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Keys to the game: Marshall

Breaking down the keys to a game in the season-opener is tough to do, especially when you have nothing to go on but practice reports and last year’s news. While my plan is to give 10 keys to the game prior to every game this season for the Canes, I think this first one will be more of a hodge-podge of info and what I’m personally going to be looking for from the Canes.

I’ll start with Marshall.

Breaking down Marshall: This isn’t your older’s brothers Thundering Herd – the one that had Randy Moss catching touchdown passes from Byron Leftwich or Chad Pennington. This Marshall went 5-7 last season and had one of the worst defenses in all of college football. The team ranked 114th out of 119 teams in I-A ball last season against the pass and ranked 101st and 102nd, respectively, in total defense (390.2 ypg) and scoring defense scoring defense (29.25 ppg).

The Herd did have Conference USA’s Defensive Player of The Year in defensive end Albe McClellan, a 6-2, 225-pound end who put up Calais Campbell like numbers (18.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks). But the junior was lost for the season on August 6th when he tore his ACL. Aside from McClennan, The Herd’s secondary also took a hit when returning cornerback starter Zearrick Matthews broke his forearm in a freak collision with a teammate. Matthews will also miss Saturday’s game. The Herd will have only five real returning, experienced starters – one at defensive tackle, two linebackers, a corner and free safety C.J. Spellman.

-> Thanks to recent UM grad Paul Burkhart for some video from UM's on-campus pep rally before the Marshall game.

Offensively, Marshall wasn’t so bad last season. The Herd had one of the country’s top rushing offenses, one that averaged 167 yards on the ground (30th best nationally). But talented RB Ahmad Bradshaw is gone, replaced by junior Chubb Small (5-9, 200) who had all of 42 carries last season for 193 yards. The offensive line, which still features talented center and Remington candidate Doug Lagursky, returns only one other starter – right guard Brian Leggett. Quarterback Bernard Morris is back and so is the team’s second leading receiver Emmanuel Spann (5-11, 195). But Marshall’s best offensive weapon could be former Homestead High standout Darius Passmore, a 6-3, 180-pound junior, who led all California JUCO receivers with 18 touchdowns in 2005. But sat out in 2006.

The special teams are nothing special. Anthony Binswager handles kicks and punts, but he’s not exactly great. He was 5 of 13 on field goal attempts last season. The Herd also had three punts blocked and didn’t return a kick or a punt for a score.

The coach, Mark Snyder, is in his second season. He has a little experience against the Canes. He was the linebackers coach at Ohio State when the Buckeyes beat UM for the national title in 2002. His new defensive coordinator, Steve Dunlap, knows the Canes well. He coached at N.C. State the previous two seasons, Syracues from 2001 to 2004 and West Virginia before that. He’s beaten UM twice when he was at Syracuse.

But all that honestly means little in my eyes if the Canes show up to play Saturday with the same intensity we’ve seen from them this spring and fall. UM will be in the Orange Bowl and has the more talented team. They should win. But covering the 18-point spread will depend a lot on how well some of the things I’ll be looking for end up happening. The five things I’ll be watching for from the Canes on Saturday is below.

1. Kirby Freeman’s comfort level running Patrick Nix’s new offense. Is Kirby going to be wild and trying to create too much like he was at times last year? Or is he going to be smarter and are the Canes going to be able to move the ball down the field? If he’s the latter, Miami’s offense should produce at least 200 yards passing and at least three touchdowns in this game.

2. Freeman and new center John Rochford’s quarterback-center exchanges. Rochford was a fullback this time last year. Freeman was the backup. It would be nice for Canes fans to see no problems in their exchanges Saturday. A fumble or two and you’ve got to be worried going into Norman next week.

3. The Canes’ run defense. Last year, UM set a school record in allowing less than 67 yards a game and allowed only one rusher to eclipse the 100-yard mark. This year, Baraka Atkins and Kareem Brown are gone and the linebacking core is without Jon Beason and Glenn Cook. Tavares Gooden, the team’s new starting middle linebacker, can’t get lost on the field. He needs to be a leader. Oklahoma can run the football. Marshall has a new running back and only two returning lineman. The Canes – namely starter tackle Dwayne Hendricks and backup Antonio Dixon need to show – they can still stop inferior opponents from running the football.

4. The entire special teams unit. Francisco Zampogna won the kicking duties and Matt Bosher is the team’s new punter. They need to show they can deliver. Same with new kick returner Richard Gordon and punt returner Graig Cooper. With the kickoff spot being moved back, field position will be a big part of winning close games this season. Playing a team like Marshall should allow the Canes to flourish. And they need to.

5. Freshman cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke. It doesn’t happen that often at UM where a true freshman starts in his very first game. We know how well Van Dyke runs and we’ve heard how physical he’s been in practice. But how is he going to hold up? Coach Randy Shannon and defensive coordinator Tim Walton made him the only other sure starter next to safety Kenny Phillips. If Van Dyke struggles, there may be reason to worry the Canes corners might be in trouble this season.

