One of the top rushing defenses in the nation did what it was supposed to last week.
Pitt held a visiting Duke team to 25 net rushing yards in its 56-14 blowout over the Blue Devils (4-7, 1-6 ACC), Duke’s worst loss since 2010. The Blue Devils allowed 14 points each quarter and were shutout in the second half.
Headed into their regular-season finale, Duke knows it must address what happened to their running game as it faces yet another physical team in bowl-eligible Miami Saturday.
Miami has given up an average of 139.9 rushing yards this year, its season-high coming against Georgia Tech with 267.
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“The focus for us should be … responding to playing a poor game,” coach David Cutcliffe said Tuesday. “We talked about it, we dissected it, we looked at that. There are always multiple reasons why, so our focus is on the response. Today, the only thing we’re trying to do is have a great Tuesday.”
Redshirt junior Quay Mann led Duke’s rushers with just 12 yards on three carries. Shaun Wilson was 8-11, and redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Jones – after two impressive rushing games – finished 11-2.
Jones will lead the offense and wrap up his regular-season debut. Jones is averaging a rookie-best 291.86 yards in seven ACC games. He’s set several rookie records, and his job is safe, Cutcliffe said, after the NCAA granted quarterback Thomas Sirk an eligibility extension this week.
Duke hasn’t beat Miami (7-4, 4-3) since 2013, snapping the Hurricanes’ nine-game winning streak in the series. At Hard Rock Stadim Saturday, Cutcliffe will go up against Mark Richt for the first time.
Miami beat Duke, 30-27, in a mind-boggling eight-lateral kickoff return in Durham last season. Cutcliffe said last year’s finish is not on the players’ minds going into Miami.
Miami leads the series all-time 11-2, and Duke hasn’t beaten the Hurricanes in South Florida since 1976. Their team has an ACC-best four non-offensive touchdowns.
The Duke defense has the task of stopping Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya, who is 11th all-time on the ACC’s career passing yards with 9,290.
A couple of weeks ago, Duke was able to pressure UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Cutcliffe wants his players to make Kaaya uncomfortable in their final regular-season game.
“I think we’re capable of doing so,” senior A.J. Wolfe said. “It’s going to be on us to execute the rush plan and just play with a lot of intensity.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan
Duke at Miami
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.