Takeaways from Miami’s season-opening victory over Miami (Ohio)

Redshirt freshman Ajay Allen Jr. is tackled, ultimately totaling 47 rushing yards on nine carries during Miami's season opener at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 4, 2023. Photo credit: Charisma Jones

Following a disappointing 5-7 campaign last season, the Miami Hurricanes looked to kick off their second year under head coach Mario Cristobal with a bang. On Friday night at Hard Rock Stadium, that is exactly what they did, as the ‘Canes cruised to a 38-3 win over Miami of Ohio. Here are a few takeaways from Miami’s dominant first-week win.

The running game will be key this season:

Last season, the Hurricanes ranked 96th in the nation in rushing yards per game. In many contests, Miami was forced to throw the ball much more than it ran, which put an immense amount of pressure on the passing game and made the team one-dimensional.

If the first game of the season is any indication of what is to come, Miami’s offense will be much more balanced and efficient this year. Behind a revamped offensive line and strong rushing performances from junior Henry Parrish Jr. (90 rushing yards, 1 touchdown) and freshman Mark Fletcher Jr. (76 rushing yards, 1 touchdown), Miami eviscerated the RedHawks’ defense all night to the tune of 250 yards on the ground.

The Hurricanes’ successful rushing attack led to them controlling the time of possession and the pace of the game, letting them run down the clock for most of the second half to secure the 35-point victory. If the running backs and offensive line are in sync like this for the whole season, Miami’s offense will become much more potent and will be able to wear defenses down more than last year while also taking a bit of pressure off quarterback Tyler Van Dyke and the passing game.

The importance of scoring first:

Miami let its opponent score first in seven of its 12 games last season. In those seven contests, the Hurricanes were 1-6. Meanwhile, in games where Miami scored first, its record was 4-1.

It is clear that the ‘Canes play much better when they quickly gain momentum by putting up the first points and do not have to play from behind, which was a major issue last year.

On the first drive of the game against Miami of Ohio, wide receiver Colbie Young took a screen pass 44 yards for a touchdown to give the Hurricanes the early lead. The RedHawks were never within double digits on the scoreboard after the first quarter.

If Miami can continue to get off to hot starts by scoring before its opponents do, it will energize the team early and allow them to play their way instead of having to mount comebacks in most games.

A healthy Restrepo will help the offense:

The Hurricanes’ top receiver only played in seven games last year, and after a solid first two games, he battled injury and did not look like himself the rest of the season.

With the whole offseason to recover, Restrepo looked sharp once again on Friday night, posting a respectable five catches for 68 receiving yards. While this stat line does not jump out, his presence was felt when he was on the field as Van Dyke’s favorite target.

His steady play and the attention he garners as one of Miami’s top receivers also opened up opportunities for others, such as Colbie Young, who had four receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown. If Restrepo remains healthy, he will likely produce solid statistics and open up the field for the rest of Miami’s targets.

Limiting turnovers:

The Hurricanes were 101st in the nation in turnover margin per game last year. Not being able to hold onto the ball and back-breaking interceptions were catalysts in many of Miami’s losses in 2022.

While the ‘Canes did not force any turnovers against the RedHawks, a team that was fourth-best in turnover margin per game last season, they also only turned the ball over once. A Van Dyke interception in the second quarter was the only blemish on an otherwise strong performance in ball security for Miami.

As long as Miami takes care of the ball and does not allow easy scoring opportunities for its opponents off turnovers, the Hurricanes should be in a good position to win the majority of their games.

Miami looks to improve to 2-0 on the young season as they welcome No. 23 Texas A&M to Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday in a rematch of last year’s 17-9 defeat in College Station, Texas.