Miami vs. Pitt: 10 Things We Learned in Hurricanes' Win
Miami showed up to Heinz Field in the cold weather and left with a convincing 41-31 win over Pittsburgh. The victory gives the Hurricanes their ninth win of the season and keeps them alive for a possible ACC title, while the Panthers fall to 6-6 and are left waiting to see which bowl picks them up.
The last game of the regular season always teaches us some things.
So, what did we learn from this big road victory?
We learned that Miami can be scary good when it wants to be, that a star receiver still has a little work to do and that a defense still needs to improve.
Miami Can Win in Cold Weather!
You heard it all week: These southern boys who are used to warm weather can't win in brutally cold environments.
Miami proved all the critics wrong by dominating in under 40 degree weather. In fact, the Hurricanes were out to make such a statement as a lot of the guys were warming up with their shirts off.
Talk about trolling in the best possible way. That's classic Miami!
Maybe this win will forever bust the myth that Miami can't win road games in late November.
Phillip Dorsett Is Still a Work in Progress
For the first time since he tore his MCL more than a month ago, Phillip Dorsett was active at wide receiver for the Hurricanes. The problem is that he didn't contribute much.
Dorsett was used more as a decoy than anything, as he lined up at receiver for a couple of plays but didn't produce any statistics.
Still, this is a great sign for Miami. Whether the Canes play next week or won't suit up again until their bowl game, just knowing Dorsett is healthy and can play is a victory in itself. The junior is a big-play receiver who had 272 yards and two touchdowns in six games.
As he continues to get comfortable, expect Dorsett to contribute to this offense in a big way.
Special Teams Are Still Key to Victory
Special teams continue to be the key to victory for college football teams. Miami continuously made plays in this area and it paid off in a big way.
From the opening kickoff that resulted in a fumble and gave Miami the football to several monster punts from Pat O'Donnell, the Hurricanes made sure to be sharp on the underrated side of the ball.
Pittsburgh also didn't help itself by having a punt blocked and by Chris Blewitt blowing a field goal opportunity.
Folks will talk about the explosive offensive plays, but great special teams were just as important in this victory.
Isaac Bennett Is an Underrated Back
For some, this may have been the first time you've seen Isaac Bennett run...talk about impressive.
The junior running back carried the ball 21 times for 141 yards and one touchdown, as he was one of the few bright spots for Pittsburgh.
At 5'11", he isn't the biggest running back in the world, but he has a unique combination of speed and power. He can break off the long run like he did in his 45-yard touchdown and he also runs with great strength and isn't afraid to run a defender into the ground.
Bennett had one of the better games of his career and should have turned a few heads when it comes to NFL draft scouts.
Miami's Running Game Needs a Spark
One of the concerning parts of this game for Miami was the lack of running game.Sure, 180 yards is nothing to sneeze at, but 73 of those yards came on one carry from wide receiver Stacy Coley.
This is also the fifth straight game where the Hurricanes haven't topped 200 yards on the ground.
The injury to Duke Johnson certainly plays a role, but guys such as Dallas Crawford are big players who are capable of breaking off the big run. It just hasn't happened lately for whatever reason.
You'd also like to see Crawford get more than 14 carries due to his physical running style and ability to wear down a defense.
This obviously didn't matter much in this game, but if Miami does get a rematch with Florida State, it needs to be more physical and successful at running the football.
The Canes Offensive Line Isn't Shabby
That photo showed one of the few times Stephen Morris was touched during the game.
For the most part, he had a clean pocket to throw from and that certainly played a big part in why the offense was so effective.
Yes, the Panthers don't exactly have the best defense in the world, but they do have arguably the best defensive player in the country in Aaron Donald. He was nonexistent in this game. You didn't hear his name called much and that had a lot to do with the Hurricanes making him the focal point and often sending two guys in his direction.
Well done, Miami.
The Canes did something no team was able to do all season.
The Defense Can Still Improve
Miami's defense came into this game ranked 13th in the ACC.
It's no secret that this is an area that needs to improve. However, missed tackles is something you can fix right away. Just take proper angles and learn to wrap up the ball carrier. It's not rocket science.
Hurricane defenders missed several opportunities throughout the game to limit big plays. Even Tom Savage's seven-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was made possible because of a missed sack.
There's a lot of issues with the defense and it'll take time to fix everything. But guys can help themselves out by improving in the tackling department.
Stacy Coley Is a Stud
Miami has produced tons of elite football players in its day and Stacy Coley is next on that list. The freshman caught three passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 73 yards for a touchdown on a play that is sure to make highlight reels everywhere.
Coley's burst and top-end speed are elite status. Once he gets space between himself and the defender, there's simply no catching him.
He is what you look for when watching Miami football. The flashiness, the speed and the explosiveness are all traits that helped make Miami a prestigious program over the last couple of decades.
Players like Coley remind you that these special players still exist.
This Offense Can Be Scary Good
This performance is what Miami fans have been waiting to see for the last month. A mistake-free game from everybody and tons of big plays.
It finally happened!
Stephen Morris consistently found the open man and didn't force a single pass, as he finished his first game in the last three tries without an interception. The wide receivers did a nice job of not dropping the passes and the running backs didn't fumble the football.
There were no turnovers for the first time this month.
When everybody's focused and making the right decisions, this offense looks unstoppable. With or without Duke Johnson.
Miami Is Still Alive
The most important part of this win for Miami is that it keeps them in the race for the ACC Coastal Division title. With the Hurricanes taking care of their business, they now need North Carolina to knock off Duke and Virginia to beat Virginia Tech.
If both happen, the Hurricanes will play Florida State for the conference title.
Sure, it may sound impossible that both happen, but it at least gives the Canes a chance. And that's really all you can ask for in any situation.
Get your Blue Devils jersey out of the closet and put on your Virginia face paint. It's going to be an interesting Saturday for college football.