My prediction: UM 34, Marshall 13. I predicted a 30-13 victory a couple weeks ago, but I’m predicting a little bit more of a margin of victory for the Canes. I think Javarris James and Graig Cooper end up having big games, combining for close to 200 yards rushing with two touchdowns to lead the offense. Freeman will end up completing a high percentage of short and mid-range passes and Darnell Jenkins will catch Freeman’s only touchdown pass. The defense will create a few turnovers and score a touchdown of its own, something that hasn’t happened lately too much at The U. Zampogna will make two field goals.

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TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE
A "Canes Four Pack" with four tickets for $81 for Saturday's season-opening game against Marshall is still available. Fans can purchase four tickets to see the game for only $81, which is a $97 savings. To order the Canes Four Pack fans can call 305-284-CANE or 1-800-GO-CANES or order online by clicking here. Also, single-game tickets for the Marshall game will be on sale on Saturday morning starting at 8 a.m. at the South Plaza of the Orange Bowl. Tickets cost $20 and $47.

REMEMBER TO WEAR ORANGE
Canes fans have been planning this for weeks, but I've been too lazy to put it in my blog. There is a request for all fans to wear orange to the game Saturday. Fans want to fill the OB in orange in support of the program.

Comments

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I predict pain : )

it's too damn hot to wear orange at noon...I'm wearing white with orange and green on it...but mostly white

and I predict 48-3. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO... C - A - N - E - S CANES!!!!

Don't be a damn wuss, be a part of the team and wear orange.

I am soooooooooooooooooooooooo ready I will be draped in orange just like I expect all my fellow canes do to see everyone at the OB bright and early

i love my green jersey so ill be wearing green

Too hot? LMAO LMAO LMAO

Man, I would give my right arm to be able to be there and support my boys.

Dude, just wear orange. Take one for the team.

canes03: good taste : )

Synchronicity Hurricane style Mr. Shandel, because Yo forcasts a 34-10 Miami, F-L-A victory. Either the defense or the special teams should come up with a TD of their own.

Yo also agrees that both James and Cooper will be offensive workhorses manana. Coach Shannon and offensive coordinator Nix probably won't open the offensive up, which is excellant strategy, by the way. Maybe they figure, let's keep the Sooner defensive coach's guessing about the Hurricanes rejuvinated offense. The Hurricanes don't want to show all their Orange N' Green trump cards against Marshall.

http://blogs.sun-sentinel.com/sports_college_hurricanes/2007/08/um-ready-for-th.html#comment-81171471 shun(del): "The only football teams I truly root for are my Southern Illinois Salukis, the Chicago Bears and my fantasy teams."

does sunsentinel regret omar kelly's "promotion"? HINDSIGHT

http://www.wral.com/sports/blogpost/1762293/ tampa, jax & charlotte submit bids to host the prestigious ACC Championship. follow the money ...

If you wear green, you will look like Marshall fans. They are green and white.

stand out ... wear orange!

http://photos-093.ll.facebook.com/photos-ll-sctm/v118/62/110/10601093/n10601093_33620057_828.jpg pep rally photo by OrangeCane. notice our lush campus ...

I'm a pain in the ass

Manny...I predicted 34-13.

James leading rusher
Leggette leading receiver
Phillips leading tackler
CanesGirlNC scoring first!

Go Canes, Go Canespace!!!

hey impostor (12:16p), if you're gonna impersonate me ... be creative ; )

The Canespace Tailgate party will be held from 10-11:30 AM in the City of Miami Parking lot across from the Metro Justice Center located at 1351 NW 12 Street. This location is across the Miami River just north and east of the Orange Bowl. There is a link to a map on our blog.

Parking is ONLY $7 and we will be under the 836 Overpass for some much needed shade! The lot we will be in is immediately south of the Justice Center. When U enter the paking lot go forward and then to the left. Get there EARLY (10 AM?) it fills up fast! We will be walking to the Stadium over the 12th Avenue bridge which is OPEN, the 17th Street bridge is CLOSED.

Bring your snackage and beverages and we hope to all park together or near each other if possible. I will be there at 10 AM with OcalaCane. We will have a sign made up so you can find us and have ORANGE Canespace T-Shirts on. T-shirts will be for sale for $10.

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/palmbeach/faublog/ pbpost's marcus nelson (8/29): "Color analyst Steve Walsh, who has been with the team since the beginning, and Evan Cohen, who did a little bit of everything on the FAU broadcasts - and all of it well, will not be doing FAU games this season. ... I hear Cohen and Walsh have their Saturday’s booked in the fall and they will also be doing a Thursday night show on 760-AM ..." I hope they join our broadcast team!

http://wqam.com/ QAM's "it's all 'bout THE U saturdays" stretches from 8a-6:30p! INSATIABLE

Great post, Manny. Thanks for the info.

