D’Eriq King is channeling his inner Stephen Curry this week to rebound from the Miami Hurricanes being worked over by Clemson last weekend.
“We have to keep taking our shots,” King said about a passing game that was shut down during a 42-17 loss.
“Like playing basketball, a 3-point shooter, he keeps shooting, he misses, he makes one and everything starts clicking. We got to just keep taking our shots.”
Knowing that final score was not indicative of No. 1 Clemson’s dominance, the Hurricanes are determined not to allow one loss to turn into two. King was encouraged with how his teammates responded in practice this week.
“It was a tough loss, but we came in Sunday, we watched the game, and we forgot about it,” King said. “It was important to me to get a jump start on the week, so we could get this nasty taste out of our mouths.”
Center Corey Gainer and defensive end Jaelan Phillips agreed with their leader.
“We’re not going to let one week define this team,” Gainer said.
“It was definitely a tough loss,” Phillips said. “You have to look at yourself critically.”
Miami rolled through conference bottom feeders Louisville and FSU (combined 0-6 in the ACC) before stepping up in competition. Now, it is playing a team that cracked the Top 25 this year, believed it could compete for spot in the ACC championship game before two demoralizing one-point losses to North Carolina State and Boston College — the latter sealed when Pitt missed a PAT in overtime.
“The last three years, both teams have had a hard time scoring points, highly competitive games,” Miami coach Manny Diaz said. “They’re coming off back-to-back heartbreaking one-point losses, both kind of fluky in nature, in terms of how they went down.”
Diaz and King expect to see a lot of what Clemson did last week, stacking the box and pressuring the quarterback while playing receivers one-on-one. King entered the Clemson game completing 67 percent of his passes for 245.3 yards per game and finished 12 of 28 for 121 yards at Clemson. He threw his first two interceptions of the season.
“That was probably one of my worst games I played in my career,” King said. “I didn’t sleep much. I came to the building Sunday, I was open. I wanted to be coached. I’m as hard on myself as anybody.”
Said Diaz: “They’re going to force you to throw the ball and win some one-on-ones down the field. That is just simply who they are and what they’ve been.”
That did not make Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi feel any better, not after seeing King’s start to his Miami career and his 56-yard scramble last week, Miami’s most explosive play of the game.
“He’s got a little different burst to him,” Narduzzi said. “The guy can run. When you watch him run through Clemson’s defense, you know there’s some good speed on the field.”
The biggest mystery surrounding Pitt is a defense that was expected to be among the country’s elite, but has progressively declined this season, allowing 10, 20, 29 then 30 points after a season-opening shutout.
Narduzzi has been put in a position to downplay the expectations that were put on his defense before the season.
“We’ve got to eliminate the big plays, and that goes down to the focus for 60 minutes,” he said. “We were talking a lot about defense, and you guys wanted to evaluate them after three weeks, and I told you we’d evaluate them after 11 or 12 or 13, and that’s kind of why.”
The Panthers have allowed 694 yards through the air the last two games.
Narduzzi also has some concern when it comes to his quarterback. Senior Kenny Pickett, who has thrown for 1,389 yards and eight touchdowns this season, suffered an ankle injury in last week’s 31-30 loss to Boston College.
Pickett returned to the game after the injury and Narduzzi was vague this week on his availability, saying he’s “banged up” but adding he was a lot better than expected early in the week. If he’s able to play, it would be the fourth straight year Pickett starts against Miami.
“He’s tough, and it’s going to be hard to hold him out, that’s for sure,” Narduzzi said.
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