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22 posts from September 2007

September 29, 2007

Game day blog: UM 24, Duke 14 (F)

Back at the OB for another day of live blogging. I'll keep you informed throughout the game. You  give me your opinions as you tune in wherever you are.

UPDATE: I just got back upstairs. I will be filing notes and quotes in a little while. Stay tuned.

- This wasn't what Randy Shannon had in mind this week. Canes are in a dogfight here with a 17-14 lead late in the fourth quarter. Kyle Wright has thrown two interceptions. Francesco Zampogna has missed a field goal. Guess the pollsters knew what they were doing. This team isn't ready yet to be ranked.

UM's 10th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 31)
- Darryl Sharpton makes a fair catch on the kickoff at the UM 31.
- On first down, Kirby Freeman rolls out and hits Darnell Jenkins for a 15-yard gain near the Duke sideline at the UM 46.
- On first down, Kirby scrambles ahead for a gain of 14 to the Duke 40.
- On first down, Javarris James runs ahead for a 4-yard gain. On second down, James takes the carry to the left and drags a few tacklers forward for  5-yard gain. It's going to to be third and 1. James gets stuffed. UM is going to have to go for it on fourth down. Big, big play. Miami gets stopped. James stuffed. Duke takes over at its 32 with 7 minutes left.

I'm going downstairs to the field for post game interviews. I'll be back to recap later.

DUKE's 8th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the Duke 34, 2:12 left)
- On first down, running back Justin Boyle gets nothing. Duke gets flagged for holding. OB crowd is starting to get fired up here. Canes need some help. After a first down screen pass gains 2 yards when Colin McCarthy misses a tackle in the backfield, Ra'Quan Boyett picks up 17 to bring up another 3rd and 1 at the Duke 43.
- On third and one, Boyle falls forward close to the marker. After a measurement, its a first down. END OF THE QUARTER. WE GOT A BALLGAME!
- Good news for Canes, Duke has not scored in the fourth quarter yet.
- Here's better news, on the second play of the fourth quarter, Lewis gets smacked in the backfield by Calais Cambell and Tavares Gooden scooped it up at the 40 and returns it 18 yards to the Duke 22.
- Kirby Freeman is in at quarterback. I've been told Kyle Wright went into the lockerroom to have stitches put in his mouth. Kyle Wright was 18 of 22 for 197 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 INTs.

UM's 9th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the Duke 20, 14:07)
- On first down, Graig Cooper runs right for a 2-yard gain but it turns into a 7-yard gain after Duke is flagged for a facemask. On the next play, Cooper runs right and picks up a first down at the 10.
- On first down, Cooper runs forward for four yards down to the 7. UM calls timeout with 12:53 left.
- On second down, Kirby Freeman scrambles. Miami is flagged for holding again. Third time. UM was only flagged twice all season. Center John Rochford gets the blame. UM moves back to the 17. Its second down and 16. On the next play, Freeman scrambles back trying to get off a screen and nearly gets sacked before getting off an ugly pass.
- Where's Kyle Wright? Still in the locker room. On third down and long, Freeman throws to Darnell Jenkins that is incomplete. Duke gets flagged for pass interference giving UM has a first and goal 2.
- On first down, Cooper gets a pitch to the right and barrells his way into the end zone with 12:06 to play. Miami has some breathing room. Drive: 5 plays, 21 yards, 2:01. UM 17, Duke 7.

DUKE's 9th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the Duke 35, 11:56 left)
- Jamari Marshall has a nice kick return out to the Duke 35.
- Can Miami's defense hold or force another turnover?
- On first down, Ra'Quan Boyett carries up the middle for 8 yards. On second down, Boyett picks up one. Another third down and 1 coming up.
- On third down, fullback Clifford Harris bulls his way ahead for a first down and 10-yard gain to the UM 46.
- On first down, Thaddeus Lewis finds his tight end over the middle for a 15-yard gain. The play is under review. Romeo Davis was on the coverage. It stands.
- The attendance was just announced at 30,614. That's less than what Miami Northwestern and Southlake Carroll drew (31,000-plus) at their game two weeks ago. Yikes!
- So much for the Duke shutout streak in the fourth quarter. On the next play, Erron Riley leaps over Carlos Armour for a 31-yard touchdown down the Duke sideline. Drive: 5 plays, 65 yards, 2:10. UM 17, Duke 14.

UM's 6th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 17, 14:54 left)
- On first down, Wright throws a flare pass to Lance Leggertt that goes forward for 2 yards. On second down, the Canes run the same play, this time to Kayne Farquharson who moves ahead to the 30 for a gain of 11 yards.
- On first down, Javarris James runs right. Flag on the play. Chris Rutledge is flagged for holding. So much for my story on Friday.
- On first and 20 at the 20, Wright completes an 8-yard pass to Leonard Hankerson. On second and 12, Kayne Farquharson again -- first down Canes at the 40. Right at the marker. And now we have a review. It counts.
- After a Javarris James run for 3, Wright finds James for an 8-yard gain up to the Duke 49.
- On first down, Darnell Jenkins gets a flare pass but drops it. On second down, Javarris James gets stuffed on a run. On third down, Wright is intercepted when cornerback Leon Wright steps in front of his pass to Leonard Hankerson with 10:45 left. Canes offense is sloppy.

DUKE's 6th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the Duke 45)
- On first down, Thaddeus Lewis scrambles for 7 yards and fumbles, but again Duke pounces on it. On the next play, Duke picks up a first down on a run.
- On first down at the UM 41, Lewis gets sacked by Antonio Dixon and Teraz McCray for a 1-yard loss. On second down, Lewis runs a shuffle pass to Ronnie Drummer that moves the ball down to the 30 bringing up third and 1. On the next play, fullback Clifford Harris picks up the first down.
- On second and 10 at the 27, Lewis scrambles forward and fumbles as he's falling. Glenn Sharpe pounces on it. How about a play for Mr. Sharpe! 8:18 left in the quarter.
- Miami offense anyone?

UM's 7th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 15, 8:18 left)
- On first down, Farquharson takes a quick flare pass for a 9-yard gain. On second down, Graig COOOOOOOOPER runs right around the corner for a 15-yard gain to the 35.
- On first down, Cooper shuffles his feet forward for a 4-yard gain. Edwin Pope says -- this guy can motor!
- How about this Edwin? On second down, the Canes go up top and Darnell Jenkins races down the Duke sideline for a 43-yard catch down to the Duke 11-yard line. But on the next play, that No. 7 for Duke picks off Wright again in the end zone. Wright was looking for Lance Leggett in the back of the end zone. Mistake No. 2 for Mr. Wright. Not good.

DUKE'S 7th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the Duke 20, 6:44 left)
- On first down, Duke runs the end around to Erron Riley who escapes a Calais Campbell tackle on the play for a gain of six. Where has Calais been all day?
- On second down, Duke runs the option again and picks up four yards, brging up another 3rd and 1. On the next play, Duke runs the option again, Re'Quan Boyette runs for 15 yards. Carlos Armour looked asleep on that play.
- On first down at the Duke 44, Lewis keeps the ball on the option and gets hit for no gain. On second down, Lewis pass is incomplete, but Calais Campbell gets flagged for roughing the passer, giving Duke a first down at the UM 41. Shannon immediately takes Campbell out.
- On first down at the UM 41, Ronnie Drummer takes a handoff and gets nothing. On second down, Lewis tries to go deep down the sideline to Erron Riley, but overthrows him. A good pass would have been a TD. On third down and 10, Ronnie Drummer takes a screen pass to the right and follows his blockers down field for a 40-yard touchdown with 4:35 left. UM 10, Duke 7. WE GOT A BALLGAME!

UM's 8th DRIVE (1st and 10 at UM 32, 4:24 left)
- Shawnbrey McNeal gives UM good field position with a return out to the 32.
- On first down, Wright throws a quick flare pass to Kayne Farquharson, who slips down for no gain. Where is Miami's offense from last Thursday?
- On second down, UM runs the sweep right and Javarris James loses a yard. On third and 11 at the 31, Wright scrambles forward four yards. Miami will punt. Bosher gets off a weak 32-yarder. Canes look in trouble here.

DUKE's 8th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the Duke 34, 2:12 left)
- On first down, running back Justin Boyle gets nothing. Duke gets flagged for holding. OB crowd is starting to get fired up here. Canes need some help. After a first down screen pass gains 2 yards when Colin McCarthy misses a tackle in the backfield, Ra'Quan Boyett picks up 17 to bring up another 3rd and 1 at the Duke 43.
- On third and one, Boyle falls forward close to the marker. After a measurement, its a first down. END OF THE QUARTER. WE GOT A BALLGAME!

UM's 3rd DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 20, 13:30 left).
- Before the Canes get started, Sebastian The Ibis gives us our favorite, another rendition of the Soulja boy dance. Small crowd today, though. Upper deck is empty. Kind of sad considering its such a beautfiul day.
- On first down, Graig Cooper gets his first carry, picking up two up the middle. On the next play, Wright fakes a handoff and runs up field for a first down at the UM 31. On second down, the Canes give up their second sack hwen Patrick Bailey breaks through and hits Wright for a 7-yard loss. To top it off, Chris Rutledge gets flagged for holding. On second down, Kyle Wright decides to run and piks up about 10 yards on a scramble bringing up 3rd and 7 at the UM 34.
- On third down, Wright escapes another potential sack and completes a short pass to Darnell Jenkins who picks up 11 yards and a first down. Nice, nice play to keep the drive going.
- On first down, Cooper picks up a short gain. Right tackle Chris Rutledge goes down with what looks like a neck injury. He's getting massaged by UM's trainers. The drive continues. On second down, Wright scrambles ahead for a first down. Wait a minute. Holding on UM. Jason Fox picks up just the lines' third holding penalty of the season. Miami is eventually forced to punt. Duke takes over at its own 22.

DUKE's 4th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the Duke 22, 8:42 left)
- On first down, Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis completes a short pass to Jomar Wright for an 8-yard gain. Carlos Armour is on the coverage and makes an immediate hit. On second down, Duke fullback Clifford Harris finds himself wide open down the middle of the field on a short pass. He rumbles and stumbles for a 31-yard gain before safeties Willie Cooper and Kenny Phillips combine on the tackle. Duke has the ball at the UM 39.
- After a first down incompletion and a run for no gain, Lewis completes a four-yard pass to Sheldon Bell at the 35. He gets hit immediately by Tavares Gooden. Duke goes for it on fourth down and Lewis' pass intended for Brandon King is incomplete. Kenny Phillips was there to provide the coverage. UM takes over at its own 35 with 6:10 to go in the half.
- Canes have blown a few coverages here in the early going. The 31-yard gain looked like some confusion between the linebackers and safeties.

UM's 4th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 35, 6:10 left).
- On first down, James runs a sweep to the fightr for a 4-yard gain. Miami's running game hasn't been able to get going really. James had a nice 16-yard run earlier, but the Canes have been bottled up.
- On second down, James takes a pitch left and runs for five yards on a power sweep bringing up 3rd and 1. On the next play, James does not get the first down. He runs up the middle and gets stuffed. Duke's defense has come to play today. They are doing a nice job shutting the running game down. Miami punts and Matt Bosher gets off a nice 36-yarder that had a ton of hangtime. Duke calls a fair catch at its 20 with 4:17 to play in the half.

DUKE's 5th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the Duke 20)
- Duke has back to back runs to bring up a third and 2 at the 28. On the next play, again fullback Clifford Harris finds himself open out of the backfield. He picks up 19 yards to the Duke 47. Miami's linebackers are having communication issues again.
- On first down, Duke's Justin Boyle fumbles a pitch back at the 40-yard line for a 7-yard loss. On second down, Thaddeus Lewis completes a 10-yard pass over the middle where safety Randy Phillips makes the stop. On third down and 7, Lewis scrambles for his life. Vegas Franklin again providing the pressure. Lewis gets sacked by Teraz McCray. Duke punts with 1:22 left in the half. The punt gets stopped down at the 1-yard line. Big play by the Blue Devils.

