College Featured Miami Hurricanes

Perry Starts, UM’s Defense Ties Program Record In 47-10 Win Over UNC

It’s safe to say that the N’Kosi Perry era has begun.

After much pregame speculation, which included an omittance of the starting quarterback when the team’s starters were announced over the PA, it was No. 5 – not No. 12 – who trotted out and led the Hurricanes offense Thursday night.

Perry put on a solid performance in his first collegiate – completing 8 of 12 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown – and No. 16 Miami got a program-tying three touchdowns from its defense to manufacture a 47-10 win over visiting North Carolina in its conference opener at Hard Rock Stadium.

The Hurricanes, which will host bitter rival Florida State next Saturday (Oct. 6), led 33-10 at halftime thanks to a Jhavonte Dean interception that set the table for a 28-yard Bubba Baxa field goal at the first half buzzer.

UM (3-1, 1-0 ACC) extended its lead to 40-10 early in the fourth quarter when junior striker Romeo Finley stepped in front of a Chazz Surratt pass and returned it 83 yards for a score and then punctuated the night with 11-play, 61-yard, 7-minute drive that was capped by a 1-yard Trayone Gray run to push the final margin to 47-10 with just over four minutes left in the game.

Finley’s pick-six tied the program’s best mark, which Miami accomplished during a win over West Virginia during the 2000 season.

Miami head coach Mark Richt said he was hoping his team had broken the school’s record.

“I was kind of hoping we broke [the school record] tonight,” Richt said. “There was another [fumble] there that we thought was out, too – so we could’ve had seven – but we didn’t get that one.”

“But the Turnover Chain was out a bunch and that’s always a good thing.”

On any other night, having your defense account for nearly half of your points and forced six turnovers would be the dominating headline.

But the 60,843 fans at Hard Rock Stadium Thursday were just as happy that they saw Perry run out with the offense to start the game.

Since Richt inserted his redshirt freshman signal caller on the third series of the Canes’ win over FIU this past week, it was speculated whether Richt was ready to move on from redshirt senior Malik Rosier as the team’s starting quarterback.

Despite the pregame coverup, which included Rosier taking snaps with the first team offense during warmups, Richt said he told Perry that he would be QB1 earlier in the week.

Rosier’s absence from the game Thursday snapped a streak of 17 consecutive starts and put the writing on the wall that Rosier – barring injury to Perry – likely won’t start another game for the Miami Hurricanes.

Richt said that Rosier, who wore a headset for most of the game and could be seen talking to Perry on the sideline between drives, was disappointed when he informed him of his decision.

Richt, regarded as a bit of a “quarterback whisperer” based on his track record of successful QB’s under his tutelage, was also able to empathize with Rosier given his experience of serving as a backup for much of his collegiate career behind future NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.

“I spent my whole life behind a guy named Jim Kelly,” Richt said. “It’s not fun to be in that position…I understand the feeling. But [Malik] showed a lot of class in the way he handled it.”

Poised Perry

Not saying that Perry is destined for enshrinement in Canton, Ohio, but he did have a solid performance against the Tar Heels (1-3, 1-1).

He completed his first five passes and wowed fans on his lone touchdown throw of the night – zipping a ball into a tight window past a pair of North Carolina defenders to Darrell Langham for a 5-yard score.

Perry did have a pair of turnovers – a fumble on a sack and an interception on a tipped pass – during the third quarter. But he showcased the elite arm talent, accuracy and athleticism that exemplifies the “higher ceiling” he has compared to his quarterback counterparts on the roster.

The Ocala, Florida native, who said he called his mom shortly after he found out he’d been named Miami’s starting quarterback, said his main focus was keeping his composure.

Perry also gave credit to Rosier for continuing to be supportive in spite of the change.

Perry got plenty of help Thursday.

Aside from the defense’s three scores, UM got a game-high 116 rushing yards and a touchdown from sophomore DeeJay Dallas. Junior Travis Homer was right behind him with 88 yards on 14 carries, while Langham finished with three catches for 33 yards and Mike Harley had a pair of receptions for a game-high 70 receiving yards.

Big Play Defense

Miami’s defense did its part to support Perry as well.

UM’s defense forced six turnovers – three fumbles and three interceptions – while holding North Carolina scoreless in the second half.

The Canes extended its first-quarter lead to 14-3 thanks to a strip-sack by junior linebacker Shaquille Quarterman that sophomore defensive end Jonathan Garvin returned 10 yards for a touchdown.

Junior defensive end Joe Jackson put UM up 24-10 late in the second quarter with a 42-yard interception return for a score.

The shutout over the final 30 minutes was a bright spot considering Miami’s defense still allowed the Tar Heels to rack up 215 rushing yards (on 5.4 yards per carry) – a large chunk of which came from quarterback Surratt.

The turnovers put makeup on what really wasn’t a clean performance by the Hurricanes defense Thursday.

Florida State Week

What helps the Hurricanes is that they have an extra couple days to rest and recuperate – especially Quarterman, who left Thursday’s game with an ankle injury that Richt said was “not serious”.

Miami’s hated rival Seminoles have not enjoyed much success up to this point in the season – going 2-2 with a pair of conference losses.

Still, it would be foolish of UM fans or players to think that Florida State won’t play spirited football next week.

J.T. Wilcox
J.T. Wilcox is an award-winning sports journalist who has worked in South Florida for more than a decade. He authors "The Bald Predictions" blog and "The Baldcast" podcast.

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