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.
I 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 middle 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 you 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.