UM's 5th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 1)
- On first down, Wright sneaks for 2-yards forward. On second down, Graig Cooper runs full speed ahead for a 30-yard gain and the biggest play of the game yet for the Canes. UM has the ball on its own 33 with :29 left.
- On the next play, Cooper takes a screen pass for a 25-yard gain down to the Duke 43. COOOOOOP!
- On second down, Farquharson hauls in a quick out pass and steps out of bounds at the 33. It's 3rd and 1 at the Duke 33. On the next play, James sweeps left for 8 yards and steps out of bounds with 7 seconds left in the half. Miami is going to attempt a 42-yard field goal attempt. It sails wide right. No good. END OF HALF.

DUKE'S 1st DRIVE (1st and 10 at Duke 19)
- On first down, Antonio Dixon -- my boy -- hits Thaddeus Lewis in the backfield for a sack back at the 7. After a delay of game penalty, Lewis completes two short passes before Duke is forced to punt. Miami will take over inside Duke territory.

UM'S 1ST DRIVE (1st and 10 at Duke 46)
- On first down, Miami lines up with four receivers in the shot gun and runs a screen to Javarris James who picks up 14 yards to the Duke 32.
- On the next play, James runs up the gut for a 6-yard gain. On second and four, James gets stuffed after a one-yard gain. On third down, Lance Leggett makes a tough catch over the middle for a gain of five. Miami has a first and 10 at the Duke 19.
- On the next play, James runs left down to the Duke 7. After a run that lost four yards, Wright completed a 6-yard pass to Dajleon Farr on second down. On the next play, Kayne Farquarson goes up and hauls in a pass in the back of the end zone to put Miami up 7-0. Heck of catch. 8 plays, 46 yards, 3:45. UM 7, DUKE 0.
- On the drive, Kyle Wright passed Jim Kelly on the school's career completion list for ninth all-time. Kelly had 376 career completions. He also moved into 10th all-time in passing yards, passing George Mira (4,633 yards).

DUKE'S 2nd DRIVE (1st and 10 at Duke 23)
- On first down, Vegas Franklin sacks Lewis back at the 10-yard line. Franklin leads the team with 4.5 sacks. Duke ends up punting. Lewis has been hit three times in all during this drive. Willie Cooper made a nice tackle on third down and long to stop Duke 2 yards short of the first down. Miami takes over at its own 39.
- I smell blowout. Looks like Randy Shannon really kept the guys focused this week.

UM'S 2nd DRIVE (1st and 10 at UM 39, 5:43 left in the quarter)
- On first down, Kyle Wright rolls right and hits Lance Leggett on a beautfiul out pattern at the Duke 45. Big pickup.
- On first down at the 45, Javarris James takes a handoff and cuts back up field, bowling over a defender on his way to a 16-yard gain. Another UM first down.
- On the next play, Wright holds onto the ball for too long and gets sacked for a 4-yard loss. On second down, Wright overthrows a wide open Graig Cooper. On third and 14 at the Duke 33, Wright connects on a short pass to Chris Zellner. Miami is going to have to kick a field goal.
- The kick is good, a 47-yarder and career long by Francesco Zampogna. He's 9 of 12 now for the year. Not a bad 6th-year walk-on this guy. Drive: 6 plays, 32 yards, 1:56. UM 10, Duke 0.

DUKE'S 3rd DRIVE (1st and 10 at Duke 19)
- Duke gets a nice return on the kicoff, out to their own 40. But it gets nullified by a penalty. The new starters didn't look good there for Miami.
- On first down, Re'Quan Boyette picks up 3 yards. On second down, Boyett carries again, but is hit in the backfield by middle linebacker Tavares Gooden, the team leader in tackles. On second down, Thaddeus Lewis completes a short pass to a wide open to Jomar Wright for a first down to the Duke 32. Looks like a blown coverage.
- On first down, UM cornerback Bruce Johnson gets flagged for defensive holding. The Blue Devils move up 10 yards. On first down at the 42, Boyett carries, but gets hit immediately by Tavares Gooden. On second down, Wright hauls in a pass at the 39, but fumbles. Unfortunately for UM, DeMarcus Van Dyke can't recover the fumble as the ball goes through his hands. Duke recovers at the UM 39.
- On first down at the UM 39, Boyett runs up the middle and once again is stuffed. The Canes defense isn't going to give up much. The Canes don't give up much (2.9 avg). Blue Devils don't run for much (2.0). One second and 9, Lewis get yanked down by Eric Moncur and Calais Campbell. No gain. On third down, there's that man again -- Vegas Franklin sacks Lewis for a loss of three. It's 4th and 13 at the UM 42. Duke is punting.

I didn't give my keys to the game this week. But I'll give you a quick version before they get started.
1. Show consistency. Miami hasn't done that in a while. Last week's win over Texas A&M was nice. But it would be good to see the Canes blow Duke away and not show up and put up a 23-9 effort like it did against FIU.
2. Limit turnovers. Enough with the fumblitis.
3. Throw the ball some more. Kyle Wright had his best game against A&M. How about topping it this week against a weak pass defense?
4. Don't let Thaddeus Lewis beat you. He got out of Miami-Dade. It would be nice to see Miami's recouped secondary have a nice day against him. He's really Duke's only offensive weapon.
5. Finish. Canes have been outscored 46-10 in the fourth quarter this season. Miami has to finish strong this week.

My prediction: UM 38, Duke 7. Kyle Wright will throw for over 300 yards in this one and the defense will have another big day creating turnovers. Canes will finish in the fourth quarter.

September 27, 2007

The Hot Stove: The practice squad, Willie Williams and recruiting

Yes, that was Susan Miller Degnan who hijacked my blog yesterday and filled it with news on the scout team. Not me. Got to thank SMD for making her guest appearance. Hopefully, she'll make some more as the season progresses to provide The Eye on The U Crew with the news you can use.

As for that news, I'm out at practice now and Ryan Hill and Sam Shields are once again on the practice squad. I know one internet site, InsideTheU, posted a story yesterday that said both would be suspended for the game. But my sources tell me that's rubbish.

"Randy's just trying to light a fire under their [butts]," one source told me.

You never know what can happen. Randy Shannon could always do whatever he wants between now and Saturday. InsideTheU's Chris Stock says he stands by his sources. If you want to go back on history, Shields practiced all week with his own jersey number when he was suspended for the opener. But again, my source tells me its not true. We'll find out Saturday.

- Anyway, our boy Willie Williams, aka Killer, has been dismissed from the team at Louisville less than 24 hours after being arrested on marijuana possession. For Williams, one of the best football players I've ever seen at the high school level, its another disappointing turn of events in his career. Rumor has it Williams, who signed with UM out of high school, could be interested in returning home and playing for FIU. But the 6-3, 210-pound linebacker from Carol City High would have to sit out a year again. Not sure what this will ultimately do to his playing career. But it may be over now. Sad.

- And last but not least, I interviewed UM's newest commitment last night, Coconut Creek Monarch defensive end Andrew Smith. He's an under the radar kid who has a lot of upside according to scout I spoke with. The 6-3, 235-pound senior has seven sacks so far this season in four games as an end/outside linebacker. He's very polite, well spoken and said he had been hoping for the Canes to offer. He got his wish and said he committed to UM defensive line coach Clint Hurtt upon receiving his offer on Wednesday. If you want to hear the interview, check out our UM audio section. I'll be uploading it sometime today.

I'll have some more for you after practice. Let me know if you have any pressing questions.

September 26, 2007

SMD Part III on Shields, Hill (last of night) :)

Susan here again...

OK, here's basically what I'm writing in my practice report for tomorrow, only this blog (by Susan, not THE MAN-ny) will have most of what Shannon said:

The case of wide receivers Sam Shields and Ryan Hill has been solved -- kind of.

After several messages popped up Tuesday on University of Miami football-related  Internet boards saying Shields and Hill were suspended, UM coach Randy Shannon said it  wasn't true that day after practice.

On Wednesday, Shannon said Shields and Hill were playing with the scout team, as they were spotted with different jerseys. Shannon said the two also played on the scout team Tuesday -- and on the regular team, he said -- but he reiterated they were not suspended.

"Everybody's got to play both things, because we have numbers problems," said Shannon, who listed TB Shawnbrey McNeal, LB Kylan Robinson, LB Allen Bailey and, LB Eric Houston as others who have played with the scout team.

When asked if Shields and Hill were demoted, Shannon answered, "They played scout team."

He said "they might start'' against Duke and "they might not. It depends how they practice.

"You've got to get everybody ready. Here's another one. When we were doing special teams, did you all realize DajLeon Farr, [Chris] Zellner, Lance Leggett, Tavares Gooden and Kylan Robinson were on special teams scout team? That's my point. Everybody has to play it. I don't let nobody get off with anything. So, I just really don't  have a true scout team. Everybody's got to give a look."

More Shannon: "You're going to see next week some other guys will be on scout team, and then you'll come back and say, 'Why are these guys on scout team?' Everybody plays scout team.

"That settles things. Now. When game time comes, game time comes. Guys have got to practice better. Guys have got to do a good job. OK. Lance Leggett didn't start against FIU. He didn't practice well. Did you all make a big deal out of that? So what's the big deal? When guys play well they're going to play well. You all know how I am. If guys ain't doing the right thing, what's going to happen?''

Shannon was then asked, So they're not practicing well -- Hill and Shields? Shannon: "Everybody has to practice well, OK. If they're not practicing well, you'll know. If they are, you'll know. I'm not holding any punches.''



Hi everyone,

   This is Susan Miller Degnan, reporting after the end of today's practice (Wednesday).

   Wide receivers Sam Shields and Ryan Hill were, indeed, on scout team today (as well as yesterday), coach Randy Shannon just confirmed to us. But he again said they are not suspended.

    Shannon insisted that everybody plays scout team because they need more bodies, and he declined to specify if they had not been practicing up to his standards. He listed some other guys who also have played scout team, including running back Shawnbrey McNeal and linebackers Kylan Robinson and Eric Houston. But those guys are definitely not first-teamers. Personally, I am inclined to think that either Shields and Hill haven't been practicing well, or are in his doghouse for some reason.

    Shannon also refused to say whether Shields would start Saturday, and when asked if Shields and Hill would play against Duke, he basically said it depends on how they practice.

   Later. Thanks for letting me get on King Manny's blog! I might pop on this blog from time to time for some comments. Later, I can transcribe for you what Randy told us about Shields and Hill.

   Bye. Susan.





   Internet message boards related to the University of Miami football team on Tuesday had
posts about UM receivers Sam Shields and Ryan Hill possibly being suspended.

   Coach Randy Shannon said that was not true after practice Tuesday. Shannon also said
they weren't suspended for the Duke game.

   On Wednesday, however, Shields and Hill were not with the receivers for the beginning
of 3 p.m. practice (when reporters are allowed to watch) -- at least not in their usual jerseys.

   It appeared that Shields and Hill might have been practicing wearing other jersey
numbers (though it was impossible to tell for sure from a distance in the pouring rain), which could mean they are with the scout team. They also could have both come to practice late.

   Shields, a sophomore, started the Oklahoma and Florida International games, and played
last Saturday against Texas A&M. He has seven catches for 124 yards.

   Sophomore Hill has four catches for 42 yards and a touchdown in four games.

   Stay tuned for an update after practice.

September 25, 2007

Shannon: Starters will play special teams

Randy Shannon met with the media this morning for his weekly press conference. Here are some of the highlights:

- Starters will play special teams. Shannon said Miami's kickoff coverage has been horrible and he will now sprinkle starters into the lineup to improve it.
- Shannon said Graig Cooper called him at 1:30 a.m. following Thursday's game to appologize for his two fumbles and to promise he wouldn't fumble again. Shannon said he often gets a lot of late phone calls from players. Shannon then joked: "As long as police men aren't calling me at that time, it's fine."
- As for the turnovers, he said nobody is safe from losing their starting jobs when they turn the ball over and cited quarterback Kyle Wright's fumbles as a problem.
- Matt Bosher is still the punter. Shannon said David Strimple's late game punt against A&M was simply a matter of field position. He said Strimple will be used more for pinning teams deep while Bosher will continue to handle "hang time" issues.
- In evaluating Duke, Shannon said the Blue Devils love to blitz and will show it plenty on Saturday in the Orange Bowl. He also pointed to quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and his knack for hitting Eron Riley on the big play.
- As far as using the direct snap, Shannon said UM doesn't plan to overuse it. The Canes were obviously pretty successful against A&M with it. He said don't expect to see a lot of it.
- Linebacker Romeo Davis, once thought to be lost for the season, has been practicing with the scout team for the last two weeks and should see some real practice time this week. "He's just healed fast," Shannon said.
- Shannon said safety Lovon Ponder will work with trainers today and hopefully return to practice on Wednesday.
- Shannon said linebacker Glenn Cook has had his soft cast removed from his foot, but that he is at least two weeks away from returning to running and participating in drills.

