Considering I didn't make the trip up to Duke (Herald budget constraints) and we're sort of in the in between stage between Duke and Georgia Tech and since there's been so much news around UM in the last few days, I've decided to go with a hodge podge of topics.
First off, though, got to share with you where I was during the Duke game: in Orlando for Halloween Horror Nights (cool time and I recommend folks young enough to appreciate it to check it out, the chainsaw guys are awesome). Anyway, the only reason I bring up my weekend getaway is because my wife and I happened to see a ton of folks wearing UM gear all over the park Saturday night. Not sure if that was because UM fans wondered if wearing Canes gear would add to the fear factor (maybe the guys carrying chainsaws wanted a piece of the Canes) or if they thought Saturday might be the first time in a long time to flex UM pride because UM was supposed to crush Duke.
Either way, we all know now UM inflicted plenty of fear into its fans Saturday by blowing a 20-2 lead before salvaging a 20-15 squeaker against a team that hasn't beaten a Division I-A opponent in nearly 20 games. Coach Larry Coker said he was happy to pull out the victory and proud of the way his team played considering they were short 13 players.
But since UM's last horror flick (THE LOUISVILLE MASSACRE) I know I'm not the only one that feels like this team really hasn't improved. While the Hurricanes have taken steps forward in some areas (Kyle Wright and the passing game has improved), they've taken steps back in others (the running game has gotten worse week-by-week). There's nothing that convinces me that UM can win this week at Georgia Tech except for one little thing: this team has yet to really play at its best.
With 13 returning players including three big ones -- safety Brandon Meriweather, tight end Greg Olsen and guard Derrick Morse, there's a chance this week a near fully-loaded UM team could pull off the upset. After all, this is a road game at Georgia Tech we're talking about, not USC, Notre Dame or Ohio State. The Yellow Jackets are good, but are they really all that better than last year's version which "upset" Miami in the OB 14-10? I'm not convinced, especially not after seeing the way Clemson mauled them. So, while I plan on coming back and providing keys to the game this week on Friday, I will go back to reviewing what happened against Duke hitting on the latest news, Ryan Moore, etc.
But first, a look back at Duke and the goals I set for the Hurricanes before the game.
1. KEEP CHASING DOWN THE QUARTERBACK AND CREATING TURNOVERS: Passed. UM only had two sacks, but forced five turnovers including three picks by the guy I'm calling team MVP thus far, sophomore safety Kenny Phillips. The Hurricanes defense ended up surrendering plenty of yardage in the fourth quarter including 13 points, but the secondary at least had an excuse. They were gassed. There were only six guys playing Saturday and when the offense can't move the football and your out there for 10 of the 15 minutes in the final quarter fatigue becomes a factor. The bottom line as I said a few weeks back, this UM defense is going to continue to have to produce turnovers for this team to have success. Without it, UM has no chance against any of the ACC's best teams.
2. RE-ESTABLISH THE RUN AND DRIVE THE FOOTBALL (Eclipse 120 yards on the ground and get Javarris James back on track with at least 75 of them): FAILED. Let's see, 26 rushes for 30 yards. That's not going to cut it against Southwest High. I said this earlier, but I'm going to repeat it. If UM can't run the football and control the football, they aren't going to beat teams like G-Tech.
3. HAVE A BREAKOUT PASSING GAME (Throw for 275 yards and at least two TDs): PASSED. Kyle Wright looked great -- in the first half. He showed he could throw down the field to his receivers, connecting with Sam Shields twice for touchdowns and with Lance Leggett six times for 131 yards. Heck, Rashaun Jones even played well and looked like he could be a solid third option. But what Wright and the UM offense did in the second half was ugly. 3 points and the fact they couldn't move the ball in the fourth quarter against Duke proved yet again this offense has no identity.
4. PLAY SOUND ON SPECIAL TEAMS: PASSED. Only reason I gave this a passing grade was because Jon Peattie did what he was supposed to do. He made his two field goal attempts. Yes, Daren Daly did have a ball go over his head for a safety. But if Brian Monroe is back there, and he will be this week, that doesn't happen.
OVERALL GRADE: C. Individually, the defense gets a B+; the passing game gets at C+; the running game gets an F and special teams gets a B. Considering 5 key starters were out and the secondary was short-handed, you have to grade this game a bit on a sliding scale. I liked what I saw from the passing game and defense yet again and the play from Peattie was encouraging, but needing a Willie Cooper goal line interception to beat a team Duke simply isn't good enough to warrant serious praise.
Now, onto Ryan Moore. First off, while the decision hasn't been made as of now, I'd be surprised if he didn't play this week. Coker said in Tuesday's press conference he thought a 7-week suspension was more than enough punishment for Moore, UM's top returning receiver this season.
A few weeks ago I asked you if you thought Moore should be allowed to return. You gave me mixed reviews. At this point, with all this team has been through already, I think it doesn't really matter anymore if Moore returns or not. I say let him back on the squad and see what he can do, maybe he can be one of the positive turnarounds for this team.
Now, as for Butch Davis wanting to return to coaching. I know in Susan's article (READ HERE) he tried as hard as possible to stay away from commenting on UM or even the UNC job, but let's get real here. If Butch didn't want to say "Hey Guys I'm Here if You Need Me," he wouldn't have given an interview to a Miami reporter much less said how he's itching to get back into coaching.
With that said, I'd like to get your thoughts on Davis, Moore and the rest of what's happened at The U since the brawl. Fire away.