Miami Hurricanes quarterback D’Eriq King is out for the year due to a shoulder injury, the team announced this week.
Given that injury to Miami’s star quarterback, it’s no surprise that the North Carolina Tar Heels (3-3, 2-3) are seven-point favorites for Saturday’s ACC game against the visiting Hurricanes (2-3, 0-1).
King was injured in Miami’s third game of the season, against Michigan State.
“It’s now going to be Tyler Van Dyke’s team,” Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz said of Miami’s second-year freshman QB.
Van Dyke’s first career start came last month against an overmatched Central Connecticut State team. Van Dyke completed 10-of-11 passes for 270 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 69-0 win.
Last week, however, Miami lost 30-28 to Virginia as Hurricanes kicker Andy Borregales missed a would-be game-winning 33-yard field goal on the final play. Van Dyke played reasonably well, completing 15-of-29 passes for 203 yards and one TD with no interceptions.
Besides King, Miami is without starting center Corey Gaynor, who had season-ending knee surgery. Key backup running back Don Chaney is also injured.
Then there’s the issue of Miami’s defense, which was humiliated in last year’s 62-26 loss to the visiting Tar Heels.
North Carolina running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams combined to set an NCAA two-player record with 544 rushing yards.
Miami, ranked ninth in the nation at the time, allowed 778 overall yards in that game — the worst performance ever by a Hurricanes defense.
This year, though, the Tar Heels have struggled. They have lost three conference games: 17-10 at Virginia Tech; 45-22 at Georgia Tech; and 35-25 vs. Florida State.
The Tar Heels’ best chance at victory revolves around offensive playmakers such as quarterback Sam Howell, wide receiver Josh Downs and running back Ty Chandler.
Howell, who has started all 31 games since joining the program, is third in the ACC in TD passes (16) and in passing yards per game (282.8). He is also No. 1 among ACC quarterbacks in rushing yards (396), and he is a strong candidate to become an NFL first-round pick in 2022.
“As far as the national attention and NFL stuff, I try not to worry about it,” Howell said. “I try to focus on my team.”
Indeed, Howell, who led the ACC last year with 3,586 yards and ranked fourth nationally with 30 TD passes, has been unable to keep up with that brilliant pace. He had seven interceptions in 12 games last year and has been picked off five times in six games this year. His completion percentage is also off by nearly eight points compared to last year.
That can be explained in part by the Howell weapons who left UNC after last year, looking for pro careers: Carter, Williams and receivers Dazz Newsome and Dynami Brown.
In their place, Chandler, a transfer from Tennessee, leads UNC with 484 rushing yards and five rushing TDs.
Downs, meanwhile, leads the ACC with 741 receiving yards and ranks second with seven receiving TDs. Nationally, Downs ranks fifth with 123.5 receiving yards per game.
— Field Level Media