College Sports

The Miami Hurricanes are out of tight ends for Pittsburgh. Now what?

Mark Richt: ‘The thing I enjoyed the most was the celebration in the locker room’

Coach Mark Richt was elated after the Miami Hurricanes beat the Virginia Tech Hokies to reach bowl eligibility. The Canes snapped a four-game losing streak.
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Coach Mark Richt was elated after the Miami Hurricanes beat the Virginia Tech Hokies to reach bowl eligibility. The Canes snapped a four-game losing streak.

The Miami Hurricanes had to adjust their offense at halftime Saturday to pull out a road win against the Virginia Tech Hokies. First-half injuries for Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory left Miami without any scholarship tight ends available for the second half.

Now those injuries are carrying over to the regular-season finale.

The Hurricanes (6-5, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) expect to play without both freshmen Saturday when they host the Pittsburgh Panthers, Mark Richt announced Sunday on his postgame teleconference.

“Brevin has an ankle injury and he will not participate this week,” Richt said, “and Will hurt his knee and we don’t expect him to play this week, either.”

Even though both injuries are severe enough to span at least a week, Richt said he’s hopeful neither are long-term issues. The coach anticipates both will be able to return in time for a bowl game.

“We feel pretty confident he’ll be able to make it for the bowl game. We’re hopeful for that,” Richt said of Jordan and added, with regards to Mallory, the team is, “very hopeful that he’ll be in the bowl.”

Jordan’s day in Blacksburg, Va., lasted just a single offensive play. Miami ran a screen to Jordan on the first play from scrimmage and the receiver took it upfield for 5 yards before heading to the locker room with an ankle injury. Jordan had X-rays done, WQAM reported during the game, and came out of the locker room wearing a boot.

Mallory made it through nearly an entire half. On the Hurricanes’ final drive of the second quarter at Lane Stadium, Mallory contorted his body trying to haul in an inaccurate pass from N’Kosi Perry. A defender hit the receiver from behind and Mallory’s left knee twisted awkwardly beneath his body. The receiver wore a brace on his knee coming out of the locker room in the second half and was ruled out after briefly trying to get loose on an exercise bike.

With Jordan out for all but one play, Mallory set career highs with three catches and 28 receiving yards.

The injuries forced Miami to go with a spread attack in the second half and the offense came to life. The Hurricanes scored two offensive touchdowns in the third quarter before starting to milk clock for most of the fourth quarter in a 38-14 win. Miami put up 119 yards on 16 plays — an average of 7.4 yards per play — in the third quarter.

The forced change in personnel particularly opened up the running game. Cam’Ron Davis ran for a career-high 77 yards on six carries and fellow running back Travis Homer added 69 yards on 12. The Hurricanes ran for 128 of their 168 yard after halftime.

“We went from two tight ends to zero and we had a lot of two-tight end sets,” Richt said after the win Saturday in Virginia. “Almost everything in our offense has a tight end. We had to go full receiver with one back. It was really just simple zone plays, and the ability here and there to run with the quarterback. It was mostly just zone, zone, zone, and maybe pull the ball and throw a bubble [screen] here and there. And go fast.”

The injuries to Jordan and Mallory leave Nicholas Duchene, a walk-on, as the lone healthy tight end for Miami. The Hurricanes also gave offensive lineman Zalon’tae Hillery an eligible receiver number for the loss to the Duke Blue Devils on Nov. 6 in case Miami needed an emergency tight end. Running back Trayone Gray, who primarily contributes as a fullback, could be an option in certain formations, too.

Most likely, the Hurricanes will go back to using four wide receivers, as they did Saturday.

“We’ll just have to be in different personnel groups, obviously,” Richt said, “We’ve got Duchene, who is the walk-on tight end that we could use in some of the sets that we use tight ends. How much of that we use, I don’t know. There’s other ways to line up. We did it last night — or yesterday afternoon and evening — so we’ll figure out what’s going to be the best plan.”

Scott Patchan was another of the many injuries Miami had to deal with Saturday. The defensive lineman went down with a hip pointer in the fourth quarter and Richt expects him to play against Pittsburgh. Defensive lineman Gerald Willis, linebacker Mike Smith and defensive back Trajan Bandy all went down with assorted injuries, but returned before the end of the game.

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