. Fast start by the offense
While the Canes defense saw its performance build up to a crescendo, things got off to NASCAR-fast start for Miami’s offense.

Malik Rosier completed his first nine passes and powered the Canes to touchdowns on their first two offensive drives of the night – building a 14-0 lead with 4:50 left in the first quarter after he capped second drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge.

Rosier drew praise from everyone when he dropped a perfect dime to senior receiver Braxton Berrios for a 27-yard touchdown. Rosier stood in the pocket, took a hit and delivered a pretty throw over a defender to Berrios in the back of the end zone.

Duke’s defense adjusted and began to slow the Canes down throughout the rest of the night. Rosier succumbed to pressure and ended up taking three sacks, he threw an interception late in the third quarter and Miami was unable to gain much traction with its run game.

Rosier ended up 15 for 26 with 270 passing yards, two touchdowns – the second a 49-yard strike to sophomore receiver Ahmmon Richards – and the interception. He also finished with 45 rushing yards on 15 carries.

3. Mark Walton’s ankle
As much as Mark Walton – and the Hurricanes – wanted to downplay the left ankle injury he sustained in the game against Toledo, it was a major concern coming into Friday’s against Duke and will continue to be one moving forward.

Miami didn’t list Walton on the injury report it released Thursday, but he wore visible ankle supports over his socks against the Blue Devils.

The Miami Booker T. Washington alum looked more than fine early in the game when he caught a short pass and hurdled a defender as he rumbled for a 39-yard gain.

Still, Walton looked visibly hampered by the injury. He finished the game with a team-high 17 carries for just 51 yards.

Everyone held their collective breath midway through the fourth quarter when Walton stayed down on the field writhing in pain after a short gain. He was trying to run towards the sideline when a Blue Devils defender wrapped up his legs and corralled him down to the ground.

He stayed down for at least two minutes before getting up and walking gingerly to the Canes sideline.

Homer finished the game for the Canes and ended up with 43 yards on three attempts.

4. Ahmmon Richards
Speaking of a player who was coming back off an injury, Ahmmon Richards ended up having a stellar night in just his second game back after dealing with a hamstring injury.

Duke tried to defend the Canes with man-to-man coverage on their wide receivers and Richards took advantage of his defender most of the night.

Richards made an NFL-caliber catch during Miami’s second scoring drive of the night – beating the coverage and making a tough catch on a throw near the sideline while getting both feet inbounds.

On his 49-yard touchdown catch, Richards caught a pass on an underneath route and cut across the field to get the angle on Duke defenders and coasted into the end zone. You could tell he was still slightly favoring the hamstring, but 80 percent of his speed was more than enough to scoot by Duke’s defense.

5. Zach Feagles’ bad punt
Freshman punter Zach Feagles had the lowlight of the night when he had a punt ended losing yards.

About J.T. Wilcox

J.T. Wilcox is an award-winning sports journalist that has worked in South Florida for more than a decade. He authors "The Bald Predictions" Blog and "The Baldcast" Podcast. J.T. Wilcox joined the Football Hotbed staff in 2017.

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