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The Miami Hurricanes needed to replace Jeff Thomas’ production. Results varied

The Miami Hurricanes entered their regular season finale against No. 24 Pittsburgh on Saturday with a big question to face: How would they replace the production of wide receiver Jeff Thomas, .

The question proved tough to answer as the Hurricanes received mixed results from their skill position players in the 24-3 win at Hard Rock Stadium.

“We moved on,” sophomore DeJay Dallas said. “[Thomas] was a big part of our team, but we moved on.”

Let’s start with the positives.

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Dallas, the speedy running back, broke five tackles on a second-yard punt return before charging down the left sideline and into the end zone for a 65-yard touchdown.

“Pretty spectacular,” Miami coach Mark Richt said.

Redshirt freshman Evidence Njoku caught the first pass of his career, an 11-yard completion early in the second quarter.

The run game proved to be efficient when Miami chose to keep the ball on the ground, with the Hurricanes averaging a season-high 9.2 yards per rush despite running the ball just 32 times, most of which came late in the fourth quarter with a commanding lead.

Travis Homer ripped off runs of 47, 64 and 37 yards en route to a season-best 168-yard, one-touchdown performance on just eight carries. Dallas had a 28-yard scamper and added a rushing touchdown of his own in the fourth quarter to make him the first Miami player since Graig Cooper in 2008 to record a punt return touchdown and rushing touchdown in the same game.

That’s where the highlights mostly end, with the passing game struggling all day.

Redshirt freshman quarterback N’Kosi Perry completed just six of his 24 passes for 52 yards. At least six of those incompletions were drops. Another five were broken up by the Pittsburgh defense.

Richt took a by-committee approach with his receivers on offense. Miami went with a four receiver set to open the game with Darrell Langham, Lawrence Cager, Mike Harley and Brian Hightower. It was Hightower’s second start of the year and Harley’s third.

Harley, despite three drops, led the receiving corps with two catches and 18 yards. The rest of Miami’s receptions: One catch for 11 yards each by Homer and Njoku, one catch for 8 yards by Cager and one catch for 4 yards by Langham.

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University of Miami quarterback N‘Kosi Perry (5) speaks to the media after the Hurricanes defeat Pittsburgh Panthers 24-3 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, November 24, 2018.

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“We couldn’t get it going throwing and catching,” Richt said. “That’s what you have to do: You’ve got to throw and catch.”

Perry added: “I feel like my passes were inaccurate tonight, but some of them were catchable.”

So where does the team go from here as it prepares for its bowl?

“One man can’t stop our show,” Dallas said. “We just made some changes and filled in gaps and did what we had to do to win the game.”

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