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2 posts from November 26, 2012

November 26, 2012

Tuesday update: Defiant Golden defends his defensive coordinator

UM coach Al Golden, in his season ending news conference Tuesday afternoon, sounded defiant when asked about defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, whose unit ranked 117th of 120 schools in total defense.

"Look at Mark's record in terms of defense, his track record of player development," Golden said. "Mark should be as mad as anybody because imagine coming to UM and having to use (so many young players). You come and have one corner, Brandon McGee! He is mad. He's going to fight. He's not a quitter."

(Translation: D'Onofrio should be mad with the depleted secondary that Randy Shannon's staff left him with.)

Golden suggested there's nothing D'Onofrio can do when players blow plays. He didn't mention Rayshawn Jenkins by name, but said a "young kid went the wrong way and we give up a 99-yard touchdown" against Duke. Golden added: "I wouldn't trade that kid for anyone. He's going to be a champion."

Susan Miller Degnan will have a lot more from Golden's news conference in a story posted later, and I'll have a few tidbits, too, in the buzz column that I'll post later.

# # #

If you didn't see it in the past 12 hours, here's my post from last night with Golden's comments from Monday WQAM radio interviews with Joe Rose and Jorge Sedano:

### Rose asked if he needs to change the style of play on defense: “It’s a function of many things," Golden responded. "One of them is the offense – controlling time of possession and improving our third down conversions and holding the ball a little better on that side. I made the decision to move to a different tempo and try to outscore people because of our youth….

“On defense, not only do we need to supplement what we have with recruits, but we have to generate a pass rush. We only get one sack against [Duke], a team that throws it as often as they throw it. That’s happened too often. If we don’t get pressure on the quarterback, it’s hard to play more man-to-man.”

### He made clear to Rose he’s firmly behind coordinator Mark D’Onofrio: “I challenge anybody to look at coach D’Onofrio’s record and what he’s built over the years and what we’re going to build here….. He’s going to do a great job with this defense. He was put in an unenviable position having to play a lot of young guys…. It’s about individual player development…. There was no symmetry when we got here.”

### Among freshmen who redshirted, he said he’s excited about receiver Jontavious Carter, linebacker JaWand Blue, cornerback Nate Dortch and guard Danny Isidora

### On his approach: “We’re confronting everything on this team both culturally and systematically. [We’ll] eradicate the problems.”

### On recruiting: “We have eight or nine” orally committed. “We’re looking at six or seven kids in the next two months. We’re looking for the right 15 guys.” He said the portent of NCAA sanctions “is affecting” recruiting.

He said he’s exploring adding junior college players “at a number of positions.”

### He again dismissed any speculation that he would consider overtures from other schools: “The same ones who are asking me what I’m doing are the same ones who predicted us to finish 2-6 in the Coastal.”

### “I know 7-5 isn’t where we want to be, but a lot of people said we were only going to win four games.”

### Channing Crowder, during a segment with Sedano, asked Golden what’s one thing on offense and one thing on defense that needs to change.

“On offense, to be a team that can rush the ball for 200 yards a game, irrespective of what we pass for,” he said. “I would like to be more versatile by creating more pressure on the quarterback. Those things have to occur for us to move forward next year.”

### He said after the Duke win, there was “a little bit of frustration [in the locker-room]. We should be getting ready to play Florida State in Charlotte…. We’ve got one of the hottest quarterbacks in America and we can’t go to the championship game. It’s disappointing.”

### He said “our out of conference schedule was ridiculous. We played three teams that were No. 1 (Notre Dame, Kansas State, FSU).”

### He said he had a “positive conversation” Monday with linebacker Eddie Johnson and “I’m hopeful he will come back and improve” after being left home for UM’s final two road games.

### He loves how Herb Waters came on late. “This guy was fifth [at receiver] a month ago and he kept working. Pleasant, coachable, great work ethic. Great young man.”

### Tight end Clive Walford’s emergence “really changed the dynamic of [our offense]. The fact Clive has to be attended to, now, has made a big difference.”