Check back later today for the audio from that press conference as well as interviews with left tackle Jason Fox, linebacker Colin McCarthy and defensive backs Randy Phillips and Chavez Grant.

September Report Card

With the Canes set to begin ACC play this week, I figured it was a good time to reflect on the first month of the season and what happened during the non-conference schedule.  I've found some interesting tidbits by looking through the stats alone -- numbers that will open some eyes (check out the o-line). My goal is to give some overachievers some credit and underachievers some heat. But beyond grading, rewarding and reminiscing, I want to have a little fun and look back at what we were thinking/predicting before it happened. And when it calls for it, what was being said by Miami's coaches and what we -- the Eye on The U Crew -- were thinking about certain decisions.

*But before that... PROGRAMMING REMINDER: Tonight from 8 to 9 p.m. at Canespace.com I will be fielding questions live. Feel free to tune it or leave me some questions here. On with the program...

Let's start with the hardware before we breakdown each position.
Offensive MVP: The line -- Jason Fox, Andrew Bain, John Rochford, Derrick Morse, Reggie Youngblood, Chris Rutledge and Orlando Franklin. See below.
Defensive MVP: Linebacker Tavares Gooden. A lot was expected from Gooden when Tavares_gooden_mugGlen Cook went down. He's held his own, leading the team in tackles with 34.
Rookie of The Month: Linebacker Colin McCarthy. Say what you want about Graig Cooper, McCarthy has been the most valuable of the new starters in my eyes. Second on the team with 30 tackles and a handful of big plays already.|
Overachievers: Safety Willie Cooper and defensive lineman Vegas Franklin. Cooper has filled in nicely at safety for the injured Lovon Ponder and has 16 tackles to go with two big fumbles forced against A&M. Franklin is tearing it up on the defensive line (see below).
Disappointments: Defensive back Randy Phillips. Was supposed to be counted on to be the team's No. 1 corner. Got exposed against Oklahoma before being moved to safety.

Before the start of the season everybody wanted to know who would end up being named Miami's starting quarterback. We all had an opinion. I thought Kyle Wright was going to get it. Then, Randy Shannon and Patrick Nix picked Kirby Freeman the Tuesday before the Marshall game saying he gave the team the best chance to win.
Kyle_wright_mug- What The U Crew thought: They agreed. Kirby Freeman got 49 percent and the majority of the vote in the Eye on The U pre-decision poll question on August 27. Kyle Wright got 39 percent of the vote.
- What happened: Freeman started two games before being pulled in the second quarter of Miami's 51-13 loss at Oklahoma. Wright gets the job in Week 3 and cements his role a week later by beating 20th-ranked Texas A&M at home with a stellar 21 of 26 performance for 275 yards and two TDs last Thursday.
- Eye On The U Grade: D+. Before Kyle Wright broke loose and Miami recorded its biggest win of the season last Thursday against Texas A&M, this unit alone was one of the worst statiscally in the country. Miami's passing game moved from 115th to 103rd after its 275 yard outbut. Not a giant improvement. But it brought enough optimism in me to raise the grade from failing to a solid below average grade.
- Bonus: HEY SOUP! How's this for a reminder? You responded to my Should Kyle Start vs. OU blog earlier this month this way: "Manny... I know what you are up to and it may just work! My answer is NO to Kyle! I have said it a thousand times... let Kirby play the whole season and then judge not just the opening game." Just messing with ya SOUP!

Running backs: We all remember Randy Shannon's goof before fall practice started when he called Javarris James and Graig Cooper 'Butt Buddies.' We heard all about how they were going to become a great tandem in the backfield and share the load peacefully.
Graig_cooper_action- What's happened: So far, so good. The Canes rushing offense, which ranked 84th nationally and averaged 116 yards a game last year, has picked it up. Miami's rushing offense currently ranks 52nd in the nation and is averaging 160.8 yards a game. James has 265 yards and three touchdowns on 61 attempts and is on pace to finish the season with 794 yards. Cooper has 240 yards and two touchdowns on 48 attempts and is on pace to finish the season with 720 yards. Pretty equal. More successful.
- Eye On The U Grade: B. Cooper and James have proven to be a solid combo, but they were held in check against Oklahoma and were held to 127 yards against A&M. They need to have big days when UM needs them most.

The Big Boys Up Front: We all heard how Miami's offensive line was going to be improved. John Rochford was named the surprise starter at center. Coach Jeff Stoutland talked about how he was going to rotate players along his offensive line and how it would make the unit better as a whole.
- What's happened: The Canes offensive line rotation has worked well. Chris Rutledge, Reggie John_rochford_mug Youngblood and Jason Fox have all split time at tackle while Orlando Franklin has spelled Andrew Bain at left guard. Miami's running game has not only improved, but the o-line has only given up five sacks, a 1.25 average that is good for 26th nationally. Rochford, meanwhile, has had just one bad exchange -- with Kirby Freeman in the season-opener.
- The eye-popping stat: The line itself has drawn just six penalties for 40 yards of Miami's 27 penalties for 218 yards this season. Don't believe me, I went play-by-play! Here it is: Orlando Franklin was flagged for holding against Marshall, nullifying a big Javarris James run. Chris Rutledge was flagged for holding against Oklahoma in the first quarter. Against FIU, Derrick Morse was hit for a false start in the first quarter before Rutledge was flagged for an illegal shift and false start in the second quarter, and Youngblood jumped offsides in the third quarter. And finally, UM's line went error free against Texas A&M. Freshman receiver Leonard Hankerson has been flagged twice for illegal blocking on his own.
- Eye On The U Grade: A. Without a doubt, the best unit on the offense. I'm not sure Miami is even close to being 3-1 if this unit wasn't as good as it has been.

Receivers: Miami's receivers have gotten a lot of heat for their poor production in recent history. Heading into the season, most figured the receiver woes weren't over. Most pointed to talented sophomore Sam Shields and Darnell Jenkins, who had a great camp, to be the leaders of the receiving game.
- What's happened: According to the stats, Miami's receivers have had just four drops this season. Still, most observers would consider what the receivers have accomplished thus far to be Darnell_jenkins_catch underachievement. Before he caught 6 passes for 117 yards in the win over Texas A&M last Thursday, Shields had just one catch for seven yards. Jenkins, meanwhile, has turned into Miami's go-to man for big plays. He leads the team with 12 receptions for 178 yards, including 11 that have gone for first downs -- including six on third down. Lance Leggett has six catches for 151 yards and a score, but a big chunk came from that 80-yard TD catch against FIU. Ryan Hill has four catches for 42 yards and score. Meanwhile, the rest of Miami's receivers -- Leonard Hankerson and Kayne Farquharson -- have combined for three catches for 29 yars. Not great support.
- Eye On The U Grade: D+. Same scenario as the quarterbacks. Simply not enough production and without the A&M effort it would have been an F.

Tight Ends: Were expected to have a drop off with the departure of Greg Olsen.
- What's happened: On paper it looks far worse than most expected. Starter Dajleon Farr has one catch for one yard and one touchdown. Third-stringer Chris Zellner has three catches for 17 yards and a touchdown, Dedrick Epps two catches for 20 yards and Richard Gordon one catch for 8 yards. That's a total of 7 catches for 46 yards and two scores. After four games last season, Olsen had 8 catches for 90 yards and no scores. Hey, maybe they're not doing so bad after all.
- Eye On The U Grade: C. This group wasn't expected to do a lot. The good news is they haven't been penalized yet. That gets them the C.

Defensive line: This unit was expected to do big things before the start of the season. Calais Campbell was targeted as the team's best player. I thought Eric Moncur would lead the team in sacks. Line coach Clint Hurtt said Teraz McCray, Josh Holmes and Antonio Dixon would provide a solid trio up front at tackle.
Vegas_franklin_mug- What's happened: Miami's d-line has produced plenty of pressure on the quarterback including 9 sacks -- two more than UM's d-line had last year after four games. Some have been knocking Campbell for having only 1.5 sacks after four games. But he had only one sack at this time last year. Despite injuries to their three best defensive tackles, Miami's defense has still been one of the stingiest in the country against the run and rank 32nd overall (106 ypg). Moncur is second on the team in sacks with 2.5.
- The surprise: The stellar play of Vegas Franklin, who leads the team with 3 sacks and shares the lead with Campbell at 3.5 tackles for loss. Franklin is a player who was expected to fill in at both tackle and at end. He's done great at both.
- Eye On The U Grade: A-. There's no doubt this unit has played as good as advertised. Watch for Campbell, who has three QB hurries to lead the team, to pick up some more sacks soon.

Linebackers: This unit was seen as an area of inexperience even before Glen Cook's injury forced Randy Shannon with a tough decision. Shannon moved Tavares Gooden to middle linebacker and put sophomore Colin McCarthy alongside Spencer Adkins.
- What's happened: Gooden has turned out to be a pleasant surprise at middle linebacker. He leads the Colin_mccarthy_mugteam with a combined 34 tackles and a had big interception that got Miami's offense rolling in the season opener. McCarthy, meanwhile, has held up just fine. He's got 30 tackles, two for loss, a sack, an interception and two pass breakups. Adkins has done OK himself. He has 15 tackles, two for loss and had a big sack and hit against Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee. But his fame thus far has come from getting beat by Trenard Turner for FIU's only touchdown two weeks ago. The backups, meanwhile, have been virtually non-existant. Darryl Sharpton has five tackles. Allen Bailey has four. Eric Houston three.
- Eye on The U Grade: B. Linebacker was a cause for concern, but so far, they've played better than average. Each starter has one interception. And the shutdown of A&M's vaunted running game was impressive.

Secondary: With Kenny Phillips back at safety and Randy Phillips back at corner, most expected whoever started opposite them to keep Miami among the nation's best pass defensesWillie_cooper_mug.
- What's happened: Despite getting lit up by Oklahoma for 6 TDs and 295 yards, Miami's pass defense has kept itself among the upper echelon of units in the country. The Canes rank 30th Pass D with 181.75 yards a game. In fact, if not for the OU fiasco, UM's secondary has only given up two other passing TDs -- a fluke 65-yarder against FIU and the end of the game grab by Martellus Bennett against Texas A&M. The secondary, meanwhile, has four interceptions -- three more than Miami had after four games last season. Kenny Phillips, third on the team with 28 tackles, is the only player in the secondary flagged for pass interference. And as unit, UM's DBs have drawn just two penalties for 15 yards.
- Eye On The U Grade: B. Despite the ugly showing against OU, UM's secondary has more than survived in the early going. Willie Cooper has been a solid fill-in for Ponder. Freshman DeMarcus Van Dyke did a decent job when he was in there. And Carlos Armour, Bruce Johnson and Chavez Grant have made good plays when they've been on the field.

Special teams: New kickers, new return men were the call of the day before the start of the season. Tight end Richard Gordon was tabbed as one of the surprise kick returners with the explosive Graig Cooper handling punts. Francesco Zampogna, a sixth-year walk-on, was given the kicking duties. Daren Daly kickoffs and sophomore Matt Bosher the punting duties.
- What's happened: Only Zampogna and Cooper have worked out. Zampogna has been solid, converting on 8 of 11 field goal attempts including a season-long 45-yarder. Cooper has looked on the verge of breaking one and has an average of 6.8 a return. But the Canes have drawn quite a few penalties on special teams, nullifying some of his bigger returns. Gordon, meanwhile, is no longer returning kicks. The trouble is more on the punting end where Bosher's 35.6 average is way below the 40.2 average opponents have against Miami.
Eye on The U Grade: C. Still now big plays from the special teams as a whole. Zampogna has been good, but not great. And the punting needs work.

