Miami Sports Day

‘CANES: Kaaya Totals Five TDs as Miami Turns Away Pittsburgh

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Quarterback Brad Kaaya passed for 356 yards and four touchdowns, two of them to tight end David Njoku, as Miami snapped a four-game losing streak with a 51-28 victory over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Kaaya connected on his first 13 pass attempts, with two going for touchdowns to give the Hurricanes an early 14-7 advantage, then scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak to put the Hurricanes (5-4, 2-3 ACC) up 27-21 after the Panthers (5-4, 2-3) had gone ahead 21-20 midway through the second quarter.

“When you have a pocket, it helps. He did a good job of scrambling. I think he had positive yards rushing probably for the first time in his life, or at least at The U. I was really proud of that,” said Miami coach Mark Richt about Kaaya’s play. “He made good decisions and really didn’t force anything. A couple of times they got us on a couple of blitzes that we just couldn’t get a hat on everybody, and he threw the ball away in a safe spot. He didn’t just hold it and take the shot – that’s part of not getting hit too, is knowing when it’s time to abort the play
and throw it out. I think he did a really good job.”

Kaaya finished 32 of 47 passes with no interceptions. He also had a career-long 12-yard run and was sacked only once despite facing a Pitt defense that came into the game sixth in the nation with 28 on the year. Miami had given up 18 sacks in its previous four games.

Miami snapped a four-game losing skid.

“You never know about your team until you really hit some true adversity. I’m talking football adversity, I’m not talking about life. It feels like life and death sometimes when you pour so much of your time and energy into it,” Richt said. “Certainly, you got some seniors that probably wished for a better record at this point – all of them, I’m sure. They could have said, ‘Forget it’…maybe not say it out loud, but maybe in their spirit or maybe in their actions, just let up a little bit. But they didn’t do that. I just saw a bunch of coaches that kept fighting together, and players that kept fighting together and we had a wonderful performance. I’m very thankful. It was good medicine.”

With his nine receptions, senior wide receiver Stacy Coley passed Hurricane legends Michael Irvin, Santana Moss and Lamar Thomas and currently sits second on the all-time list. Coley currently has 148 career receptions.

“My knee was bothering me in previous games. I had fallen down and my knee started bothering me again, but like I said, my team is the
most important thing so I got off, walked it off, and got right back in there,” Coley said.

Freshman wide receiver Ahmmon Richards finished the first half with five catches for 83 yards. He finished the game with eight receptions for 144 yards. He is currently ranks fourth for the most receiving yards by a freshman, with 632 yards.

“It was just a great day I guess. The coaches were trusting me. And Brad, he trusted me also. They ran a lot of man, so we just took advantage of that. We really control our own destiny at this point. We just need to try to win out. It’s like a renewing feeling just to win again and keep it going,” added Richards.

Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman passed for 287 yards and two touchdowns, one a 75-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Jester Weah, but the Panthers struggled to get their ground game in gear. They rushed for only 130 yards, 102 under their season average. Running back James Conner rushed for only 40 yards, less than half his average of 84 yards, but scored on a 12-yard run.

Miami rushed for 178 yards, with nearly a third of it coming on running back Mark Walton’s 55-yard touchdown dash with just over two minutes left.

Walton led the Hurricanes with 56 yards rushing on nine carries in the first half. He finished the game with 125 yards on 14 carries. This was Walton’s fourth 100-yard game this season. In 22 career games, Walton has scored 20 touchdowns – 19 rushing and one receiving.

The Hurricanes came up with the only turnovers with defensive end Chad Thomas’ fumble recovery deep in Pitt territory on the second play of the second half setting up a touchdown and safety Rayshawn Jenkins’ interception in the end zone preventing a potential Panthers’ score later in the third quarter.

Senior Corn Elder led the Hurricanes with nine total tackles (six solo). Freshman Malek Young posted a career-best six total tackles (three solo). Sophomore Kendrick Norton’s forced his first career fumble and junior Chad Thomas recorded his first fumble recovery of the year.

GAME NOTES:  The Hurricanes opened the game with a six-play, 75-yard drive, which spanned 2:14. Miami’s touchdown on its opening drive was its first to open a game since the Hurricanes’ matchup with Georgia Tech (Oct. 1)….Miami held a 16:40-13:20 advantage in time of possession in the first half…Miami outscored Pittsburgh 17-7 in the first quarter.

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