Mixed results for UM of­fense mi­nus Thomas

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - College Football - BY JOR­DAN MCPHER­SON jm­cpher­[email protected]­ami­her­ald.com

The Mi­ami Hur­ri­canes en­tered their reg­u­lar sea­son fi­nale against No. 24 Pitts­burgh on Satur­day with a big ques­tion to face: How would they re­place the pro­duc­tion of wide re­ceiver Jeff Thomas, who was dis­missed from the team Wed­nes­day.

The ques­tion proved tough to an­swer as the Hur­ri­canes re­ceived mixed results from their skill po­si­tion play­ers in the 24-3 win at Hard Rock Sta­dium.

“We moved on,” sopho­more DeJay Dal­las said. “[Thomas] was a big part of our team, but we moved on.”

Let’s start with the pos­i­tives.

Dal­las, the speedy run­ning back, broke five tack­les on a sec­ond-yard punt re­turn be­fore charg­ing down the left side­line and into the end zone for a 65-yard touch­down.

“Pretty spec­tac­u­lar,” Mi­ami coach Mark Richt said.

Red­shirt fresh­man Ev­i­dence Njoku caught the first pass of his ca­reer, an 11-yard com­ple­tion early in the sec­ond quar­ter.

The run game proved to be ef­fi­cient when Mi­ami chose to keep the ball on the ground, with the Hur­ri­canes av­er­ag­ing a sea­son­high 9.2 yards per rush de­spite run­ning the ball just 32 times, most of which came late in the fourth quar­ter with a com­mand­ing lead.

Travis Homer ripped off runs of 47, 64 and 37 yards en route to a sea­son-best 168-yard, one-touch­down per­for­mance on just eight car­ries.

Dal­las had a 28-yard scam­per and added a rush­ing touch­down of his own in the fourth quar­ter to make him the first Mi­ami player since Graig Cooper in 2008 to record a punt re­turn touch­down and rush­ing touch­down in the same game.

That’s where the high­lights mostly end, with the pass­ing game strug­gling all day.

Red­shirt fresh­man quar­ter­back N’Kosi Perry com­pleted just 6 of his 24 passes for 52 yards. Seven of those in­com­ple­tions were drops. An­other five were bro­ken up by the de­fense.

Richt took a by-com­mit­tee ap­proach with his re­ceivers on of­fense. Mi­ami went with a four-re­ceiver set to open the game against Pitts­burgh with Dar­rell Lang­ham, Lawrence Cager, Mike Har­ley and Brian Hightower.

It was Hightower’s sec- ond start of the year and Har­ley’s third.

Har­ley, de­spite three drops, led the re­ceiv­ing corps with two catches for 18 yards. The rest of Mi­ami’s re­cep­tions: One catch for 11 yards each by Homer and Njoku, one catch for 8 yards by Cager and one catch for 4 yards by Lang­ham.

“We couldn’t get it go­ing throw­ing and catch­ing,” Richt said. “That’s what you have to do: You’ve got to throw and catch.”

Perry added: “I feel like my passes were in­ac­cu­rate tonight, but some of them were catch­able.”

So where does the team go from here as it pre­pares for its bowl?

“One man can’t stop our show,” Dal­las said. “We just made some changes and filled in gaps and did what we had to do to win the game.”

AL DIAZ [email protected]­ami­her­ald.com

Mi­ami Hur­ri­canes run­ning back Dee­Jay Dal­las picks up speed as scores on a punt re­turn in the sec­ond quar­ter Satur­day.

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