September 21, 2007

Reviewing The Rout

It's 3:45 a.m. and I'm still working for you Canes fans. Just finished uploading all of the postgame audio from a pumped up UM lockerroom following the Canes' big 34-17 blowout of 20th-ranked Texas A&M.

Randy_shannon_runsoutI predicted a Canes victory. But not like this. UM was up 31-0 late before it became garbage time in the fourth quarter. A&M scored a cheap touchdown with five seconds left to make it look closer than it was. Coach Randy Shannon is sure to point out the mistakes -- he's a perfectionist -- when he meets with the media in a little over seven hours inside the Edgerrin James room. But there's a lot for Canes fans to be excited about today. Let's review.

- (I'm going to try and say this with confidence) The Hurricanes have an offense again. For the first time since... since... since... I can't remember... Miami's offense looked good in a big game. UM totaled 402 yards for the second straight game and scored more than 30 points for only the third time in the last 20 games.

Kylewright_throws- Kyle Wright was 21 of 26 for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He fumbled once, yes. But other than that, he looked nearly flawless and a lot like the No. 1 quarterback in the country Miami thought it was getting when he signed in 2003. Wright has officially staked his claim to the quarterback job -- until he looks like the old Kyle again. 

- As for Kirby Freeman, he can play backup the rest of this year, but he might want to start getting involved in the punting competition. Considering the struggles Miami's kickers have had, that might not be a bad idea. It is something Freeman did well in high school, averaging 43.3 yards a punt. When Jacory Harris, and Taylor Cook come in next year and Robert Marve gets healthy, odds are Freeman won't be taken seriously for the starting job when Miami can invest its time and energy into the other three. Besides, Matt Bosher may soon be out of a job. He had one punt for 26 yards. Daryl Strimple had one for 23 yards.

Vegasfranklin_hurtt_celebrate- Miami's defensive front seven is as solid as any in the country when healthy. Antonio Dixon started and showed his value in that rotation at defensive tackle, providing a solid plug alongside Teraz McCray and Dwayne Hendricks. Miami's defense may not be able to stop one of the country's top five teams, but it proved can keep its team in a game against a Top 25 team. A&M had the fifth-best rushing offense in the country coming in. Miami's D held it to 98 yards, the first time it had less than 100 in 22 games. That's saying something. Shoutout to Clint Hurtt by the way for the chest bump with Vegas Franklin. Big Hurtt's got about a 10-inch vertical!

- Here's an official shoutout to UM offensive coordinator Patrick Nix, whose wife is expected to deliver the families' fourth child at any moment. Mrs. Nix was at the game Thursday while her husband was finally looking like the coordinator Randy Shannon raved about. Nix called three direct snaps to running backs. Two ended in touchdowns. He also implemented more playaction passes -- well more because it was more successful than ever.

Dedrick_epps- Was that a tight end? Yes it was. Nix was knocked for not using his tight ends enough this season. Before Thursday, UM's tight ends had one catch all season. Dedrick Epps had 2 for 20 yards and Chris Zellner had 2 for 14 yards and a touchdown. You got to start small, I guess.

Sam_shields_big_catch - Welcome back Sam Shields. Virtually invisible through the first three games, Shields showed the type of danger he posses by not only catching a deep ball, but turning that wide receiver screen up field for a big gain. Shields said the right things in the lockerroom afterward, not complaining about having only one catch coming in.
- Darnell Jenkins is becoming the go-to man on third down. The fifth-year senior has proven to be the only UM receiver not afraid to go over the Darnelljenkins_divingcatchmiddle and take a lick. He's also turning out to be Kyle Wright's favorite target. I asked Kyle about it in the lockerroom (CHECK OUT WHAT HE SAID IN OUR AUDIO SECTION). Lance Leggett made another nice catch down field. But its apparent, he's scared of getting hit and Jenkins and Shields are the go to players when the team needs a play.

- Graig Cooper looked super, including his 30-yard run and 12-yard touchdown pass in which he bowled over an A&M defender on his way to paydirt. But Coop needs to hold onto the ball. He fumbled twice Thursday. I would be surprised to see him walking around campus with a football tucked under his arm. (By the way, does the fact Shawnbrey McNeal took seven carries mean Derron Thomas has officially been passed up on the depth chart?)

- How about Willie Cooper? The Canes were supposed to get hampered when it lost Lovon Ponder two weeks ago. But Cooper, known more for getting shot in the butt and one late-game INT against Duke, finished second on the team in tackles with five. He also had a tackle for loss and two forced fumbles, one which led to Graig Cooper's 12-yard touchdown catch which basically put the game away. Randy Phillips didn't have a bad game either at safety. He finished with 5 tackles too.

- After the game, I bumped into four players from the No. 1-ranked high school team in the country, Northwestern's Jacory Harris, Sean Spence, Marcus Forston and Tommy Streeter. Streeter, the only non-UM commitment, got an earful from the crowd near the West End Zone, who were hooting and hollering for him to commit to the Canes. His buddies left him alone to soak it all in, including questions from TV cameras. Streeter, a 6-5, 200-pound receiver who had three touchdowns in Northwestern's big win against Southlake Carroll, told me he's not ready to commit yet. Can't blame him. As Forston, Spence and Harris told me (check out their audio) it doesn't hurt to be the last man standing when you make your commitment. You get lots of attention. Streeter got it first hand as fans were chanting Tommy! Tommy! in unison as the Canes were walking off the field. He also got a love pat from receivers coach Marquis Mosely who posed the question: "You ready yet?" Streeter isn't. But it might be only a matter of time. 

Those are my initial thoughts, notes. What did I miss? What did you see? How do Kylewright_celebratesyou feel after arguably the biggest win in the OB since... since... since... (you fill in the blank). What else does Miami have to do to improve? Did the Canes build enough excitement in you to make you a believer again? Should the Canes be ranked after this win? Can they run the table and win the ACC? How much heavier is the UM bandwagon going to be this morning? Are you willing to accept those bandwagoners?

I'm out. Holler back with your thoughts.

PS - Came back to add this YouTube Highlight Reel from the game in case you missed it.

September 20, 2007

Game day blog: UM 34, Texas A&M 17 (F)

zLAST UPDATE: Ok guys. I'm going to blog about this tomorrow, but please check out our audio pages if you'd like to hear some postgame interviews. Obviously, a very happy UM lockerroom. I spoke with Northwestern High's Jacory Harris, Sean Spence, Marcus Forston and Tommy Streeter who were on the sidelines for the game. Streeter, the only non-UM commitment, received cheers from the West End Zone and plenty of encouragement from fans who kept telling him to commit to the Canes. Streeter said he's not ready to commit yet, but I've got plenty of good stuff to share once I get a chance.

I'm heading out of the OB. Check out the audio and pound your chest Canes fans. It's been awhile!

Here are some quotes...

Tommy Streeter, Northwestern receiver: ‘‘I'm not ready. A lot of people are asking me to throw up the U. I didn't even know I was known like that. A lot people are talking to me. I feel love, kind of like a family the way guys talk about. But my decision still isn't made up yet."

Sean Spence, Northwestern linebacker: "Hopefully this will make other recruits feel good. He's coming. He's just playing hard to get. I'm going to keep bringing him to the game, keep showing him how the fans like him."

Marcus Forston, Northwestern defensive tackle on Streeter's commitment and UM's win: ‘‘I can see the University of Miami getting back on top and once we get here, its going to be about getting a national championship. Tommy knows where he's going deep down. But I guess he wants to win the last man trophy of the year. The winner gets a big article by Manny Navarro or Andre Fernandez."

Colin McCarthy, UM linebacker: ‘‘We feel great. They were a ranked team, playing here in the OB with the support we had. Our coaches, the way they prepared us for the game, we couldn't have asked for more. I feel like we made a statement. But we didn't go nowhere. We're here, playing, preparing every game. We just had some communication problems that hurt us. But we played some sound football today and when we do that you can see we're a good team."

Calais Campbell, UM defensive end: "It felt real good to see every clicking. We got all the talent in the world, we got the best coaches. It's just about executing. If we just execute, a lot of games will be like this one."

I'm was here at the OB for the Canes and 20th-ranked Aggies. As usual, I blogged this game live up until the 7-minute mark in the fourth quarter when reporters head down to the field for postgame interviews. I'll make sure to come back with some locker room quotes following the game. For now, enjoy the game and feel free to come on here if you're at home watching to tell me what your thinking as the game rolls along.

- Aggies will have a 1st and 10 at the UM 41 to start the drive. The Aggies are on the verge of scoring. Mike Goodson comes through with a big catch and gain down the sideline. A&M has the ball 1st and goal at the Canes 4.
- The Canes eventually force a field goal when Spencer Adkins pummels Stephen McGee on third down. UM 31, A&M 3.

- I had to start writing my story after this and had to leave soon after.

UM'S 7TH DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 17, 14:53 left)
- On first down, Kyle Wright completes a 40-yard pass to a wide open Lance Leggett. The Empire Strikes right away to the A&M 43. On second down, Javarris James runs up the middle for 5 yards. On third and 3 from the A&M 36, Wright throws it to Leggett. But it falls incomplete. Miami is forced to punt.

A&M'S 7TH DRIVE (1st and 10 at the A&M 14, 13:00 left)
- The Aggies went three and out.

UM'S 8TH DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 41)
- On third down, Wright completes a pass short of the first down to Javarris James. Miami is forced to punt. A&M's Jordan Peterson muffs the punt, but A&M falls on it at the A&M 35.

A&M'S 8TH DRIVE (1st and 10 at the A&M 35, 9:15 left)
- After a first down incompletion, UM linebacker Tavares Gooden has limped off the field clutching his left inner thigh. A&M is eventually forced to punt.

UM'S 9TH DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 13)
- Cooper takes the handoff on first down and explodes for 30 yards down to the UM 43. Three plays later, Kyle Wright escapes the pocket and fumbles. A&M recovers at their own 36 with 4:20 left. Wright limped a little walking off the field.

A&M'S 9TH DRIVE (1st and 10 at the A&M 36)
- On second and five, Mike Goodson finally shows up. He takes a pitch and busts a 29-yard gain. A&M had 39 total yards of offense in the first half. The Aggies have their deepest penetration, they''re at the UM 30. But the drive ends with yet another fizzle. Vegas Franklin gets a sack on second down and McGee throws the ball way ahead of his intended receiver in the end zone. A&M's offense is simply rattled.

UM's 10TH DRIVE (1st and 10 at UM 36, 1:14 left)
- Graig Cooper again showing his speed, picking up 11 yards on the first play. Sam Shields catches a wide-receiver screen on first down and explodes up field. UM's speed is taking over. The Canes get an extra 15 yards when Michael Bennett gets flagged for a late hit on Kyle Wright.
- UM has a 1st and goal at the A&M 7. Chris Zellner caps the drive with a touchdown. UM 31, A&M 0.

HALFTIME THOUGHTS: It's halftime. And I'm in total shock. Did Jonathan Vilma and several other 2001 national championship teammates return and suit up for the Canes tonight? Wow. 24-0 at the half. For fans, it's great to be a Miami Hurricane again!

UM's 2ND DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 23 with 13:36 left)
- Before the drive gets underway, Sebastian The Ibis, UM's mascot, rocks the West End Zone with his performance of the Soulja Boy.
- On first down, Graig Cooper takes the carry off tackle left to the UM 25. On second down, Wright tosses an incomplete pass down field. Chris Zellner limps off the field favoring his right ankle. Dedrick Epps comes in and replaces him and right away makes a catch in the flat, turns up field and breaks two tackles for a 14-yard gain and first down.
- On first down, Wright gets sacked back at the UM 28. On second and long he completes a short pass to Cooper that goes nowhere. It is now 3rd and 19 at the UM 30, Cooper takes a short pass but gets hit and fumbles at the UM 40. Alton Dixon recovers at the UM 39 where A&M takes over.

