The University of Miami football team faced adversity for the first time this season against the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
As UM trailed 7-3 in the second quarter, fans rained down boos after a 36-yard completion gave the Golden Eagles a chance to go up by two possessions.
However, Miami’s defense got a stop and the fifteenth-ranked ‘Canes caught fire in the second half, outscoring Southern Miss by 20 points in the game’s final 30 minutes to secure a 30-7 victory.
“When you’re 1-0 for the week, that’s your goal,” head coach Mario Cristobal said. “But certainly, we want to play more polished, more precise football. So, we have got to practice better, and we have got to keep working it better.”
The ‘Canes (2-0) had 163 yards of total offense while allowing zero points in the third quarter, which featured several key moments that revitalized the crowd. Running back Thaddius Franklin rushed for a touchdown on Miami’s first possession of the third, defensive tackle Leonard Taylor registered two consecutive tackles for loss, which included a sack, and Tyrique Stevenson pushed Miami to the Golden Eagles’ (0-2) 35-yard line after his 30-yard punt return.
But the biggest moment came on a flea-flicker with just under five minutes left in the third when quarterback Tyler Van Dyke handed it off to running back Henry Parrish, who took a few steps forward before tossing it back. Van Dyke then unleashed a 35-yard-deep ball to find receiver Key’Shawn Smith in the end zone, putting Miami up 24-7.
“That was probably my best throw of the day,” Van Dyke, who passed for 241 yards and one touchdown on Saturday, said.
Miami finished the second half with 250 yards of offense, three takeaways and two sacks.
Entering the game, the ‘Canes heavily prepared for Southern Miss running back Frank Gore Jr., son of Miami legend Frank Gore, who was coming off a 178-yard, two-touchdown performance against Liberty one week ago.
The ‘Canes preparation paid off, as they gave up 10 yards to Gore Jr. and 24 total rushing yards to the Golden Eagles.
“We’ve gotten better in the weight room; we’ve gotten better with technique and certainly schemes,” Cristobal said of Miami’s run defense. “[Today], we were squeezing out their gaps.”
But before dominating like it did in last week’s 70-13 rout of Bethune-Cookman, Miami initially looked sluggish.
Van Dyke was particularly shaky in the first half with multiple inaccurate throws, including one that missed tight end Will Mallory in the middle of the field. He also threw an interception deep in Golden Eagle territory on fourth down in the second quarter.
Southern Miss took an early 7-3 lead in the second with a 32-yard touchdown pass that sailed over cornerback Malik Curtis’ head in the back corner of the end zone. It capped a quick two-minute, 75-yard drive that was extended by fourth-year junior Te’Cory Couch’s pass interference on third-and-6.
When Miami fans booed for the first time in the Cristobal era after a leaping 36-yard catch by Southern Miss receiver Demarcus Jones, University of Southern California transfer Jacob Lichenstein recorded Miami’s first sack of the game to shift momentum and help force a punt.
The Hurricanes took a 10-7 lead into halftime as running back Henry Parrish, whose 102 rushing yards led UM, finished a 10-play drive by jumping over defenders at the goal line for a one-yard touchdown run. Miami dominated the rest of the way.
Next, Miami faces No. 6 Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, on Sept. 17 in possibly its toughest game of the year. Kickoff is at 9 p.m.