### He said during Duke Johnson’s recruiting visit, “he pointed to the pictures on the walls and knew exactly what he wanted to be. He wanted to be listed among the best at his position.”


Monday afternoon Dolphins update: Fins player arrested; 'monster' looming; lots of notes

We'll get to Dolphins on-field news - and plenty of it - in a minute.

First, Dolphins backup safety Jonathon Amaya was arrested for battery, early Monday morning, after allegedly trying to choke a taxi driver.

The incident happened at 4:30 a.m. outside Club Bamboo at 500 Washington Avenue.

According to the arrest report, Amaya flagged the taxi down and asked the driver, 44-year-old Jonathan Vunge, to be taken to Weston. Vunge said he didn't go that far but agreed to take him after Amaya gave him $100 cash up front.

Vunge said as he drove, Amaya became "aggressive" and Vunge drove back to the spot where he picked Amaya up, gave him his money back and asked him to get out of the cab.

Vunge told police Amaya "leaned forward and wrapped his hands around his neck and started choking him."

Two off-duty Biscayne Park police officers who were working outside the club saw Vunge driving the cab erraticly and heard him scream, "This man is trying to kill  me!"

Amaya was then arrested.

Amaya was being held on $1500 bond. Vunge reportedly wasn't injured.

The Dolphins said only: "We are aware of the situation and are in the process of gathering information."

Amaya's agent did not respond to a request for comment.

Amaya has played in eight games, mostly on special teams, and has six tackles.

# # # 

There was a time, not so long ago, when the New England Patriots seemed vulnerable.

There was also was a time – very, very long ago, when the Dolphins defense actually frustrated Tom Brady.

Unfortunately for Miami, the former hasn’t been the case in five weeks, and the latter hasn’t been the case in five years.

When the steamrolling Patriots visit Sun Life Stadium on Sunday, Miami will be facing an offensive juggernaut that’s averaging 43.8 points during its ongoing five-game winning streak.

They’ll also be facing a quarterback that has tormented the Dolphins more than any other player in recent years.

And they will be a facing a team that has won 19 consecutive games in the second half of the season, dating to 2010. Two of those 19 were against the Dolphins.

“We got a monster coming in here next week,” Dolphins running back Reggie Bush said.

If there’s any consolation for Miami, it’s this: New England will be without elite tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is out for several weeks with a broken forearm.

But they’ll still have plenty of ammunition: Brady, tight end Aaron Hernandez, receiver Wes Welker and emerging running back Stevan Ridley (939 yards rushing, 4.6 per carry). What’s more, they’re plus 24 in turnover margin.

“We’re going to have to play our best game of the year to win the game,” Philbin said. “It’s going to be a great challenge for your guys. It’s going to be fun, a great opportunity to see where we are as a team. We are going to have to score points to beat this team. That puts pressure on your offense.”

The Patriots were 3-3 after early-season losses to Arizona, Baltimore and Seattle. Every team in the AFC East was 3-3 at that point, in fact. Since then, they’ve beaten the Jets twice, with wins over St. Louis, Buffalo and the Colts sandwiched in between.

So how do you defend them?

“I’m open for any suggestions,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle cracked Monday.

But seriously: “They’re not a team that uses a lot of trickery. They do a great job of working matchups. When you do things to try to negate their passing game, they’re very effective running the ball….

“Brady doesn’t make mistakes – he has three interceptions, 24 touchdowns. We didn’t great success against them in Cincinnati [when Coyle was defensive backs coach]. Hopefully we do a better job here.”

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson’s work against the Dolphins Sunday (21 of 27, 16 consecutive completions against the Dolphins) doesn’t bode well with Brady visiting Sunday. Nor does Brady’s mastery of the Dolphins – and many other teams, for that matter – in the past half decade.

Brady’s career against the Dolphins has followed an interesting arc.

For 10 consecutive games earlier in his career – when Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas were in their prime – the Dolphins flummoxed Brady, and he posted a quarterback rating between 52 and 78 in each of those games. The low point was a 21-0 loss in 2006, when Brady threw for just 78 yards, and Joey Harrington, Sammy Morris and Marty Booker spearheaded the offense.

