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It was just the opener, but Miami's running game could be a real problem for the ACC

It was just the opener, played among the most unusual circumstances in college football's modern history. We have to keep that in mind. It's entirely possible UAB's defense is not what we think it is.

But if UAB's defense is anything close to what we think it is, well, Miami's offense could be a problem for the ACC this season.

In Game 1 with D'Eriq King under center and Rhett Lashlee directing him where to go, the Hurricanes racked up 492 yards and 25 first downs in a 31-14 win over UAB on Thursday night.

Most importantly, the Hurricanes rushed the ball 52 times for 337 yards -- 6.5 a clip -- and three touchdowns. Cam'Ron Harris led the way with 134 yards and two scores on 17 carries, King added 83 yards and a score on 12 attempts, and two more running backs topped the 50-yard mark.

The 337-yard output represented Miami's biggest rushing night against an FBS opponent since hitting 364 yards against Virginia Tech on Oct. 23, 2014. And they did it against a defense that ranked in the top-20 nationally in both rushing defense and yards per carry a year ago.

"We wanted to make a statement, we wanted to lean on this football team, and we wanted to pound the rock," Manny Diaz said afterward. "Even early on, when some of those runs were one yard, two yards, three yards, we wanted to stay after it, stay relentless and continue to pound the ball."

Diaz attributed the slow start to UAB playing a front they did not utilize in their Sept. 3 opener against Central Arkansas. Even once Miami adjusted, they still ran headlong into 8-man fronts. "All those rushing yards came into a loaded box," he said.

To be clear, Thursday was not anywhere close to a perfect debut for the Miami offense. King was 15-of-23 for just 141 yards through the air. That will have to improve as Miami heads into its 10-game ACC schedule beginning next Saturday at Louisville.

But as long as Miami can run the ball anywhere close to how it did on Thursday, it doesn't have to improve that much for the Hurricanes to show massive improvement from 2019. That's what having a talent like King at quarterback will do for Miami; his athleticism makes it impossible for the defense to be right 100 percent of the time. Especially when Miami's offense gets to play opposite a 'Canes defense that's ranked among the top-12 in yards per play for four seasons running.

“The big thing for us was defending that quarterback. That’s all I’ve heard, I mean, it’s true. He’s electric,” UAB head coach Bill Clark said. “I thought we did a pretty good job on him all night, but what happens when you’ve got zone-read is that that guy can really run. … They had some really good running backs and him. Anytime you have a guy that can really throw the ball and run it, it is tough to defend.”

"I'm proud of the way we were physical and ran the football," Diaz said. "That UAB team went to Tennessee a year ago and held them to about 300 yards of offense, and so to put 337 rushing on them, in an opener with a ton of mistakes, is very encouraging to me."