A&M's 3RD DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 39)
- On first down, Goodson takes a swing pass. DeMarcus Van Dyke had a chance to hit him for a loss, but missed the tackle. He gained four yards. On second down, Goodson runs for two. On third and four at the UM 33, McGee calls timeout. A&M has one left. On third down, McGee runs play action, but his pass is incomplete. Vegas Franklin provided heat on the play to help the incompletion.
- A&M now lines up for a 50-yard field goal. But Matt Szymanski's kick it is short and to the right.

UM'S 3RD DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 33 with 9:11 left)
- On first down, Sam Shields catches a wide receiver screen which picks up only three yards. No worries, on the very next play, Shields is on the receiving end of a beautiful playaction pass which picks up 51 yards to the A&M 13.
- On first and 10, James gets hit by Misi Tupe at the line of scrimmage. A&M's run defense has been stingy. Looks like Miami can win through the air. Wow! Did I just say that?
- On second down, Darnell Jenkins makes an amazing catch down to the 5-yard line. Maybe too amazing. A&M is reviewing it. Wow. Looks like a catch. Ball bounced off of Darnell Jenkins' left knee, into the chest of A&M's linebacker and into the lap of Jenkins. It's a catch.
- On third and 2 at the A&M 5, Wright goes to receiver, James takes a direct snap, but picks up only one yard. UM is going for it. On fourth and 1, another direct snap to Javarris James. he follows Jason Fox and Andrew Bain with a wide open hole. First down!
- On first and goal the 3, James runs up the middle for 1 yard. On the next play, Javarris James up the middle for a touchdown. Canes go up 14-0 with 4:53 left in the game. 8 plays, 67 yards, 4:18 on the drive. UM 14, A&M 0.

A&M's 4TH DRIVE (1st and 10 at the A&M 37)
- On first down, McGee runs the playaction again, but has no one to throw to. UM's DBs are doing a tremendous job. The defensive line though is taking the cake. On second down, Goodson runs for two. Again, the front seven is dominating.
- On third and 7 from the A&M 40, McGee tries to throw the slant. But Carlos Armour deflects up and into the waiting arms of Colin McCarthy at the A&M 48. McCarthy returns it to the A&M 22 before getting pushed out of bounds.

UM'S 4TH DRIVE (1st and 10 at the A&M 22)
- On first down, Wright threw to Shields for 6 yards. On second down, Cooper gets hit in the backfield for a loss. On third down and 9, Wright scrambles ahead for 3 yards. A&M's defense holds this time. Francesco Zampogna steps up and sends a 35-yard field goal wide right. Too bad. A missed opportunity to take a commanding 17-0 lead.

A&M'S 5TH DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 20 late in the half)
- On first down, McGee picks up four yards. On second down, A&M gets flagged. On second and 11, Goodson gets hit, fumbles and Calais Campbell recovers at the A&M 12. He came out of the pile with the ball. We believe Spencer Adkins caused the fumble.

UM'S 5TH DRIVE (1st and 10 at the A&M 12 with 33 seconds left)
- One play, its 21-zilch. Wright tosses a short screen, Graig Cooper catches it, follows his blockers into the end zone. Zampogna's extra point. Is this really happening? Canes fans have to be going bananas right now. Pinch me. Pinch everyone in the OB. UM 21, A&M 0.

UM's 6TH DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 39 with 24 seconds left)
- UM kicks off again to an A&M lineman who runs forward and gets lit up by Richard Gordon. He fumbles and freshman Damien Berry recovers at the A&M 39.
- Two plays later, Francesco Zampogna kicks a 45-yard field goal to end the half. UM 24, TEXAS A&M 0.

A&M's 1ST DRIVE (1st and 10 at the A&M 37)
- Antonio Dixon starts at defensive tackle for UM. DeMarcus Van Dyke at corner.
- On first down, Mike Goodson is dropped by Eric Moncur in the backfield for a 5-yard loss. On second down, Stephen McGee gets hit by Colin McCarthy for a 2-yard gain. On third down, McGee scrambles and fumbles but A&M recovers. The Aggies punt and Miami's Graig Cooper returns it 2 yards to the 20.

UM's 1ST DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 20)
- Leggett starts with Jenkins at receiver. Dajleon Farr at tight end.
- On first down, Javarris James loses three yards on the first carry. On third and 13, Kyle Wright completes a first down pass to Darnell Jenkins, who lays out to make a beautiful catch at the first down marker.
- On first down at the 30, Sam Shields run a curl pattern 14-yards down field for another first down to the Aggies 44.
- On first down, Javarris James makes his way up the middle to the 48 for a 4-yard gain. On second down, James gets in the backfield for a 3-yard loss. On third down and 9, Shields match a catch near the A&M sideline, but just short of the first down marker. On fourth down, Kyle Wright sneaks ahead for a first down to the Aggies 46.
- Is this the same UM team I saw in Oklahoma? Not so far.
- On first down, James runs up the middle for 5. On second down, Sam Shields gets open at the 25, but he drops it bounces off his chest incomplete. On third and 5, Darnell Jenkins makes a tough catch over the middle against Alton Dixon for a 7-yard gain and a first down at the A&M 32.
- On first down, James busts ahead for 2 yards. On second down, James sneaks ahead for another yard and a half. On third and 6, there's that man again -- Darnell Jenkins makes another tough catch in traffic for another first down at the A&M 20.
- On first down, Kyle Wright scrambles outside before Alton Dixon is credited with a sack at the UM 21. On second down and 11 at the 21, James runs right and out to the 18 for a 3-yard gain. A&M's run defense isn't too bad. Another third down, another third down coverion. Canes are moving the chains. Javarris James takes a short pass to the A&M 7. It's first and goal.
- How about this for trickery? On first and goal, Kyle Wright goes to the bench, Craig Cooper takes a direct snap, runs left, and follows his blocker into the end zone with 3:29 left. Miami takes a 7-0 lead. 18 plays, 80 yards, 8:51 off the clock. UM 7, AGGIES 0.
- WOW! Where was this offense all year?

A&M's 2ND DRIVE (1st and 10 at the A&M 24)
- On first down, A&M comes out throwing and McGee connects with Kerry Franks for an 8-yard gain. On second down, McGee runs ahead for a 5-yard gain and a first down. UM safety Kenny Phillips got up close to A&M running back Mike Goodson to remind him he's going to be in his face all night.
- Ooh. On first down, McGee runs playaction and runs for a 14-yard gain to the UM 49. Calais Campbell takes a huge hit from A&M tight end Joey Thomas. Payback coming?
- On first down at the UM 49, A&M gains nothing. On second down, Goodson takes the pitch from his quarterback McGee and gets five yards along the right. On third down, McGee calls timeout with :18 left in the quarter. On third down, Martellus Bennett picks up four tough yards, dragging UM linebacker Colin McCarthy and another Cane on his back. But he's short. Will A&M go for it? They do.
SECOND QUARTER BEGINS. On fourth and 1, McGee keeps and picks up 3 yards to the UM 35.
- On first down, Antonio Dixon hits Goodson in the backfield for a 3-yard loss. On second down, McGee throws an incomplete pass. The Canes are getting physical. On third and 13 at the UM 38, Vegas Franklin gets to McGee as he was passing to knock the pass incomplete. Franklin runs to the sideline and gives defensive line coach Clint Hurtt, who got about 8 inches off the ground, a huge chest bump.
- UM takes over at it's own 23 with 13:36 left in the half -- a fast first half.

Pat Richter, who is conducting the search for Miami's next athletic director, just met with the media before the game to give us an update. I'll be posting the audio for you to listen to in the next half hour.

Here's some initial questions you might want to chew on.
- Is this a must win in your mind for UM's football progam?
- If Kyle Wright struggles -- he usually does against Top 25 teams -- should the Canes make another switch at QB?
- What do you feel is the most important thing the Canes need to do to win this game?

September 19, 2007

Keys to the game: Texas A&M

The University of Miami will have another opportunity this week when it plays 20th-ranked Texas A&M to not only beat a nationally-ranked opponent, but play on national television. Canes fans once took these matchups for granted because UM always seemed to playing on national television. But these days with Miami out of the Top 25 poll, UM fans have to realize how important it is to not only have a game like this, but win a game like this considering where Miami is now compared to where it once was.

Winning games like these is what used to help Miami land other big-time recruits in state's like Texas and California. This week, a few potential Miami recruits including Texas safety Victor Johnson (who UM in his top 3) will be watching. The nation, like Johnson, knows its been a while since the Canes have won a big game. Beating an undefeated team at home in the OB on ESPN would go a long way in not only helping lifting the Canes out of their current "rebuilding stage," but help coach Randy Shannon have more in his back pocket when he goes into the living room for guys like Johnson and others Miami used to pull out of other states with regularity.

That being said, no matter what Las Vegas is saying about this game (Miami is a three-point favorite), I think we all can agree Miami should be the underdog in this game considering recent history and not distant history. Texas A&M comes in with one of the nation's most potent run (Aggies are ranked 5th) and scoring offenses (they've scored 14 TDs -- twice as many as UM) and have a dual-threat quarterback in Stephen McGee which looks a lot like the type of athlete that has caused Miami's defense problems in the past (READ SARAH ROTHCHILD'S STORY). The Canes offense, meanwhile, seems to be still stuck with a bad case of cantfindtheendzone. On paper, the Aggies should roll over Miami. But I'm going to try to give you five ways Miami can win this game.

1. GET THE OB ROCKING AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE: I hate to point out Canesopener stats like this considering Miami's rich history, but the Canes are actually 1-7 against ranked opponents since losing to LSU in the Peach Bowl season. The good news, the last time Miami played at home against a Top 25 team, it won, beating 18th-ranked Boston College 17-14 in last year's season finale. But this being the Studentsectionfinal season in the OB and all, Canes fans ought to have the OB rocking. If Miami can keep their fans in the game, the Canes' 12th man should be loud enough down the stretch to get the Aggies a little nervous -- maybe enough to help Miami spring the upset.

2. SLOW DOWN THE RUN: OK, so No. 1 had nothing to do with what UM has to do on the field. But this one is the No. 1 issue for Miami on the gridiron in this game. If A&M runs the football like it has Am_stephen_mcgeeall season (they average 296.3 yards a game), the Canes are going to get blown out of the OB. So far, Miami's run defense is ranked 25th in the country this season (giving up an average of 51 yards a game). But they haven't faced a team like A&M before, which operates out of an option, quarterback zone read with McGee usually in the shotgun and running backs Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodman with him in the backfield. Defensive end Am_jorvorskie_laneCalais Campbell told me the closest comparison he could make was to Georgia Tech. Defensive line coach Clint Hurtt said each of Miami's opponents have run a package with of it, but not to the obvious extent A&M does. "They're disciplined. Their offense does a lot of different things and they hope you make mistakes out of it," Campbell told me (TO LISTEN TO CAMPBELL AND HURTT BREAKDOWN A&M FOLLOW THE LINK TO OUR AUDIO SECTION).

- The good news is UM will be aided this week by the return of its three best defensive tackles -- Teraz McCray, Antonio Dixon and Dwayne Hendricks, who have been hampered by injuries. StoptherunHurtt told me their return should help Campbell and Miami's defensive ends not feel like they need to carry the burden and allow them to play balanced, a key to stopping this running game. I'm not going to set any goals this week as far as rushing numbers are concerned, but rather first downs and third down conversions. If UM can keep A&M around 12 to 15 first downs (the Aggies average 23.5) and keep their 3rd down conversion percentage below 40 percent (A&M averages 55 percent) then the Canes should have a chance to win this game.

3. MIAMI MUST MOVE THE CHAINS AND PROTECT THE BALL: I haven't totally given up on Miami's passing game. But I just not going to expect much from them until proven otherwise. That being said, A&M's defense isn't spectacular. The Aggies have given up more than 383 yards a game -- mostly on the ground (A&M's run defense has given up 151 yards a game). The key for the Aggies has been creating turnovers. They currently are +4 in the turnover battle. UM quarterback Kyle Wright had three turnovers himself last week. If he can stay error-free in this game and Javarris James, Graig Cooper and Shawnbrey McNeal, who I'm told will get some PT in this game, can help Miami's run offense, which is averaging 172 yards a game, run right around that total and pick up at least 10 first downs, then Canes could have a shot to win this game.

