Miami football challenge from aggressive Southern Mississippi defense

Sep 3, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 3, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami football team will be challenged on offense by a Southern Mississippi defense that is eighth nationally averaging 11 tackles per loss per game entering week two. The Golden Eagles began the season with 11 tackles for loss and two sacks in its season-opening 29-27 four-overtime loss to Liberty on Saturday.

Linebackers Averie Habas and Santrell Latham paced nine Golden Eagles who registered a TFL against Liberty. Habas also had seven tackles and a pass breakup versus Liberty while Latham added six tackles and a sack. Safety Jay Stanley had five tackles, 1.5 TFLs and one pass breakup.

Habas and Latham are tied for 29th nationally in TFLs per game. The Miami offensive line faces a far greater challenge versus Southern Mississippi after allowing only two  TFLs and no sacks versus FCS Bethune-Cookman. Despite the 11 TFLs, Southern Mississippi recorded only two sacks versus 35 Liberty pass attempts.

Miami will need to establish a running game against Southern Miss. Liberty ran for 244 yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and scored one touchdown in the road win. Liberty had a balanced offense in the win over Southern Mississippi. The Flames added 203 rushing yards to finish with 447 yards in total offense.

Miami had 305 yards rushing and 281 passing versus Bethune-Cookman. The Hurricanes should be able to take advantage of the Golden Eagles’ aggressive play. Entering week two, Southern Miss ranks 108th nationally after allowing Liberty 20 plays of 10 or more yards. Liberty had five plays of 20 or more yards.

The Miami football team is 16th after producing 24 plays of 10 or more yards. Those numbers are to be expected versus the below-average FCS defense of Bethune-Cookman. Wide receiver Xavier Restrepo led Miami with five receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown while topping the Hurricanes with four plays of 10 plus yards.

Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke will likely continue to look for Restrepo in the intermediate passing game with Southern Mississippi expected to frequently utilize the blitz. No other Miami receiver had more than three receptions versus Bethune-Cookman. New offensive coordinator Josh Gattis prefers a short passing game.

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Miami used a more vertical passing game under former OC Rhett Lashlee. The Hurricanes had 14 pass plays of 10 yards or more versus Bethune-Cookman, but only two of 20 and 30 plus yards. Expect WR Key’Shawn Smith to receive more targets versus Southern Mississippi after not having a reception versus B-C.