BOONE, N.C. — When Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya threw an interception at the goal line that briefly gave Appalachian State some life in the third quarter, he didn't panic. Nor did his teammates.
"In years past we would close in and fold a little bit and maybe guys would point fingers and go back and forth," Kaaya said.
Instead, Kaaya led the 25th-ranked Hurricanes on back-to-back touchdown drives as Miami soundly defeated Appalachian State 45-10 in front of a record crowd of 34,658 at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Kaaya threw for 368 yards and three scores, and Mark Walton ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
Kaaya, who is expected to be one of the top quarterbacks taken in the 2017 NFL draft, took a shot to his leg on the interception and hobbled off. But he returned for the next series and continued to play.
He said he will be fine for Miami's next game in two weeks at Georgia Tech.
"There is a lot of weight on his shoulders, but he handles it well," Miami coach Mark Richt said.
The Hurricanes went in having scored a school-record 108 points in their first two games. They picked up where they left off, scoring on their first four possessions to build a 24-0 lead.
Walton set the tone, busting through the middle of the line on Miami's first play from scrimmage and racing 80 yards untouched to the end zone.
"I saw him break a tackle and I almost immediately put my hands up like, 'Touchdown,' " Kaaya said. "The red sea just parted and he just hit it."
Kaaya added first-quarter touchdown passes to David Njoku and Stacy Coley.
Coley finished with five catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns and Ahmmon Richards had 142 yards receiving on four catches.
"We have been tackling really well, but we didn't tackle well" Saturday, Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield said. "They are big backs, but we have to bring them down."
The Mountaineers went in brimming with confidence after taking then-No. 9 Tennessee to overtime in the season opener and winning 18 of their past 21. But they simply couldn't compete with Miami's athletic ability.
Some questioned why Miami scheduled a road game against a team notorious for pulling upsets (ask Michigan) and scaring the life out of others (ask Tennessee). Richt said the close loss to Tennessee got his team's attention.
"Everybody knew that it was not a fluke," Richt said. "It was physical play. It got our attention. I did not have to say something magical to get them fired up."