4. WIN ON SPECIAL TEAMS: This is one you can say every week. But the truth is the Canes haven't really proved much here yet. A&M has one of the best kick returners in the country in senior Kerry Am_kerry_franks Franks. The Big 12’s top kick returner in 2006 has continued to enhance his reputation as the league’s most dangerous return man. With most teams kicking away from him, Franks is still averaging 36.7 yards on three returns this season. Miami as we know hasn't been spectacular on kickoffs or punts of late. In a game like this where the defense is going to be most responsible for a Miami win, they need some field position help.

5. GET THE BIG PLAY: Last week against FIU, Lance Leggett broke free for an 80-yard touchdown pass. It was his only catch of the game. Miami really didn't have any other similar plays against Oklahoma. But against Marshall, they did get a Tavares Gooden interception to the 1 that setup a touchdown and a 50-yard run by Graig Cooper which setup another score. If Miami is going to win this game against A&M, they're going to need at least one big play -- a momentum changing turnover -- or a big run or pass on offense to help them to an easy score and give the offense a boost.

MY PREDICTION: Miami 22, Texas A&M 20. My head is telling me to pick A&M, that Miami simply isn't ready to win a game like this against an opponent that on paper clearly appears better. But the fact the Canes are at home, in their final season at the OB and the defense is getting three big weapons back makes me think this will end up being Randy Shannon's first big win in his coaching career. A&M, after all, hasn't exactly played a tough schedule. They beat Montana State 38-7, Louisiana Monroe 54-14 and needed triple overtime to beat Fresno State 47-45, a team that is 1-2 after getting blown out by Oregon 52-21 last week. This also A&M's first road game of the season. I'm thinking James, Cooper and McNeal tally more than 200 yards rushing and Francesco Zampogna kicks a career-high 5 field goals and UM holds on behind its defense and a last-second missed field goal by A&M to win.

September 18, 2007

Ripple effects, plus Live Q&A tonight

One of the greatest fears Canes fans have about this year's team is that if the team struggles again, it could potentially cost them a few of the top-line recruits coach Randy Shannon and his staff have managed to corral in the early going of building what could be a stellar 2008 Class -- something extremely and obviously important to Miami's future.

So far, UM's 2-1 start has been pretty unimpressive -- especially on offense, where quarterback issues and red zone issues have led Miami to put up some ugly numbers. The Canes rank 83rd in scoring offense (22.33 ppg), 99th in total offense (302.67 ypg) and 113th in passing offense (130.67 ypg) out of 119 I-A teams. For those of you worried about these type of figures being used against Miami commitments, THERE IS REASON TO BE SCARED.

Last night, I spoke to Miami Booker T. Washington receiver and current Cane commitment Davon Johnson, who visited Gainesville this past weekend with teammate Brandon Harris (a four-star cornerback on Miami's radar), Ely 5-star cornerback Patrick Johnson (another UM commitment) and several other local players Miami's interested in including Krop linebacker Etienne Sabino. From what Johnson told me, it sounds like the Gators are using Miami's offensive struggles against the Canes.

"It opened my eyes. Coach sat me down and really broke down the offensive schemes they run [at Florida]. He told me about the catches I could get compared to Miami catches. Yes, it's causing me to worry because every receiver wants the ball. If your not giving the receiver the ball, why should I go there?"

While Johnson told me he is still a Miami commitment, he admitted it is now 50-50 between UM and UF. Johnson, a four-star receiver who made Miami fans drool when he starred in Booker T.'s nationally televised beating of Summerville, S.C., last month, said though he will still make UM his last visit. He plans on visiting South Florida, South Carolina and LSU before then.

Monday, though, Johnson said he got a visit from a few fellow Cane commitments and Northwestern players when quarterback Jacory Harris, defensive tackle Marcus Forston and linebacker Sean Spence passed by his practice (the trio also stopped by UM Monday). Johnson said all three told him to follow his heart, but still pushed the Canes (CLICK HERE TO HEAR THE COMPLETE AUDIO INTERVIEW AS WELL AS MY INTERVIEWS FROM MONDAY'S PRESS CONFERENCE).

Miami fans should expect some of this to go on as the year goes on, especially in light many of these recruits will stay make visits to other schools. They should also expect to hear the type of rumors coming out of Gainesville regarding receiver Deonte Thompson, a 5-star receiver out of Belle Glade Glades Central who picked Florida over Miami last year.

Shannon said during his press conference Monday he's received phone calls from freshmen at other schools who have shown interest in transferring. I've spoken to a source who told me it could happen, but cautioned the more it gets publicized the more likely it won't occur.

Anyway, I'm running late for practice. I'll be back later tonight for a live Q&A between 8 and 9 p.m. Leave me some questions here for later tonight. 

ON A PERSONAL NOTE: I got back from Dallas Sunday after nine days out in the Midwest and have to say I'm happy to be back home. The trip was a lot of fun and my wife and I got to see a lot aside from UM's loss in Norman and Miami Northwestern's big win in Texas.

We visited Oklahoma City and the memorial to the bombing victims of the federal building. We took a hiking trip down to Dinosaur Park in Glen Rose, Texas (which boasts the longest dinosaur footprints in the US). We made the four and a half-hour drive down to San Antonio to see the Alamo and the famous Riverwalk. And we went into downtown Dallas to see the Sixth Floor Museum where Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK (plus, a walk around the famous grassy knoll). For those of you who like to travel or might have made the trip yourselves, feel free to share your thoughts one some of the places we hit this past week. I'd love to hear your experiences.

September 15, 2007

Game day blog: UM 23, FIU 9 (F)

It's over at the OB. I'm up here in Dallas for the Southlake Carroll-Northwestern game here at Gerald Ford Stadium on the campus of SMU. I didn't watch the game, but was listening and following online.

Here's my glass half-full take:
- At least the Canes aren't Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are getting blitzed 31-0 by Michigan.
- Aside from one big play by FIU when Spencer Adkins got beat by the fullback for a 60-yard score, the Canes secondary played much better. FIU had three yards passing and has been picked twice.
- The Canes put up over 400 yards offense -- just not enough points against this team.
- Kyle Wright and Darnell Jenkins are getting on the same page frequently. That's good news.

Here's my glass half-empty take on the game
- The Canes offense still looks inept. Wright had 61 yards passing, 1 INT in the first half. Then, he threw another pick and fumbled. But from what I've read from play by play, it seems like he's still holding onto the ball too long. At least he's connected downfield for a few big plays -- including an 80-yard touchdown pass to Lance Leggett.
- Penalties. Too many. 11 for 78 at last count.

Feed me your take Canes fans. Reminder. Andre Fernandez and I will be live blogging here on the High Schools Sports Blog once this game gets underway.

Time for O to put up or shut up

Hate to call a team out this early in the season. Hate to call out anyone. Who likes being called out? But if Miami's offense fails to have a good day yet again today against FIU, then maybe there is reason to have plenty of doom and gloom about this season.

FIU, my alma mater, hasn't won a game since... 2005. Yikes! The Golden Panthers have given up 59 points to Penn State and 26 to Maryland. They've given up 185 yards a game on the ground and 224 through the air. They've got a redshirt freshman starting at quarterback. Translation = no excuses for the Canes today to look mystified or to struggle in this game too much.

Kyle Wright, who technically should be counted on as a three-year starter, has to look good. Not just pretty good. But real good. The Hurricanes' offense need this game to establish some sort of momentum heading into next week's Texas A&M game. With that, I've set up my five goals for the Canes today. If the Canes meet all five, then there might be reason to believe this UM team really is better than last year's 7-6 team.

1. MOVE THE FOOTBALL THROUGH THE AIR: Wright needs to make the same 10- to 15-yard completions downfield he did last week -- albeit briefly -- against Oklahoma. Miami's receivers can't continue to drop balls, either. Against FIU, UM's receivers should have plenty of time make, clean crisp plays. If they can't do it against the Golden Panthers and continue to drop easy balls, then the receivers really are as bad as they've looked the past two seasons. Wright should pass for over 200 yards and throw at least two touchdowns. Modest goals. But I'm aiming low considering what we've seen the past several seasons.

2. JAVARRIS JAMES AND GRAIG COOPER SHOULD GO BONKERS!: FIU's run defense is not very good. Miami's offensive line should have no problem pushing the Golden Panthers around and opening up holes for James and Cooper to run through. The goal should be 185 yards on the ground, 2-3 touchdowns. I'm interested to see if James gets the ball this week in goalline situations like he should have against OU.

3. BIG DAY FOR THE SECONDARY: Miami's secondary needs to gain a little confidence back after having skid marks left on its back last week to the Sooners and giving up too many big plays to Marshall. Is Kenny Phillips going to continue to support the run? Or is Tim Walton going to let him stand back in the secondary and make some big hits and plays on receivers? FIU is averaging less than 99 yards passing a game. The Golden Panthers can't have a season-high today. Keep your eyes on whomever starts opposite DeMarcus Van Dyke at corner. My money is Carlos Armour to prove he's the best guy for the job. Goal: Less than 150 yards passing, 1-2 INTs.

4. HOW ABOUT SOME PRESSURE!: Miami's defensive line is a little dinged up right now. But there's still no reason Eric Moncur, Calais Campbell and the crew can't get the kind of pressure on FIU quarterback Wayne Younger, who has been taken to the turn 7 times. Miami's defensive line needs at least three sacks today.

5. DEEP KICKS NEEDED: Daren Daly lost his starting job on kickoffs. Now Francesco Zampogna needs to prove he's better. The Canes may not need to worry too much about field position today. But it would be nice to see Zampogna kick the ball deep enough where FIU isn't getting the ball on the 35 or 40 after every Miami score. Matt Bosher's 39-yard net average is actually pretty good. Even though his punts haven't necessarily looked it. A deep one from him today would be nice.

PREDICTION: Pain for the Golden Panthers. Miami won 35-0 last year. No reason to think the margin shouldn't be a little wider considering FIU is younger and less experienced this year. Plus, UM needs to flext its muscle after last week's national embarrassment. Miami should win easy. I'll say 45-6. Kyle Wright will throw for 250 yards, 3 TDs and Lance Leggett will have a big day. Javarris James will run for 2 scores and over 150 yards. Campbell will have three sacks by himself.

- Don't forget to switch over to our high school coverage after the UM-FIU game. Northwestern and its five Hurricane commitments -- quarterback Jacory Harris, receiver Aldraius Johnson, offensive tackle Brandon Washington, linebacker Sean Spence and defensive tackle Marcus Forston -- will play the nation's No. 1 high school team. I'll be there doing some live blogging. I will not be doing live blogging during today's game since I'm obviously not in Miami. But feel free to pour in your thoughts as today's Canes games progresses. I'll be listening online to WQAM.

- Also, great to see former Cane Kevin Everett making some progress following his injury Sunday. I believe he's not only going to walk again, but play again in the NFL. The work his doctor's did right after the injury saved his life. Keep fighting Big E. We're behind you.

September 12, 2007

Good moves, now to the playcalling

Greetings from Dallas. I'm still here out west, covering the big high school game this week when Miami Northwestern travels to Southlake Carroll to play in that No. 1 vs. No. 2 prep matchup.

I'm sorry I didn't give some of you a heads up about not having a live Q&A this week. But I've been a bit busy here in Southlake since I drove back in Sunday. But enough about that, let's talk Canes.

I've got to say I was happy to see coach Randy Shannon deliver on his promise he'd do what was best for the team at all times and make some major changes. He did that Tuesday, making moves to improve his starting lineup.

Here's a quick recap:
- Kyle Wright moves back to the starting role at quarterback.
- Randy Phillips, still sporting OU receiver treadmarks, gets moved from corner to backup safety, the spot he really was meant to play.
- Sam Shields, the team's best receiver, moves back into a starting role.
- The experiment of having a 6-4, 260-pound tight end return kickoffs ends. Richard Gordon goes back to his main duties, blocking. DeMarcus Van Dyke or Shawnbrey McNeal are expected to replace him.
- And Daren Daly, who was attrocius on kickoffs, gets replaced by Francesco Zampogna.

