'Canes have momentum after big win

There were several good things for Miami to take out of its 31-3 dismantling of Pittsburgh, but along with the defense and linebacker Sean Spence, one that stood out was the play of junior wide receiver LaRon Byrd.

Byrd went into the game as Miami's No. 2 pass catcher with six receptions but for only 49 yards. Leonard Hankerson led the team with 13 catches for 205 yards, more than four times Byrd's yardage.

Even Travis Benjamin and Aldarius Johnson, with only four catches each, had more yards than Byrd's total, with 62 and 52, respectively. But Byrd was a big contributor against Pitt with six receptions for 69 yards.

"He did a great job," coach Randy Shannon said the next day. "A lot of people have talked about getting other receivers involved and things like that.

"Hankerson scored a touchdown, but LaRon Byrd came up with a lot of big 15-yard, 18-yard out routes and things like that that were big plays in the game to keep a drive going.

"That's the thing that you're going to see with this team. If take one guy out, somebody else will be available."

That could be a big factor over Miami's next two games.

The Hurricanes jump into Atlantic Coast Conference play in their next outing, a trip to Clemson. They are back home for the first time since their Sept. 2 opener when Florida State visits on Oct. 9.

--Miami came into the Pitt game with 25 tackles for loss (a 12.5 per-game average that led the nation in the category) and added nine more for a total of 34 tackles, including 14 sacks. The Hurricanes are No. 1 in the country in tackles for loss (11.33 per game) and No. 2 in sacks (4.67).

--The Hurricanes shut down Pittsburgh's rushing attack by dominating the line of scrimmage. Pitt's Dion Lewis, last year's Big East Offensive Player of the Year, was held to 41 yards on 12 carries. Ray Graham had 100 yards on 14 carries but 63 came in the final quarter, including 42 on one run on Pitt's final drive after the issue was long decided.

--Coach Randy Shannon made some changes in the secondary against Pittsburgh, starting senior Ryan Hill at corner and junior JoJo Nicholas at safety in place of senior DeMarcus Van Dyke and sophomore Ray-Ray Armstrong.

Shannon said he was "not taking anything away from Van Dyke because Van Dyke played and has been playing well also. It's just Ryan has been working his butt off and he's a senior. Both of those guys are what we call starters."

GAME BALL GOES TO: LB Sean Spence -- The junior officially was credited with nine tackles, but a recount may be necessary. He was all over the field and registered 2.5 tackles for losses, including 1.5 sacks. In his last two games against Ohio State and Pittsburgh, he has been in on 20 tackles with 4.5 of them resulting in negative yardage.

"With senior Leonard Hankerson and junior Travis Benjamin off to great starts, LaRon Byrd (pictured above) gives the Hurricanes yet another receiver that opposing defense must account for or pay the price." (Getty Images)
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR LaRon Byrd -- The junior had only six catches in the first two games but doubled his total with six more receptions for 69 yards against Pitt. With senior Leonard Hankerson and junior Travis Benjamin off to great starts, Byrd gives the Hurricanes yet another receiver that opposing defense must account for or pay the price.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We needed this win really bad. We needed that momentum. Coach told us we may have lost before but we're a better team today." -- LB Sean Spence after Miami's bounce-back win over Pittsburgh following the loss at Ohio State.

LOOKING GOOD: Miami's defense dominated Pittsburgh, allowing the Panthers only 232 yards total offense and holding them to three-and-out or better on seven of 13 possessions. LB Sean Spence led the way with nine tackles (2.5 for losses), and CB Ryan Hill was the point man on the coverage of Pitt WR Jon Baldwin, who had only three receptions for 26 yards. Hill and CB DeMarcus Van Dyke each had an interception.

STILL NEEDS WORK: QB Jacory Harris was 21-of-32 passing for 248 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but he also threw two more interceptions, both on deep balls. That gives him six picks in the last two games. The Hurricanes rushed for only a net 100 yards, averaging less than 3 yards a carry. Punt return play was sloppy. Travis Benjamin had one return for a touchdown called back by penalty, and the Hurricanes had a penalty on another return.

ROSTER REPORT:QB Jacory Harris is fine after taking a hit and sitting out one play in the victory at Pittsburgh. Harris was down for a few minutes after being sacked and left the field, but he came back and finished off a scoring drive.

--True freshman OT Seantrell Henderson entered the game on the first series and was on the field throughout the evening when Miami went to unbalanced sets.

--True freshmen Storm Johnson and Tyrone Cornelius made their collegiate debuts on special teams. Johnson, a running back, was in on kickoff coverage and Cornelius, a linebacker, on punt coverage.

--LB Ramon Buchanan and DT Micanor Regis also got starts, replacing Kylan Robinson and Marcus Forston, respectively.

--WR Leonard Hankerson had three catches to extend his streak of games with at least one reception to 16.

--Senior TE Richard Gordon made his first receptions of the season with two catches for 11 yards. They were his first receptions since 2008.

--RB Graig Cooper, who came back from a knee injury only to injure his ankle in the opener, missed his second consecutive game. The senior still has a redshirt season as an option.

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