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No. 17 Miami Seeks Better Play From QB D'Eriq King

Hurricanes Coaches Say King Was 'OK' In Opener, But Not Concerned

Miami senior quarterback D’Eriq King played 'fine,' or 'OK,' in the Canes’ 31-14 season-opening victory against Alabama-Birmingham, depending on which description you prefer.

But everyone agrees King must play better for the 17th-ranked Hurricanes to win Saturday’s game at 18th-ranked Louisville.

“I think for Game One he did fine,” offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said, “but I think he could be better.”

King ended 16 of 24 for 144 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He had 12 carries for 83 yards and one touchdown, a 12-yard run that gave UM a 14-7 lead in the second quarter.

King, the transfer from Houston, said it was a tough opener for reasons that go beyond his first game in a UM uniform and the unpredictability brought about by COVID-19 protocol.

“Honestly, I had a lot on my mind tonight,” he said after the game. “This is my first game in my whole entire life without my dad; he passed in February. So, that was on my mind.

“But I was trying to go out there and just play for him. I couldn’t stop thinking about him the whole night, how proud he would be of me and just giving him a hug after the game, calling him after the game and him encouraging me to keep getting better, keep going every single day.”

UAB threw some defensive wrinkles at King and the UM offense that forced the Hurricanes to adjust on the fly. Miami’s adjustments worked well for the running game. The Canes ran over the Blazers for 337 yards.

But things weren’t as smooth in the passing game where the timing was off between King and his receivers.

Lashlee, who said King showed good pocket presence, said King ran too soon once or twice. 

“I think he’ll tell you there’s some times he could have hung in there,” Lashlee said. “We had some guys open downfield. We took two sacks that really weren’t on the O-line, to be honest with you. I think we could have got the ball out.”

King sparked the offense a few times with plays such as his scoring run, his 9-yard run for a first down in the first quarter, and his 22-yard pass to All-ACC tight end Brevin Jordan in the third quarter that led to UM’s 24-14 lead.

King’s most obvious miscue was badly misfiring on a throw to wide receiver Jeremiah Payton who was open in the end zone. But there were other overthrows.

“I think he’d like to have a couple of vertical passes back,” Lashlee said.

Lashlee credited King for taking care of the ball and not possessions in jeopardy often. But he wasn’t impressed with King’s performance. After all, Lashlee saw King throw for six touchdowns in one fall scrimmage and four touchdowns in another. And in 2018, his last complete season at Houston, King thew for 36 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

“I think when you look at it as whole he was OK throwing the football,” Lashlee said of King in the opener. “I think he’ll be the first to tell you he can be better. We’ve seen him be better.

“It was Game One. We ended up adjusting. They threw some stuff at us so we did some things a little bit differently than we practiced. Sometimes that can throw your timing off.”

Coach Manny Diaz isn’t getting overly concerned about King's performance in one game, especially a game in which UM ran the ball in the fashion it wanted.

“Now like I said, the timing on some of the throws down the field and some of the dropback-type of stuff and progressions and those type things, I know all of that will improve,” Diaz said.

“But I would have been more concerned if we’d have hit some of those plays down the field and not had the consistency on some of your more bread-and-butter stuff.”