But predicting 200 passing yards against one of the worst pass defenses in the country? That's pathetic. I imagine we're going to keep some plays under wraps until the Oklahoma game, but I also think the staff is going to try to get Kirby into a rhythm. I want to see a good 250 yards passing, but more importantly, I want to see at least 8 yards per attempt and NO turnovers.

per the UM ticket office (1800GOCANES), 55,000+ tickets sold so far! HOT ... HOT ... HOT

There is no reason why this game should not be sold out for the dawn of a new era (RS)and the last year playing at the Orange Bowl.

There is no reason why this game should not be sold out for the dawn of a new era (RS)and the last year playing at the Orange Bowl.

Posted by: Alex D | August 31, 2007 at 02:12 PM

The reason is the Canes have terrible fans who do not care to attend games. Watch the UF game to see how real fans support a team.

Da U = Pathetic losers living in the past.

Buck all the haters.. UM 52 Marshall 6.
The defense will dominate all afternoon and set up easy scoring oppurtunities for the O. Kirby cant be afraid 2 dump the ball off when no1 is open. Expect big days from James and Cooper.

gator bait!: 55,000+ = terrible fans?

gator bait!: 55,000+ = terrible fans?

Posted by: green | August 31, 2007 at 02:26 PM

In a word, yes. Your stadium capacity is 76,000 and on average you play to 55% capacity. WOW, such great support. Come to Gainesville next year when we show you what a real football team plays like and you can see for yourself what fan support means.

Enjoy your next 7-6 season.

http://hurricanesports.cstv.com/sports/dolphin-stadium/spec-rel/082007aap.html get your facts straight! OB capacity = 72,319

gator bait!: U traveled to Canesville in '02. veni, vidi, vici ... U came, U saw, U conquered : )

*Yawn*

Good luck cracking the top 25.

yawn = fu v. western kenyucky

yawn = gainezzzzzville

55,000+ for a no-name foe ... noon start ... labor day weekend = TERRIFIC

Miami then drove to the Ohio State 2 but were held to one yard on their next three plays. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the Ohio State goal line, Miami called a pass play. The Hurricane offensive line was unable to pick up the blitz. Dorsey’s heaved a desperation pass into the end zone toward Andre Johnson. The ball fell helplessly to the turf. The loss was Larry Coker's first in 25 games as Miami's head coach.

And you losers blame the ref..HA!

changing the subject, gator bait! concedes defeat! I win : )

55,000+ for a no-name foe ... noon start ... labor day weekend = TERRIFIC

Posted by: green | August 31, 2007 at 03:21 PM

88,000 for a no-name foe ... 6:00 start ... labor day weekend = TERRIFIC

gayturd bait-i hope you fill your stadium up in that town-let's look at the 2 cities:gainesville=nothing to do but go to the game-it is ONLY a college town.Miami=evrything you could ever want from a city and there are multple Pro teams and then there's South Beach.So,yes i would hope you can fill your stadium in that pathetic lil do my sister in the butt town.And yes, it IS impressive if we fill our stadium with 55k on labor day against a team like Marshall when there is so much other stuff goin on.We're a pvt school you moron-maybe 35,000 students to your-what,50,000.Oh and what is your record against us and how many nc's have you won?argument settled-you're an idiot-good day sir.

Gator fans,

When u can't beat us on the field u change the convo to attendence and fan support.

Ever have a perfect season?

All you have to say to a Gator to shut him up is...1985.

86... You better hope Phillips isn't the leading tackler cause that means the linebackers and D-line aren't producing... Boy!! you better eat that prediction!

The biggest key to the game has already been accomplished - Larry "The Loser" Choker is gone!! What an ass!!!

Hi Manny,

Glad I could share the video. We had a good time setting all that up -- getting to inflate our helmet was an awesome moment, though getting to deflate it was a total bitch, haha. We should have pep rallies on the Thursday before each home game this year, so if anyone is around campus on those days, they should stop by -- there's always free food, free stuff, and Sebastian.

Phillips will be playing near and around the line of scrimmage all day and he is playmaker. That's why I picked him.

Go Canes!!!

I'm in Iraq and I watch as many Miami games as AFN will show, my question is...is there an Internet radio station that will call not only this game but the rest over the season? Pay sites don't work as the Military firewall blocks the page. Thanks to whop ever can answer this...and GO CANES!!!!

jasonsyd2: http://wqam.com/

Thanks Bro on it now ;)

GO CANES!!!

We're a pvt school you moron-maybe 35,000 students to your-what,50,000 Posted by: canesguyinNC | August 31, 2007 at 04:06 PM 10,000 NOT 35,000 students = the community rallies 'round THE U : ) all the more impressive ...

55,000+ for a no-name foe ... noon start ... labor day weekend = TERRIFIC

Posted by: green | August 31, 2007 at 03:21 PM

88,000 for a no-name foe ... 6:00 start ... labor day weekend = TERRIFIC

Posted by: Gator Bait! | August 31, 2007 at 03:34 PM 107,000 for penn state v. fui small potatoes
... noon start ... labor day weekend = fu pales by comparison

jasonsyd2: you're welcome. stay safe ...

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