The Miami Hurricanes lost more than a top-10 showdown with the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday night when running back Duke Johnson was lost for the season with a broken ankle. There’s not a lot of time for Miami to lick its wounds as they are still in control of their own destiny in trying to make it to the ACC title game and earning a likely rematch against FSU. For the Canes, that means turning to Dallas Crawford to carry the running game going forward.
Johnson was by far the best player on the Miami offense this season and ranked No. 2 in the entire ACC in rushing. In eight games, Johnson gained 920 yards and scored six touchdowns, averaging 115 yards per game. He was the workhorse for the Miami offense and had gained 92 yards on 23 carries against FSU before suffering the injury on a fourth-down play late in the third quarter.
Crawford has seen quite a bit of action in a backup role to Johnson this season and the sophomore running back has shown a nice ability to find the endzone. In seven games this season, Crawford has rushed for 294 yards, averaging 4.39 yards per carry, with a team-high nine rushing touchdowns on the season. He’s also been a nice contributor in the passing game out of the backfield, catching eight passes for 50 yards and a touchdown.
The challenge for Crawford will be stepping up into the very large shoes vacated by the absence of Johnson. He’ll have a much larger role in the running game and will have to prove that he can handle the extra load as the featured back for the Canes down the stretch. He’s shown flashes of ability to be a workhorse recording a career-high 137 yards and two touchdowns in the only game where he’s carried ball more than 20 times (33 carries earlier this season against the North Carolina Tar Heels).
With four games left to play in the regular season, Miami cannot allow the injury to Johnson to derail what they have been working for this season. They are still one game up of the pack in the Coastal Division with very winnable games ahead of them. If they handle their business, they’ll get another shot at this FSU team more than likely in the ACC title game. Whether they get there will depend on how well Dallas Crawford steps up at running back the rest of the way.