Postscripts from UM’s riveting 21-16 win against Florida at Sun Life Stadium:
### A defense that seemingly could never get a big stop against quality teams last season kept making one after another --- a remarkable turnaround for a unit that couldn't have been more maligned in the past year.
No play was bigger that Tyriq McCord’s sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery at the Gators’ six yard line with 5:28 left, which led to Duke Johnson’s touchdown to push the margin to 21-9.
But don’t forget the myriad other big plays. Among them: Denzel Perryman’s huge hit, forcing a Matt Jones fumble on UF’s first possession, which Curtis Porter recovered; Anthony Chickillo snuffing out a two-point conversion; Shayon Green’s terrific stop on Jeff Driskel’s quarterback sneak on a fourth and 1 early in the game; Rayshawn Jenkins’ interception of Driskel deep in UM territory; Tyrone Cornelius knocking away a pass on a third and four; Tracy Howard’s interception deep in UM territory with 6:41 left.
And there were many others. UM had three takeaways in the red zone. And its six takeaways overall are its most since forcing seven at Duke in 2010.
“Great defensive effort – phenomenal,” Al Golden said. “We got physically and mentally tougher. Are we a great program? No. It was a great win. We have a long way to go to be a great program.”
### A UM run defense that was dreadful most of last season allowed only 2.8 yards per carry (44 for 122). Jones finished with 47 yards on 18 carries, Mack Brown 10 for 29.
“I couldn’t be happier for the guys,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. “They put in such a long road to get to this point to win a great game against a great team. They had to take some beatings last year and they responded today. The guys made a commitment to get in the weight room, to get bigger.”
### One of the complaints during the Randy Shannon regime was lack of player development. That was fair, to an extent. That’s why it’s so encouraging to see several of these defensive players markedly better than when they arrived: Thurston Armbrister, Tyrone Cornelius, Jimmy Gaines, Olsen Pierre, Luther Robinson, among them. All made an impact Saturday. And you could see why UM coaches trust Gaines, even though so few major schools pursued him coming out of high school
### Beyond the fringe prospects developing, some of UM's blue-chip recruits -– especially Chickillo, Perryman and Howard –-- also were very good Saturday. UM coaches were frustrated with Howard early last season because they didn’t believe he was responsive enough to coaching.
But that changed and Howard beat out Antonio Crawford for a starting job. He read Driskel perfectly on that key late interception today.
### This past offseason’s personnel upgrades also shouldn't be understated. Defensive tackle Justin Renfro and linebacker Alex Figueroa gave UM very good snaps Saturday, and David Gilbert had a near sack.
### The front seven is dramatically better than last year's, even with Eddie Johnson and Gionni Paul being thrown off the team. It's no coincidence that virtually every key returning member of the front seven is bigger and stronger than a year ago.
### D’Onofrio on his linebackers: “That was a group everyone was worried about what’s going to happen. We lost a few guys in the offseason [Johnson, Paul]. Jimmy Gaines told me a few months ago, ‘People are doubting the linebackers. We are going to lead it.’”
### How does Chickillo explain the huge defensive improvement? “Our defense –- we heard it all this offseason and we really started hating people for it," he told WQAM. "We play with a chip on our shoulder all day. We don’t care if people like us. Awesome feeling for the guys. My dad is probably the meanest Gator hater out there.” That would former UM standout Tony Chickillo.
### UM overcame not only a blocked punt, but an absurd 38:12-21:40 disadvantage in time of possession. That has to change.
UF outgained UM, 413-212, and UM mustered only 69 yards after the first quarter. But the two big first-quarter passing plays --- TD receptions by Herb Waters (seven yards) and Phillip Dorsett (52) --- were enough, combined with the exceptional defense and Duke Johnson’s late TD run.
“The defense came through,” said Morris, who closed 12 for 25 for 163 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception and passed Brock Berlin as the 11th-leading passer in UM history. “We settled down. Defensively, they were stopping everything. We have to look at the problems we had and get better. Florida’s defense was unbelievable. They had a lot of great plays on defense.”
### Even though UM’s offense stumbled much of the game, Golden pointed out that offensive coordinator James Coley “showed a lot of poise and patience by not going into panic mode and trusting the defense.”
UM finished just 1 for 11 on third downs, and averaged a meager 1.8 per carry (28 for 49). Johnson closed with 58 yards on 21 carries. UM's yardage total was its lowest since a 2009 game against Virginia Tech.
### UM’s final receiving numbers: Allen Hurns 4 for 61; Dorsett 1 for 52; Clive Walford 2 for 24; Waters 3 for 14; and Johnson 2 for 12.
### As ESPN noted, the winner of the last five regular season UM-UF games finished in the top five of the final AP poll. UM was essentially 26th in the AP top 25 this week but will assuredly be ranked this week.... The attendance (76,869) was the highest for a Canes game at Sun Life Stadium... Driskel finished 22 for 33 for 291 yards with one TD and the two picks.
### Seantrel Henderson replaced Jon Feliciano as the starter at right tackle, with Feliciano replacing Malcolm Bunche as the starter at left guard. Overall, there were too many offensive line breakdowns against a loaded Gators front seven, led by Dominique Easley.
Yahoo! reported Saturday that the Heat is considering signing Michael Beasley, whom the team drafted second overall in 2008. Beasley’s contract was terminated by Phoenix last week after he was arrested for marijuana possession.
Yahoo! said several Heat players support re-signing Beasley, and that Beasley wants to return.
### Please see our last post for lots of news today regarding Dolphins' contract negotiations. And check back later for lots of Dolphins, plus Canes, Heat and Marlins in the Sunday buzz.