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Miami relief: Canes produce solid effort; snap 4-game skid

Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire

Well, that’s better, isn’t it.

The Miami Hurricanes made a statement on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium. Reeling from a four-game losing streak, the Canes demolished Pitt, 51-28, reminiscent of the glory days when visiting teams often received the same type of punishment.

He’s back! What a difference a healthy quarterback Brad Kaaya makes, huh? His shoulder looked fully – or at least nearly fully – healed. His passes were much more crisp, and the accuracy with which he delivered passes prior to the injury was evident once again.

Kaaya was an extremely efficient 32-for-47 passing with four touchdowns and no interceptions. It was vintage Kaaya, chucking the ball all over the field with confidence. He ended up with 356 yards, the most since injuring the shoulder four weeks ago in the Florida State game. It was also his second-most passing yards this season. He threw for a season-high 368 against Appalachian State.

He added a rushing touchdown for good measure. The 1-yard run midway through the third quarter put the Canes ahead for good. Yes, just about everything was working on offense.

That’s because a much-maligned offensive line did its job, too, providing Kaaya with just enough time to pick out his targets with regularity. It’s a line with proven talent but a unit which received the most criticism, and rightly so, for the four-game downturn.

That talent came through on Saturday, even if the sun rarely did. The rainy and wet conditions didn’t hamper the Canes from moving the football all afternoon.

Miami’s offensive line also opened running lanes for the ground game. Running back Mark Walton was glad to see that. He returned to true form with a big game. While rushing for 125 yards on 14 carries, Walton punctuated the victory with a 55-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.

It was his first 100-yard game since rushing for 130 yards on Appalachian State on Sept. 17.

The defense did enough to win the game. It wasn’t smothering but it contained the Panthers. Pittsburgh rolled up 417 total yards, but the Canes forced two turnovers to keep the visitors at arm’s length.

It was a positive response to what has transpired over the last month. The Canes hadn’t lost five consecutive games since 1977 and the team was determined not to repeat that number.

Canes fans can exhale, at least for another week. Richt still has control of the team — that much was certain by the performance on the field. After the last four games, it was becoming a concern.

It was a complete effort and one that was desperately needed for a team still trying to build a foundation in Richt’s initial season at Coral Gables. It’s the kind of solid effort in all phases of the game that gives hope for a brighter future.

Now a bowl berth is imminent. The Canes need one more victory in their final three games. Miami has to win one of two road games at Virginia or North Carolina State, or beat Duke in the regular season finale at Hard Rock Stadium.

That certainly sounds doable, especially given the effort displayed on Saturday.

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