Everything should be perfect now right? Hmm. Not quite. To me, personnel adjustments are just phase one. Look, I'm not an offensive or defensive coordinator. I only play one when I got my PlayStation 2 controller in my hand and John Madden Football or NCAA Football on. Kind of just like most of you. But I don't think it took a rocket scientist to figure out Miami's playcalling this season needs some work.

Did former starter Kirby Freeman ever throw the ball down the middle of the field -- even once while he was in there? No to my memory.
Any of you have an idea why in God's name was Miami's pass defense still playing man-to-man in your face defense -- even after falling behind 14-3 and proving it couldn't handle OU's speedy receivers?
Why was Graig Cooper running sweeps inside the OU 5 and Javarris James not in for the goalline smashmouth situations?
Why was Miami running a no-huddle shotgun offense when it obviously couldn't do anything in it?

To me, the Canes need to go back to basics. When Kyle Wright was in there Saturday and having success, his receivers were doing simple little routes. Darnell Jenkins? Go downfield 10 yards and turn around. Completion! First down! Ryan Hill? Ditto. What a concept! When Miami was running the football successfully, it was Javarris James up the middle, and Graig Cooper following his brigade of blockers on sweeps.

Look, offensive coordinator Patrick Nix and defensive coordinator Tim Walton are young, talented guys. Coach Randy Shannon wouldn't have hired and promoted them if he didn't see something he liked. UM's personnel was obviously were outmatched against OU. They couldn't provide miracles. But they could have made adjustments. There were flaws in Miami's gameplan before the 51-13 loss. 81 passing yards against Marshall? A wide open middle of the field against the Thundering Herd? Surely, Kyle Wright can ought to find ways to get 10-yard completions against FIU this week, right? Surely, Miami's safeties don't have to play in the box nearly every down against FIU, do they?

Just some of my thoughts people. I know many of you have shared the same. Since this is all fun anyway, what did you see as far as playcalling that you'd like to see removed from the playbook? What about what would you like to see Miami do more of? Is there still more personnel moves Miami needs to make? Have some fun. Play coordinator.

September 09, 2007

Former Cane Everett seriously injured

Former Hurricane tight end Kevin Everett suffered a serious spinal cord injury today and is currently undergoing emergency surgery in Buffalo according to published reports.

Big E took a vicious hit during a kick return and was carted off the field. Keep him in your prayers and keep your fingers crossed for him.

Take your finger off the panic button

Red Alert! Red Alert! The Miami Hurricanes lost a football game!
Red Alert! Red Alert! The Canes got embarrassed in Norman, 51-13!
Red Alert! Red Alert! This is unacceptable!

Do most of you realize how ridiculous that just sounded? Yet, of the 400-plus messages left on this blog and others related to University of Miami football, I'd estimate about 90-percent of them sounded just like that madness above.

Did The U get thrashed yesterday by the fifth-ranked team? Yes.
Did various parts of the team -- namely the quarterback position and secondary get exposed? Yes.
Did Randy Shannon and his assistants make the wrong move by taking Kyle Wright out of the game? Yes.
Did the game plan stink? Yes.
Is it time to collect everything green and orange in your house and burn it? Absolutely not. Listen up Canes fans, it is time to take your finger off the panic button!

University of Miami football fans are passionate about their team. I understand that. I was born and have bled in this city all my life and spent many a Saturday at the OB myself. But this quick jump off a roof mentality has got to stop. The reality is this football team lost to a superior team and the score was lopsided for a few reasons. I'll get into those later. But the reality is this team is better than last year's 7-6 squad. And this team can also end up running the table the rest of the season. It's not out of the question. The ACC, last time I looked, wasn't exactly loaded with great teams.

I know you are wounded. Randy Shannon and the talk got you all excited. Some of you believed this was 2001 all over again (I don't know how). And then, the Canes ego got blasted with a shotgun yesterday. Here's the problem, though. As Canes fans, you need to stop comparing this team right now to anything accomplished in 1983, 87, 89, 91 and 2001 -- or even those other seasons when Miami had superior talent than this team. It's just not fair. Did you honestly expect Randy Shannon to take this team from 0 to 60 -- or 7-6 to national champs -- in less than 3.1 seconds? The University of Miami is not a Ferrari or the suped-up race car today that it once was.

Yesterday proved that again. But what yesterday also proved is that Miami isn't that far away. Did we forget it was 21-13 in the third quarter? All, Oklahoma did was expose Miami's weaknesses. did get out of hand? Yeah. But it was 21-13. Miami was in the fight. Yes, they picked on the secondary, made Miami's quarterbacks look average at best. But isn't that something we already knew was a problem? Didn't we know the secondary got beat several times by Marshall last week? Haven't we known Miami's passing game has done about diddly squat in the last three years? Why did we believe all of a sudden those issues were going to vanish against arguably Miami's toughest opponent in the last three seasons?

The bottomline is this: This team isn't as bad today as the film Randy Shannon poured over last night. It just isn't good enough to beat teams like Oklahoma. Not yet. But it is good enough to thrash the Marshalls and FIUs of the world. The strength of this team -- its defensive line and running game is good enough to not only keep Miami in games, which is what it did all last year, but likely win most of them. The Canes don't have just one star in the backfield anymore. They've got two. Colin McCarthy is growing up everyday. Calais Campbell and Kenny Phillips? They're still here.

Look at the rest of Miami's schedule and honestly ask yourself if there is a game the Canes simply cannot win? Ask yourself if there is another Oklahoma on the schedule?

FIU? They're 0-2. Played Maryland halfway decent yesterday and lost.
Texas A&M? Needed triple OT to pull of a win at home against Fresno State.
Duke? Basically winless in 2-plus seasons.
North Carolina? Butch Davis isn't ready yet to win a big game.
Georgia Tech? The Yellow Jackets are likely the toughest game at home this season.
Florida State? The Seminoles have their own issues and were down 17-3 yesterday to UAB.
North Carolina State? Barely treading water these days.
Virginia? They beat a beaten down Miami team 17-7 last year. They only beat Duke by 11 yesterday.
Virginia Tech? In a game vs. an opponent much like Miami's, they were trailing 24-0 to LSU yesterday at halftime. The final beatdown was 48-7. Need we forget the 17-7 season opening win over (gasp!) East Carolina.
Boston College? The last time Miami lost to them, I was 6.

Feel better yet? Have you thought about taking finger off the panic button?

Randy Shannon and his coaches have to go to work today. They need to figure out who is going to play quarterback the rest of this season. They need to find ways to get the receivers involved in something other than blocking. They need to get their secondary and pass defense to play better. But they don't need to hit the panic button. And neither do you.

UPON FURTHER REVIEW: I realize my comment yesterday saying Kyle Wright was "yukking it up" has caused a bit of a stir. I  want to apologize to Kyle myself. In my quest to pound out my locker room report as quickly as possible yesterday and get the rest of my work done, I used the wrong word. I fumbled. I certainly don't want anybody to get the idea Wright was having his own personal party yesterday in the wake of the team's 51-13 loss to the Sooners. All I was trying to convey, was that Kyle was feeling better than he has most of this fall. He got to play. He moved Miami's offense. He's hopeful it made it a difference with playing time. And yes, while most of his teammates appeared down, he seemed a little happier. Not a lot. Just a little. Good enough to crack a few smiles with his family and friends after the game. It was a bad choice of words on my part. That's all. My bad Kyle. My bad Canes fans.

September 08, 2007

UM post-OU lockeroom scene

Just got out of the UM lockerroom after the Canes got thrashed by fifth-ranked Oklahoma 51-13 on national television.

Here's a quick rundown of reaction:

- Quarterback Kirby Freeman declined comment. His quote: "Oh, I'm not talking to the media."
- Quarterback Kyle Wright spoke at length, but would not say if he thinks he should be named the starter next week. "I'll let the coaches decide that." Wright was seen after upbeat and smiling with some family and friends.
- Cornerback Randy Phillips owned up to his bad day after getting beat regularly by OU's receivers. "It was the worst day of my life," he said.
- Javarris James asked not to be interviewed.
- Calais Campbell said Miami will rebound against FIU next week.
- Derrick Morse said "we're just going to have to eat this loss." He said Miami's offensive struggles were mostly due to poor communication.

I'll be back with full audio uploads later tonight. But that's the quick scoop from Norman.

Game day blog: Sooners 51, UM 13 (F)

Looks like the UM bandwagon is going to get a little bit lighter after this week. This game was supposed to be an opportunity for the University of Miami to make a loud statement on national TV against the country's fifth-ranked team. Instead, the Canes are leaving Norman with a whimper and appear headed toward some more quarterback controversy.

The game itself looked ugly at first. The Canes were down 21-3 when an ineffective Kirby Freeman was replaced by Kyle Wright. Then it was 21-13. But the Canes just couldn't seem to defend Oklahoma's passing game today, which has gone for over 230 yards. The secondary couldn't match the speed of OU's receivers. UM's running game? Virtually non-existant. The offense, which basically has been non-existant for years, has proven yet again it can't produce in the big game.

The real question is where the Canes go from here. Do they fall apart like they did last year after getting housed by Louisville on the road? Or does this game light a fire in their rears? I'll be in the lockerroom after the game to get a sense of how they feel.

Now, you tell me how you feel. How do you feel about Kyle Wright now? I've always felt he was the better passer. And so far at least today, he's proven to be more effective than Kirby. What are your thoughts on him replacing Kirby permenantly? Robert Marve anyone? Where's Patrick Nix's new and imprved offense?


- Kyle Wright entered the game at quarterback with 7:52 to play in the first half and led UM to a few solid drives, including its only TD right before the half.
- Calais Campbell had a sack and made a huge play on a fake field goal to setup Miami's only touchdown.
- UM's secondary has been beaten early and often for touchdowns. Randy Phillips was beaten three times for scores.
- Kirby Freeman, who struggled all afternoon. Both of his completions were screen passes. He had two passes nearly intercepted.

4th quarter highlights | lowlights
- Can't say I honestly paid attention after it was 31-13. Just noticed how Randy Phillips continues to get burned.
- Why Freeman is in the game is beyond me. I think this proves he can't run this offense against quality competition. Wright isn't much better, but better.

3rd quarter highlights | lowlights
- OU picks up two quick first downs to start the half before Kenny Phillips forces a fumble and Randy Phillips recovers at the OU 46.
- After Wright connects with Jenkins for a 15-yard gain, the Canes are forced to settle for a field goal. But Francesco Zampogna delivers, drilling a 45-yarder to make it 21-13.
- Oklahoma gets a huge return by Orlando Iglesias down to the UM 47. Carlos Armour had a chance to make the tackle at about the OU 40, but missed it. Kicker Daren Daly ended up making his second tackle of the game.
- Dwayne Hericks has limped off the field with a right leg injury with 9:48 left in the quarter. Lovon Ponder also has gone out with 9:12 left.
- OU is going for it on the UM 27. Chris Brown picks up the first down to keep the drive going.
- The drive gets help when Tavares Gooden gets flagged for a late hit while Bradford was running out of bounds. The Sooners eventually score on a 6-yard TD pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham to make it 28-13.
- UM does nothing with its next possession and the drive ends in a 3-and-out when Wright gets sacked at UM 17.
- Oklahoma gets another good possession and adds 3 more points to its lead on a 30-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley with 36 seconds left in the quarter. It's now 31-13.

UM: Miami has 6 first downs and 36 yards rushing on 22 attempts. Passing: Kyle Wright is 5 of 9 for 45 yards and a touchdown. Rushing: Cooper has 11 carries for 21 yards. James has 6 carries for 17 yards. Receiving: Darnell Jenkins 2 catches, 20 yards, Ryan Hill has two catches for 18 yards.
OU: Sooners have 9 first downs, 14 yards rushing on 16 attempts. Sam Bradford is 8 of 13 passing for 2 touchdowns. Rushing: Patrick Allen has 5 carries for 38 yards, Chris Brown has 18 yards on 6 carries.

