After a hot start to the season began to raise the expectations for Miami in 2023, the Hurricanes hit a couple snags, putting them once again off the pace to play for an ACC title or otherwise certify an official Return To Prominence. There’s no lack for talent on the roster, but they again have found ways to bungle things on the field.
In fairness, a breakthrough this year would have stood as an early arrival for a program that is integrating a lot of highly-regarded young talent with a large group of portal additions. Mario Cristobal’s group already has exceeded its win total from 2022 and figures to secure its highest win total since 2017, when the Canes went 10-3.
The last couple of weeks have been an adventure: Miami had to rally from 10 down to beat Clemson in overtime, and last Saturday needed a game-tying field goal with 1:23 remaining to push UVA to overtime and ultimately come out on top. The Wahoos ran 83 plays to Miami’s 56 in that one, and without a pick-six to provide a boost to its struggling offense, hey, who knows.
When you toss in the two games prior to those—the self-imposed loss to Georgia Tech, the underwhelming loss to UNC—and the last month has been a land of contrasts. What you’re gonna get from Miami week-to-week has become rather difficult to pin down.
Tyler Van Dyke returned against UVA after a one-game absence due to injury and struggled, posting season-lows in passing yards (164), yards per attempt (5.4), and passer rating. He threw two interceptions, and has now thrown seven in his last three starts. If he struggles again this week, NC State should have a decent chance to win.
Miami’s offense has been blessed by continuity up front, with the same five linemen starting every game, and the run game has been reliable. The Canes are averaging about 176 rushing yards per game on 5.1 per attempt against FBS opponents, and 145 yards on 4.2 YPC in league games. That’s not bad work considering Miami’s injury problems at running back.
At receiver, the Canes are led by Xavier Restrepo, who has 57 receptions for 648 yards and four touchdowns. He ranks second in the ACC in catches and third in yards. Jacolby George ranks sixth with 495 yards (just ahead of KC Concepcion) and has five touchdown grabs. With those guys at his disposal, Van Dyke has completed at least 64.6% of his throws in his starts.
NC State’s ground game will be up against it for the second straight week, as Miami brings one of the league’s best rush defenses to town. The Hurricanes have allowed 3.4 yards per carry in league games, and have had one substandard performance all year: they allowed UNC to run for 235 yards on 5.5 per carry, but only one other opponent has so much as cracked 100 yards, and none have gone over 140 yards.
On the bright side, Miami’s pass defense has not been quite as daunting as Clemson’s; the Canes are around league average in yards per attempt. They have an excellent pass rush (28 sacks; 10th nationally), though, which has helped them limit opponents to a modest 55.8 completion percentage. Freshman edge rusher Rueben Bain was a four-star prospect and has quickly become a problem—he leads Miami with 6.5 sacks.
So this week represents another tough ask for NC State’s offense, which didn’t exactly answer the bell against Clemson but did maximize the returns on its big plays. The Pack will need more of that, at the very least.