Sims: Takeaways from Miami’s thrilling win over Clemson

Fourth-year junior linebacker Corey Flagg, Jr. makes game winning stop in double overtime during Miami's game against Clemson at Hard Rock Stadium on Oct. 21, 2023. Photo credit: Emily Rice

The Miami Hurricanes showed some grit at Hard Rock Stadium, toppling the Clemson Tigers in double overtime, 28-20. The ‘Canes battled back in the second half and ground out a victory on home turf in front of an announced crowd of 48,562.

This win moves Miami to 5-2 overall and 1-2 in the ACC. True freshman quarterback Emory Williams, filling in for the injured Tyler Van Dyke, showed up on offense to lead the ‘Canes to their most significant ACC victory of head coach Mario Cristobal’s career.

Miami got redemption for its 30-point loss in Death Valley last year. With the win, Coral Gables has a revived sense of optimism. Let’s jump into some takeaways from the big win.

Freshmen showed out

Two true freshmen stars carried the Hurricanes to their win. At the quarterback position, Williams made his first career start under center. It was a tale of two halves for the first-year quarterback.

Williams was incredibly limited in the first, with only 31 yards and an interception. In the second half, Williams turned it around. The freshman was efficient, going 14-of-17 with 120 yards and a score. Williams found some chemistry with wide receiver Colbie Young in the second half, which proved pivotal.

“When you have a guy like Colbie Young, he’s big, he’s fast, he’s physical, I want to turn to him, keep throwing him the ball,” Williams said.

On the other side of the ball, freshman defensive lineman Rueben Bain Jr. was a stud.

The Miami native recorded eight tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble. Bain was an absolute game-wrecker and was the Hurricanes’ best player on defense.

Miami’s defense came up clutch.

The young ‘Canes offense needed to use the defense as a shoulder to lean on for most of the game. It looked like Miami fans were in for a bit of dèjá vu from last week the way the third quarter started, letting up ten unanswered points in the third quarter.

But the defense buckled down and stood tall, as the Tigers could only muster up three points in the fourth quarter and overtime. The goal line stand in overtime proved to be the difference in the game, as Clemson had four chances to score from Miami’s two-yard line. Linebacker Corey Flagg Jr. made the tackle on Cade Klubnik at the game’s end to secure Miami’s win.

Turnovers were key.

Miami dominated the turnover battle against Clemson. An interception in the red zone and a fumble at the one-yard line were detrimental to Clemson’s offense. Another fumble in the first quarter killed a Clemson drive.

The ‘Canes were able to capitalize with a score in the first quarter off of a Tigers fumble at the goal line. Williams only threw one pick on the other side of the ball, and both of the Hurricanes’ fumbles stayed with them. Miami won the turnover battle, keeping itself in the game early.

Brashard Smith was an unsung hero.

Smith is an electric playmaker, and he showed that it’s not just on special teams. An 80-yard scamper from the backfield put the ‘Canes up early and put some life back into the crowd at Hard Rock Stadium.

Smith also made a difference in the passing game, catching five balls for 36 yards, including a clutch 12-yard reception in overtime, to put Miami in prime position to score. UM may have dropped this game without Smith’s explosive ability while the rock is in his hand.

Miami has momentum again.

After a setback in back-to-back weeks with losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina, Miami was able to right the ship with a massive home victory against a vaunted Clemson Tigers defense.

There is no understating it: this is a massive win for Miami’s football program. With a winnable game against Virginia at home on the horizon, the ‘Canes have an opportunity to keep the momentum building when the Cavaliers come to Hard Rock Stadium.