My thoughts: The Canes are lucky to be down only 11 points. The story has been Kyle Wright, who replaced Kirby Freeman at quarterback with 7:52 left in the half. He drove Miami to its only touchdown, moving the team down field on 5 of 9 passing for 45 yards and a score. He was 3 for 3 on third down passing attempts on the drive.

Calais Campbell has had two huge plays -- a sack and special teams play in which he picked up a first down on a fake field goal attempt.

Miami fell behind 21-3 when Oklahoma returned a Javarris James fumble to the house. The secondary -- Randy Phillips and DeMarcus Van Dyke -- got beat for two touchdown passes in the first half.

1st quarter highlights | lowlights
- Marcus Walker's beautiful one-handed interception on the first play of the game gets reversed on review. But the Canes can't cash in and are forced to punt after a quick 3-and-out. Bosher's punt was 36 yards.
-  Sooners are moving the ball early through the air and the ground. Rain is now coming down hard.
- Malcolm Kelly caps Oklahoma's 1st drive with his 100th career reception, beating Randy Phillips for a touchdown strike. OU has 82 yards of offense. Miami has 7. OU leads 7-0.
- OU Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Bradford has completed 23 consecutive passes between the opener and today.
- Reggie Youngblood and Javarris James get beat by OU defensive end Auston English in giving up the Canes first sack of the season on Miami's second possession. Freeman nearly gets picked again before the Canes are forced to punt again. Miami has 9 yards of total offense -- all thanks to Javarris James. Matt Bosher gets off an unimpressive 32-yarder. Rain has stopped.
- Oklahoma is forced to a quick three and out and the Canes catch a huge break when sophomore Derek Shaw snaps the ball way over the head of OU's punter, giving UM possession at the OU 8.
- The Canes, however, can't capitalize and are forced to attempt a field goal from the 3-yard line. The 20-yard attempt by Francesco Zampogna is good. Oklahoma 7, UM 3.
- OU is driving again, inside the Miami 40. Miami's secondary seems to be making every tackle along with Tavares Gooden.
- Oklahoma makes it 14-3 when Bradford hooks up with Kelly for a 24-yard touchdown pass. Freshman DeMarcus Van Dyke gets beat for the first time in his career, failing to wrap up on Kelly despite having his arms around his waist.
- This is where having something other than a running game comes in handy! Miami's pass offense has to step up now.
- Canes finally pick up a first down with 1:20 left in the quarter when Graig Cooper picks up 9 yards and 2 yards on the ground. Looks like offensive coordinator Patrick Nix might be turning to the run.
- Quarter ends with a big 3rd and 1 at UM 40. Oklahoma has 102 yards total offense -- that with the bad snap that wiped out about 50 yards. UM has 35 yards total offense. 3 passing.

2nd quarter highlights | lowlights
- Javarris James gets hit in the backfield on that big 3rd and 1 and Miami is forced to punt for the third time.
- Calais Campbell comes through with a huge sack, pushing OU back on a 3rd and long. Cooper makes a nice return on the punt before OU picks up a 15-yard flag for a facemask giving UM possession at the OU 35.
- But the momentum quickly swings on UM's first play. Freeman gets a bad snap. James fumbles, OU's Reggie Smith returns it 62 yards for a touchdown with 12:29 left in the second quarter. It's 21-3 OU.
- UM's sixth drive goes three and out. Lance Leggett stops on a deeply thrown ball. In a nutshell, Leggett's career.
- Nice play by Randy Phillips, stripping Juaquin Iglesias of the football on a 14-yard pass play. UM takes over at its 44.
- Canes can't do anything with it and are forced to punt again. Miami's passing game doesn't exist. The Secret O looks more like Secret "Doh!" UM has come out in a no-huddle offense. It's not working. Miami has one first down, 35 yards total offense. Freeman is 2 for 7 for 10 yards. Is it time for Kyle Wright?
- It's Kyle time. And his first pass is completed to an OU band member!
- Kyle comples a first down pass to Darnell Jenkins down to OU 41. Another third down, another first down for the Canes to Jenkins down to OU 28. Kyle picks up another first down on third down, this time to Ryan Hill. Miami is at the OU 15.
- What a play! Fake field goal. Calais Campbell catches the flip and falls forward, first down and goal at 3.
- What a crazy possession. Canes have first and goal at the OU 2 after a defensive pass interference play with 1:15 left in the half. Miami finall scores when Ryan Hill is found wide open in the end zone for a 6-yard score. OU 21, UM 10.

PREGAME: Norman is beaming with excitement. The student section inside Owen Field is already filled to near capicity two hours before the game. Field is wet. Been raining most of the night. But at least it looks the rain has stopped. I've got some photos to share. I'll post them later. Stay tuned for today's live blog which will constantly update. Kickoff is set for 12:08 p.m. Humidity is 88 percent. Temperature is 78 degree. Coin flip is coming up. Oklahoma won and has deferred to the second half.

September 07, 2007

Keys to the game: Oklahoma

Just arrived in Dallas, Texas a few hours ago -- and not just for the reason you thought. Tonight, I'll be covering Southlake Carroll, the No. 1 high school football team in the country, to get a glimpse of what Miami Northwestern will face next week in its Clash of Champions (a game that will follow UM-FIU on ESPNU). As the former high school writer, I have to admit I'm pumped. Any time you can spend 9 days on the road watching football and attending two of the biggest games in the country this week, you got to consider yourself lucky. I do.

I passed by the Dragons' home stadium this afternoon (that's Southlake Carroll) and was simply blown away. This team's $19 million facility looked nicer than the Orange Bowl. While my mind will be on Southlake Carroll tonight, I didn't want to leave you Canes fans hanging -- especially with the big game tomorrow in Norman. After a late midnight drive tonight to Norman, I'll be there with bloodshot eyes tomorrow morning for the game, providing live blogging as I did last week for the Marshall game. Hopefully, a few of you back home will be online to share some thoughts during the game.

As for the Sooners, I promised a weekly delivery of the keys to the game and that's what this blog is about. Here are my 5 keys to the game in order for the Canes to pull off the road upset of the fifth-ranked team. Let me know if you agree, disagree or if I missed something. The Eye On The U Crew is always on the ball. So, I expect some good feedback.

1. UM needs to win the battle up front: Unlike year's past when Oklahoma would come into this game with far less speed at the skill positions, that category is now a push between these teams. That means the Canes need to win the battle up front, especially on offense where like or not the Sooners are going to be ready to stop Graig Cooper and Javarris James. If those two don't have success on Saturday, the Canes have no shot to win in this game. The o-line has to come through with another solid game like it did last week, limiting penalties and making sure Cooper and James are falling forward, not backward.

2. Kirby Freeman has to be better than last week: 9 of 21 for 81 passing yards, 1 TD and 1 INT against Marshall was good enough. But if Freeman does the same against the Sooners this week, the only way the Canes end up winning this game is if the defense absolutely goes bonkers creating turnovers and points. Freeman has to keep Oklahoma's secondary honest and he has to complete a few passes downfield to do that.

3. Get to Oklahoma's freshman quarterback and make him fear for his life: The Canes' defensive line did a tremendous job last week against Marshall getting to the quarterback, recording 6 sacks and enough hurries to lead to 4 INTs. Oklahoma's QB looked good last week, but he's still a redshirt freshman making just his second career start. If Calais Campbell, Eric Moncur and company are eating him for brunch Saturday, the Canes are in this game regardless of what the offense is doing.

4. Sure up the secondary: Nothing can be more disheartening for a defense that gets as much pressure on a quarterback as Miami does than giving up first downs on third and long. Last week, the Canes had a few mental breakdowns in coverage, leaving the field open for Marshall to pick up a few big plays down the middle of the field. Can't happen this week. OU's receivers can take it to the house -- and crush the spirit of the Canes if it happens too often.

5. Special teams needs to be special: It wasn't last week. Francesco Zampogna was 1 of 2 on field goal attempts. Matt Bosher and Daren Daly struggled on punts and kickoffs. There were two penalties on the punt return team negated nice runs by Cooper. Nothing swings the momentum on the road like a big play on special teams. The Canes need someone to make some nice plays.

My prediction: Oklahoma 20, Miami 13. I predicted a 9-3 season before the year. And among those predicted losses its this one I feel most certain about. Because, of all the matchups, this one is the only one I think Miami might be overmmatched. Not talent wise. I believe the Canes are equal in the majority of the head-to-head matchups in this game. It's the Canes' confidence that I'm worried about. Oklahoma is at home, coming off a 79-10 victory and not afraid of anyone. I think until the Canes' offense explodes, Miami still will not have completely regained that swagger in needs to win games like this. On a positive note, though, this game could be the springboard to greater things for the Canes and getting some of that swagger back. After seeing what Virginia Tech and Florida State did last week, I'm not so sure anymore Miami isn't the best team in its weak conference. 

September 06, 2007

Secret "O" in store for Sooners?

I've never been one to buy into the idea teams would withhold an entire offense for a tougher team the following week. Maybe, a few trick plays here or there. But an entire offense?

This week as Miami has prepared for Oklahoma, some of you brought up the idea that UM may have been saving something for the Sooners this week and thus that was the reason Kirby Freeman and the pass offense put up an unimpressive 81 yards against Marshall's weak pass D last Saturday. So I decided to raise the question. And to my surprise, I got a lot of smiles after practice Wednesday when I asked if offensive coordinator Patrick Nix simply didn't want to tip his hand to Oklahoma last week.

Darnell_jenkinsQ: Hey Darnell Jenkins, were you guys holding back?
A: "That's what Coach Nix wanted. And if we do everything against Marshall, they have all our film. Right now, we're just going over offense and preparing ourself."
Q: So people are going to be surprised? Real surprised?
A: "Watch the game Saturday," Jenkins said. "Stay tuned."

Jenkins got me thinking. Maybe there is something to it. But I had to ask some more. How about Lance Leggett?

Q: You caught a lot of quick little flare passes on Saturday, any chance we see you downfield some more?
A: "[Laughter]. I don't want to say anything. You'll see Saturday."
Q: But will the offense be more exciting?
A: "I don't really want to say. Just wait for Saturday. We can throw the ball. I know the fans want to see it. They just got to wait."

Jason Fox smiled when I asked him the same line of questioning. Sam Shields too. As much I want to believe there is some great pass offense in store waiting to be unleashed, I'm still very much skeptical. It's been a long time since I can remember Miami's pass offense being very effective. Why wouldn't Nix want his kids to go into Oklahoma with some confidence it could throw downfield?

For those of you wondering the last time Miami's pass offense actually had a big day, I went back and researched last season. The biggest passing day? 299 yards against Duke. The Canes, in fact, eclipsed the 200-yard passing mark only five times in 13 games last season. For the record, the last 300-yard passing game came against Wake Forest in 2005. What about the last time a Miami receiver had more than 100 yards? Lance Legget (6 catches for 131 yards vs. Duke). It was the only time a Miami receiver went over the 100-yard mark at all last season.

There's no doubt 81 passing yards probably won't be enough to beat Oklahoma Saturday. Miami's pass offense has to be more effective than that because Oklahoma's defensive line is no joke. After speaking with left tackle Jason Fox, center John Rochford and right guard Derrick Morse, all three said OU's d-line is just as good as the one they face in practice everyday, "just younger," Fox told me and "a bit lighter and faster" at defensive tackle according to Morse and Rochford.

"They'll get into your body and try to use a rip move or a club move," Rochford said when describing OU's attack. "It's something we're going to have be ready for. From what I saw on film, it looked like they only had one or two moves each time. They didn't blitz a lot on North Texas, they didn't need to. But we'll be prepared if they bring it this week. These guys are good, they're big, strong, we have to bring our A-game this week."

* I also asked Jenkins what having a guy like Sam Shields (who was suspended last week) back in the lineup would mean to Miami's offense. Apparently, he thinks it will make a huge difference.
"It takes pressure off," Jenkins said. "It takes them from play 3 [defensive backs] over 2 [receivers] or man. Now, they may back up a little because of the speed. He's a big threat. All of us have speed, it just hasn't been shown yet. Like I said, watch Saturday."

Shields is listed third on the depth chart, but Shannon later added "what does that really matter? They all play 35 to 40 plays anyway."