In his nine games against Miami since then, Brady has consistently ranged from very good to extraordinary. Consider:

### In his past seven games against the Dolphins, Brady has completed 68 percent of his passes, averaged 315 yards and thrown 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The Patriots won six of those games, excluding the two Brady missed with an injury that cost him all but one game of the 2008 season.

### Brady’s numbers are absurd in his past four games at Sun Life Stadium: 91 of 126 (72.2 percent), with an average of 344 yards passing per game, 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. His ratings in those games: 121.6, 107.1, 101.5 and a perfect 158.3.

He threw for 517 yards in the Patriots’ season-opening 38-24 win here last season, then passed for 304 in Miami’s 27-24 loss in New England on Christmas Eve.

And on Sunday, he will be facing a Dolphins secondary that is still experimenting at one corner spot. In the wake of Nolan Carroll’s four-penalty game in Buffalo, the Dolphins split time between Carroll and R.J. Stanford on Sunday. Carroll played 31 snaps, Stanford 28.

“We felt [Stanford] earn some opportunities in practice,” Philbin said. “He did some good things out there. There are still some things he has to do better.”

Should the Dolphins dial up blitzes or should they use extra defensive backs in coverage?

“It’s pick your poison,” Coyle said. “We are a pressure team to a high degree. We’re not going to change what we do. We’re going to have to do some of both. He’s not the most mobile quarterback we’ve faced. I don’t think you can cover them all day long.”

# # #


For some perspective on Ryan Tannehill’s performance Sunday, consider he had NEVER engineered a comeback from a fourth-quarter deficit of seven or less since becoming Texas A&M's fulltime quarterback midway through the 2010 season.

He had been 0-5 in that situation at A&M, 0-3 with the Dolphins. He did lead A&M to a late win against Nebraska in 2010, but in that game, the Cornhuskers were tied but never led in the fourth.

Entering Sunday, Tannehill had an 8.0 quarterback rating in the final two minutes of the first and second half (worst in the league) and had the league’s fifth-worst rating (62.5) in the fourth quarter of games with a margin of seven points or less.

Everything changed Sunday.

In the fourth quarter against Seattle, Tannehill threw for 156 yards and posted a 158.3 rating, with only two incomplete passes, one of which was on a spike to stop the clock.

He twice led the Dolphins to touchdowns that tied the score. And excluding the intentionally spiked ball (another spike was negated by an illegal motion penalty), Tannehill completed all three of his passes on the game-winning drive, for 51 yards. He also ran for 15 yards on that drive.

Asked the next step for Tannehill, Philbin mentioned “consistency” multiple times, as well as “continued improvement in decision making, continued improvement in accuracy and ball location. Those would be three things.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said the next step for Tannehill is “not to make that throw back” – the one which was intercepted in the end zone but negated by an Earl Thomas late hit.

“I doubt very much he will” do that again, Sherman said. “He’s the first one to know when he screws up. I’m glad he survived that. First step is to believe in himself.”

Before Sunday, the Dolphins had lost 49 consecutive games when trailing by seven or more in the fourth quarter, according to Elias. Their last win in that scenario: Dec. 28, 2005 against the Jets.

“Everyone offensively should look at this tape and see what we’re capable of doing,” Philbin said.

### The Patriots run their no-huddle offense at a faster pace than the Dolphins do, and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman would like to get to that point eventually, though not necessarily this season.

"I would prefer to go faster than we are,” he said. “Right now, we are where we are. As we grow, maybe move a little forward.” He said Tannehill usually snaps the ball “with 10 seconds or more. It gives him time not to feel rushed.”

### Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, on Charles Clay: “Defenses have to make a decision when he’s in the game whether they have to play base defense or nickel defense. We have to make sure we don’t load him up too much.”…

### Coyle said Sunday’s game was Jared Odrick’s “best overall. He had a big, big impact.”

### On why the running game succeeded after struggling previously: “We had less penetration up front. We did a better job in the second level sustaining blocks. And we had backs breaking a few tackles.”…  On the sprinklers going off: “That wasn’t in the head coaching manual – to prepare the team with the sprinklers going off.”