When Clemson shut out Miami 58-0 at Hard Rock Stadium two years ago, the Hurricanes weren’t even close to being the team Mark Richt transformed them into in just his second year as head coach there.
The Hurricanes (10-1) are quicker. They’re more explosive and more than anything, they’re more mature. Richt’s influence can be seen all over the team, from the way they carry themselves to the way they play the game.
Richt’s influence is especially noticeable on offense where his is pro-style system mixes up the run and the pass just enough to keep defenses guessing.
“They are tough to defend,” said Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables as the top-ranked Tigers get set to play No. 7 Miami Saturday in the ACC Championship Game at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium. “They have tough skill and a quarterback that makes good decisions. They have an O-Line and a run game that gives them the balance that every offense looks for. They can take the top of the defense and stretch you vertically and pound you in the run game.
“They do a very good job and are very efficient in what they do.”
However, as improved as Miami is on offense, it suffered two big losses that might be too hard to overcome in a championship game. Star tight end Christopher Herndon was lost for the season due to an injury at Pitt last week, while Ahmmon Richards went down with a knee injury in practice earlier this week and he will be out for the rest of the year as well.
“They have other good players and they have good coaches,” Venables said.
That might be so, but Herndon was second on the team with 40 catches for 477 yards and 4 touchdowns. He had a long of 51 yards and averaged 11.9 yards per catch.
Richards was the Hurricanes’ deep threat. He averaged 18.3 yards per catch with a long of 49 yards. He was third on the team in receptions (24) and yards (439) and had 3 touchdowns
But despite those loses, Miami still has quarterback Malik Rosier, who has thrown for 2,807 yards and 25 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. He has also rushed for 408 yards and scored five more touchdowns.
Running back Travis Homer leads the team with 861 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. He is averaging 6.3 yards per carry since coming in for an injured Mark Walton who was lost for the season in the fourth game.
“They have a done a great job,” Venables said. “They have an excellent staff that is seasoned and experienced at having success. You get a quarterback that plays well and you get a defense that has been developing and have an identity on both sides of the ball … you have a good football team.”
What they have is a football team that looks nothing like it did two years ago when Clemson embarrassed Miami in front of its home crowd.
“They were young a few years ago and they are grown up now,” Venables said. “Systematically, they are in great schemes and are well coached. There is a lot of discipline in their program.”
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