DURHAM, N.C. — Malik Rosier got off to a fast start to help Miami take an early lead. The 14th-ranked Hurricanes’ defense took care of just about everything else.
Rosier threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score and Miami shut down Duke 31-6 on Friday night.
Rosier completed 15 of 26 passes for 270 yards, including a 49-yard catch-and-run score by Ahmmon Richards early in the fourth quarter to break the game open for the Hurricanes (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference). And Miami’s defense kept Duke out of the end zone, repeatedly getting the better of the Blue Devils on seemingly every key-moment snap.
“Our defense gave up some yards and grass between the 20s,” Miami coach Mark Richt said. “But when it got in the red zone, we found ways to force field goals. … I thought our defense finished extremely well.”
It started well, too. Duke’s first drive marched to within reach of the end zone and had a fourth-and-1 from the Miami 13, but linebacker Michael Pinckney sprinted untouched up the middle on a blitz and took down Daniel Jones for a possession-ending sack.
“We wanted to come here and make this our house, so we had to set a tone,” linebacker Shaquille Quarterman said. “That fourth down was monumental to the whole game.”
Rosier completed his first nine passes and led Miami to touchdowns on its first two drives. He then shook off a rough stretch through the second and third quarters by connecting with Richards for the 24-6 lead with 11:02 left.
Duke’s offense, meanwhile, repeatedly stalled across midfield after halftime. The Blue Devils (4-1, 1-1) finished with 349 yards but converted just 5 of 19 third downs.
“Just went south,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “That’s got to be on me. I’ve got to help our players. I’ve got to find out what the circumstances are. We’re going to take a long hard look at that and we will be better.”
Miami: Two years ago, the Hurricanes escaped Durham with a win on an eight-lateral kickoff return for a final-play touchdown. The Hurricanes needed no such theatrics this time, getting off to a fast start behind Rosier and then leaning on that defense in a matchup of unbeaten Coastal Division teams.
Duke: The Blue Devils simply have to get better in the red zone. They twice settled for field goals of 36 yards or closer after drives stalled and also took Pinckney’s sack on a fourth-and-1 from the Miami 13 to open the game. Duke came into the game ranked in the bottom third nationally in red-zone efficiency, and now has scored nine touchdowns and nine field goals in 23 trips.
“I think it just came down to third downs,” said Jones, who completed just 21 of 41 passes for 166 yards. “We weren’t executing, we weren’t able to stay on the field on some of those.”
Mark Walton — averaging a conference-best 176 yards rushing through two games — managed only 51 yards on 17 carries against the nation’s No. 2-ranked run defense. He also had 79 yards receiving.
But after coming in nursing an ankle injury, Walton was hurt when he was taken down on a carry with 7:39 left in the game. He eventually got up and slowly walked off the field.
“The ankle got hit moreso than it rolled again,” Richt said, adding: “If you roll it again, then it’s less likely that he would be back. So my guess is he’s going to be OK, but he’s going to be living in the training room.”
Pinckney had 10 tackles and also had a second-quarter interception to lead a defensive effort that included five sacks of Jones.
Miami senior receiver Braxton Berrios, from nearby Raleigh, had a 27-yard touchdown grab from Rosier on the Hurricanes’ first drive.
Miami: The Hurricanes visit preseason ACC favorite Florida State on Oct. 7 in a game rescheduled due to Hurricane Irma.
Duke: The Blue Devils travel to Virginia on Oct. 7.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap