Miami 45, N.C. State 31
Miami has played all of three games in the ACC, and already the Hurricanes' new conference is struggling to provide good competition. Saturday night's game against N.C. State at sold-out Carter-Finley Stadium was supposed to be one of Miami's stiffest tests, but the fourth-ranked Hurricanes ran past the Wolfpack from beginning to end.
Miami sophomore Devin Hester returned the game's opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, and quarterback Brock Berlin tied a school record with five touchdown passes in a 45-31 victory in front of a crowd of 55,600 fans. The Hurricanes had 416 yards of total offense against the Wolfpack, which entered the game leading the nation in total defense and pass defense.
Since struggling against Florida State in the opener, Berlin has played better each week. So has Miami (6-0, 3-0), which led by 28 points in the fourth quarter. Berlin completed 15 of 30 passes for 265 yards and joined Ken Dorsey, Bernie Kosar and Steve Walsh as the Miami quarterbacks who have thrown five touchdowns in a game.
"What a great game," Berlin said. "That means a lot, it really does. I'm in some really good company with those guys. I've just felt more comfortable in this offense every game."
Berlin wasn't sacked once by N.C. State's blitzing, attacking defense, which had 22 sacks in its first six games. Instead, he had plenty of time to throw and victimized the Wolfpack's cornerbacks, who tried to cover Miami's speedy receivers one-on-one.
"They came out and played us man," said Hurricanes receiver Roscoe Parrish, who caught two of Berlin's touchdown passes. "You cover any receiver man all game, it's like an insult."
N.C. State's defense allowed only four touchdown passes in its first six games, but Berlin spread his five among four receivers, including two within 14 seconds in the second quarter. After N.C. State went ahead 17-14 on quarterback Jay Davis's 18-yard touchdown pass to Tramain Hall, Berlin threw a 10-yard touchdown to Sinorice Moss to put the Hurricanes back ahead, 21-17, with 10 minutes 18 seconds left in the first half.
N.C. State's Bobby Washington fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and the Hurricanes recovered at the Wolfpack 27. On the next play, Berlin threw Parrish his second touchdown, putting Miami ahead 28-17. Berlin added touchdown passes to Quadtrine Hill and Lance Leggett in the second half to bury the Wolfpack.
"I see [Berlin] getting better, and to see him get better makes you feel good as a coach," Miami Coach Larry Coker said.
Even with star tailback T.A. McLendon running for 145 yards and one touchdown, and Davis throwing for 260 yards and a career-high four touchdowns, the Wolfpack couldn't keep up with the Hurricanes. N.C. State had four turnovers and was only 2 for 14 on third down.
"It's stuff we talk about all the time -- turnovers and the kicking game," Wolfpack Coach Chuck Amato said. "We had four turnovers in the first half. Three of their touchdowns came as a direct result of the kicking game. You just can't make those kinds of mistakes and errors against a good team like that."
At halftime, the sky above Carter-Finley Stadium filled with fireworks from the nearby North Carolina state fair, but they weren't nearly as entertaining as the first 30 minutes of the game. The teams combined for 45 points and more than 500 yards of offense in the first half, which lasted more than two hours. There were two interceptions, four lost fumbles, an onside kick, a fake punt, a blocked punt and a bizarre play in which McLendon ran 25 yards but then fumbled through Miami's end zone for a touchback.
In a game that was supposed to be a defensive struggle, there were scoring opportunities in the first half from beginning to end -- Hester's touchdown on the opening kickoff, and, after Hurricanes defensive tackle Kareem Brown returned a fumble by Davis 20 yards to the Wolfpack 18-yard line, Jon Peattie missed a 36-yard field goal as time expired.
Hester, a sophomore from Riviera Beach, Fla., caught the opening kickoff five yards deep in his end zone and ran into the Wolfpack's end zone for a touchdown 16 seconds later. After Berlin fumbled the snap on Miami's second play on offense, Davis threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Richard Washington to tie the score at 7.