Whenever a Power 5 conference team plays an FCS opponent, they are usually expected to dominate the game. The Miami Hurricanes did just that when they destroyed the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 45-0 on Saturday night.
While defeating Bethune-Cookman doesn't guarantee future success in 2015, it was a great start to the season for the Hurricanes. Here are the three takeaways from Miami’s first victory of the season.
1. Hurricanes' running game will be just fine without Duke Johnson
Miami rushed for a total of 195 yards against Bethune-Cookman. While Miami went with a committee of running backs on Saturday night, Mark Walton was the player that stood out the most.
The freshman finished the game with 10 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown. Walton ran violently and with a purpose, including a 17-yard gain. Walton gave credit to the Hurricanes’ offensive line for his success on Saturday.
“The O-line did a great job,” said Walton. “Coach [James] Coley and [the other coaches] did a great job of preparing me during camp. And I just trust my ability and trust my O-line’s ability and run behind them. They did a great job tonight for me.”
Trayone Gray also rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown. Starting running back Joe Yearby chipped in 40 yards off six carries.
With school record-breaking running back Duke Johnson now playing in the NFL, some expected the Hurricanes' ground game to take a step back. At least for one night, Miami showed its running game will be just fine without Johnson.
2. Miami’s defense looks improved
While Bethune-Cookman’s offense isn’t the most high-powered unit in the nation, they give the Hurricanes problems the last time they played in 2012. The Wildcats ran for 233 yards against Miami in their 38-10 loss.
On Saturday, Bethune-Cookman recorded only 79 yards of total offense, including 53 yards rushing. Miami’s defense was flying to the ball and was very opportunistic. Miami picked off Bethune-Cookman twice and sacked the Wildcats five times. Head coach Al Golden was very complimentary of the Hurricanes' defense.
“I think we played hard. It’s hard to get a shutout, no matter what, said Golden. “I think our defense played hard...we put them in a tough spot there and they responded. I thought we were physical, we tackled well.”
Next week’s opponent, the Florida Atlantic Owls should provide Miami with a bigger test on defense. FAU scored 44 points in its loss to Tulsa on Saturday.
3. Receiver depth
Wide receivers Braxton Berrios and Stacy Coley both went down with injuries on Saturday night. Despite their absence, the Hurricanes showed they had depth at receiver.
After being injured most of his career at Miami, Rashawn Scott could not have started his 2015 season any better. The redshirt senior caught six balls for 100 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Standish Dobard also chipped in with two catches for 20 yards and a touchdown.
Berrios and Coley’s injuries aren’t supposed to be lingering and Golden listed them both as “day-to-day.” Once both Berrios and Coley return, that should make the Hurricanes' offense much more potent.
Player of the Night: Corn Elder, CB/KR
Not only was the cornerback was a factor defensively, but Elder also was huge on special teams for Miami. Despite having a 70-yard touchdown called back because Herb Waters called for a fair catch before Elder corralled it, the junior still finished with three returns for 78 yards, including a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown with 1:37 left in the second quarter.
“He’s so laterally quick, said Golden. “He and Braxton [Berrios] were No. 1 and No. 2 coming in, and he did a great job with the football. There’s not much that he can’t do, in terms of what you ask him to do.”
It's early, but the potential is there for Elder to be a contributor in two of the three phases of the game for the Hurricanes all season long.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.