DURHAM, N.C. – Miami’s offense needed a little bit of time to find its edge after the ninth-ranked Hurricanes’ coronavirus-related layoff. The defense had no such problem.
D’Eriq King threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score while Miami posted its first road shutout in 20 years by beating Duke 48-0 on Saturday night, marking a successful return from a two-week pause amid positive COVID-19 tests and quarantines.
“Obviously it was difficult with us being off,” center Corey Gaynor said. “But I think that the team came back hungry. ... When we got back together, obviously, I don’t think we missed a beat, and I think we grew as a team.”
Miami was playing for the first time since beating Virginia Tech on Nov. 14. The Hurricanes’ recent pause included having two games postponed. The trip to face the Blue Devils was a late replacement for a rescheduled visit to Wake Forest, as the Demon Deacons faced their own coronavirus issues.
The Hurricanes (8-1, 7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 10 CFP) were down 15 players for this one, but had no trouble. It started with a defense that looked dominant all night — coach Manny Diaz called its performance “spectacular” — in allowing 177 total yards while forcing five turnovers and handing Duke (2-8, 1-8) its first shutout loss in a dozen years.
Meanwhile, King and the rest of the offense shook off a bumpy first two drives by finishing with 524 total yards. That included King hitting Mike Harley for an 89-yard touchdown on a perfectly thrown deep ball down the middle in the third quarter, marking the Hurricanes’ longest offensive play of the season.
“I know getting back in the building, it was a difficult kind of energy,” King said, adding: “We came out there and I think we cut it loose.”
Chase Brice completed 20 of 25 passes for 94 yards for Duke, which had just 81 yards by halftime and finished with 56 yards rushing.
“Being blanked on the scoreboard definitely hurts your pride as an offensive player,” Duke receiver Jake Bobo said. “It hurts. There’s not much you can say right now that’s going to make you feel a whole lot better. It’s embarrassing.”
Miami: The Hurricanes were trying to keep alive slim hopes of reaching the ACC championship game, but fourth-ranked Clemson’s win at Virginia Tech on Saturday night closed the door on that. The Hurricanes had a bumpy start with the extra time off, losing a fumble on the second snap and putting the ball on the ground again on the next drive before recovering it. But the King-led offense soon settled in, while the defense secured the program’s first road shutout since beating Syracuse 26-0 in November 2000.
“We came out firing off of all cylinders — special teams offense, and we just fed off each other,” linebacker Corey Flagg Jr. said.
Duke: Roughly a week ago, the Blue Devils were expecting to host Florida State. Instead, they ended up with a matchup against the Hurricanes with a chance for a third straight series win. But they merely added to a national-worst 30 turnovers coming into Saturday while struggling defensively again after giving up 56 points in each of their last two games.
“I wish I had a complete answer for you,” Bobo said of the turnovers. “If I did, we probably wouldn’t have turned the ball over five times tonight.”
Miami did nothing to hurt its standing as a top-10 team, either in the AP Top 25 or the CFP rankings.
King, who is being promoted by the program as a Heisman Trophy candidate, completed 16 of 24 passes for 248 yards. He also ran for 46 yards, including his 11-yard scoring keeper that ended in a collision with Duke’s Jeremiah Lewis at the right pylon for a 21-0 first-half lead.
Cam’Ron Harris ran for 96 yards and two scores, including when he blew threw a gaping hole on the left side and went untouched for a 34-yard sprint to the end zone late in the first quarter.
Asked about a report that King previously had coronavirus, Diaz said “that was a few weeks ago,” but he practiced this week. King said he’s “blessed” and healthy when asked about his experience during the pause, though he didn’t specifically say he tested positive.
“It wasn’t too bad,” King said. “It was just lonely. I’m at home watching a lot of TV, a lot of Netflix, and trying to do whatever you can do.”
This was Duke’s first shutout loss since dropping a 27-0 decision at Georgia Tech in October 2008, during coach David Cutcliffe’s first season.
Miami: The Hurricanes host North Carolina next Saturday.
Duke: The Blue Devils visit Florida State next Saturday in a matchup bumped to make room for the Miami game.