Postscripts from UM’s 24-21 win against Wake Forest Saturday at Sun Life Stadium:
### Another disconcerting first three quarters. Another great escape in the fourth. Bottom line: Miami opens 7-0 for the first time since 2003 and extends its winning streak to nine overall (tied with Oregon for fourth in the country as of 4 p.m. today).
Once again, there was plenty of angst along the way: UM -- which didn't take its first lead until 5:36 remained in the game -- became the first FBS team to win three straight games in which it trailed by double figures (Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Wake) since Michigan in 2007, according to ESPN.
### Among Al Golden's comments afterward, from his postgame press conference and WQAM interview: “I was more worried than ever this week because nobody was talking about Wake. Everybody was talking about the NCAA. I was proud of the way we fought. It wasn’t all pretty. We missed some tackles. What can you say about the effort Duke Johnson gave? Just the way he did it. So proud of him. As tough as you can be. He lowered his pads. His stiff arm was awesome all day. He ran with a purpose and anger we haven't seen from him. What tremendous conditioning!"
“I know it wasn’t all perfect for Stephen Morris. It’s not going to be. But he made really good decisions. He looked better mechanically than he has over the last three weeks…. I know it wasn’t all perfect. It can’t be. It’s college football. There are no quality points.
“Our guys found a way to win. Wake dinked and dunked us. We’ve got to tackle better.... Everybody here is exhausted. It’s almost like everybody just wants to go to sleep. It’s been that kind of week” –-- with the NCAA sanctions and Saturday’s stressful game. In his first news conference since the NCAA decision, Golden said: "Obviously, the kids were thrilled. You want to talk about an emotional roller-coaster!"
### Johnson has produced games with more explosive runs, but this might have been the most timely and impactful performance of his young career. His 30 carries shattered his previous career high (22 against Georgia Tech this season). Remember that he never had more than 16 carries in a game last season.
His 168 yards fell 18 short of his career high (186 in the season-opening blowout of FAU). He did his best work when Miami needed him most, churning out 87 yards and scoring touchdowns on the Canes’ final two drives, both of which put Miami ahead.
“I put all the thanks in coach for trusting me with the ball after the number of times I fumbled [earlier in the season],” he said. He had no fumbles Saturday on a day the Canes didn't commit a turnover. It was the seventh time he has topped 100 yards.
### Credit offensive coordinator James Coley for excellent play-calling on Miami’s final two drives, and the offensive line and Clive Walford (among others) for good work creating holes for Johnson, Dallas Crawford and Stacy Coley (who had nine yards on a reverse on the next to last drive).
The first drive, ending in a Duke four-yard TD run, covered 51 yards in eight plays. The second, ending in Duke’s game-winning one-yard TD with 53 seconds left, covered 73 yards in 10 plays, lasting 3:09. Duke delivered 37 yards on the first of those two drives, 50 on the other. He probably should have been given a touchdown on a 9-yard run that was reviewed with 59 seconds left, just before his game-winning score.
“The offensive line wanted to run it, and Duke did a great job,” Stephen Morris said. “Offensively, we did a pretty good job.”
### Morris was erratic early, overthrowing a few passes. But he threw an excellent deep ball to Herb Waters for a 35-yard TD late in the first half, guided UM efficiently on the final two drives, didn’t throw a pick and closed 17 for 28 for 191 yards.
“I really learned from last week,” he said of the four-pick game against UNC. “I’m glad last week happened. It made me get back to the basics. You always want to stay positive in the huddle.”
### Two remarkable catches: Clive Walford's one-handed grab on the TD drive late in the first half, and Stacy Coley bobbling the ball three times before grabbing it and holding on, while on his back, for a 42-yard reception. Coley finished with two catches for 52 yards, Walford 4 for 33.
Other receiving numbers: Waters 4 for 47 and a TD, Allen Hurns 2 for 25 after returning from a hip pointer, Asante Cleveland 2 for 18 (his first two catches of the year) and Malcolm Lewis 2 for 9. Rashawn Scott did not play, according to WQAM.
### With FSU looming Saturday, UM’s defense must do a better job on third downs (Wake converted its first 6 and finished 8 for 16) and defending screens and shallow crosses. Tackling MUST improve.
Freshman cornerback Artie Burns, awarded his most playing time of season, was beaten several times. Tyrone Cornelius was beaten, and then failed to make the tackle, on the 44-yard TD pass to Dominique Gibson that put Wake ahead with 4:02 left.
Wake QB Tanner Price closed 25 for 45 for 302 yards; Michael Campanero caught 10 passes for 88 yards.
There were positives defensively: More exemplary work from Shayon Green, who had a sack and a few other high impact plays.… Antonio Crawford sealed the game with a late pick… Crawford and Tracy Howard knocked away passes on Wake’s next-to-last drive, before Gibson’s big touchdown.
### UM’s first four drives of the second half couldn’t have been more frustrating. The first ended with Matt Goudis missing to the left on a 40-yard field goal. The second stalled with Dallas Crawford (7 carries, 35 yards) failing to convert on a 4th and 1 from the Wake 10.
On the third, Jon Feliciano was beaten, forcing Morris to throw incomplete on a third and five. On the fourth, Waters caught a two-yard pass on a 3rd and 4, and Golden opted to punt from the Wake 38. Wake’s 14-10 halftime lead thus held up until Miami’s fifth drive of the half, which ended with Duke’s four-yard run to put UM briefly ahead.
“It’s deflating if you let it be,” Golden said of the first few second-half drives. “But our guys just move on. It’s a credit to them. They have complete belief they’re going to go down and score.”
### Asked about the media frenzy that awaits for FSU week, Golden said: "With all respect, there has been more national exposure the past 28 months than any of us can handle. If it's about football, we're all in."
### Short stuff: Seantrel Henderson again came off the bench, as did Deon Bush… Cornelius and Green had UM’s only sacks… UM opened in a 4-3, unlike past games…Coley was effective on punt returns (2 for 37 yards)... Wake fell to 1-53 against top 10 teams…UM’s nine wins in a row trail only Ohio State (19), Alabama (11) and Baylor (10). Oregon will try to stretch its streak to 10 games against UCLA tonight. FSU entered Saturday's N.C. State game on an eight-game win streak.
As expected, the Heat cut its roster to the maximum-permitted 15 by releasing Eric Griffin and Justin Hamilton on Saturday.
Of the 15 players on the Heat's roster, only two have non-guaranteed contracts: forward Michael Beasley and guard Roger Mason Jr. Both won roster spots in training camp, and their contracts would become guaranteed for the entire season if they remain on the roster past Jan. 10.
Griffin, a rookie from Campbell who impressed the Heat with his athleticism, said Friday he is considering playing in China, though it's conceivable another NBA team could claim him.
Hamilton, the Heat's second-round pick out of LSU in 2012, said he would consider an offer in the NBDL. The Heat is looking to stock its NBDL affiliate in Souix Falls, S.D.
Teams have until 5 p.m. Monday to reduce their rosters to 15. Teams must keep at least 13 players.
The Heat opens the regular season at home Tuesday against Chicago.
Please see the last post for the weekly media column and an update on the Mike Miller/Heat legal situation. Check back tonight for the Sunday buzz, with Dolphins, Heat and Marlins. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz.