On a weekend in which No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Florida, No. 5 West Virginia, No. 7 Texas and No. 10 Rutgers all lost, I find it funny how some UM fans are jumping off the bandwagon again after the Canes' shaky 24-14 win against Duke at the OB Saturday.
Haven't we realized yet college football -- much like UM -- just isn't the way it used to be? Did we forget Notre Dame is still looking for its first win this season? Have we noticed that South Florida -- that school that didn't have a football team until 1997 -- is ranked sixth in the country? How about Rutgers the former Big East doormat? They were that No. 10 team that lost on Saturday. How about Michigan losing to I-AA Appalachian State earlier this year? Much like the NFL, there is now parity in college football folks. Yes, you'll still have your occasional blowout. But there are no gimmies anymore.
We all remember the days when the Canes would walk onto the field at the OB against Rutgers or Temple and by halftime the only thing we were all thinking about was how many yards and touchdowns Gino Torretta was going to throw for before it was over. That's not going to happen anymore. Yes, Duke is a team that just ended a 22-game losing streak two weeks ago. Yes, FIU has lost 17 straight games. But everyone struggles to win even against bad team these days. No. 1 USC beat Washington 27-24. How many people did you hear bring up the fact the Trojans could barely beat a team that is 2-3 this season and was 5-7 a year ago with one of the worst pass defenses in the country? Or that USC only beat the Huskies 26-20 last year?
Elite teams, in the end, are still going to rise to the top when its all said and done. Boise State isn't ready to win a national title. USF either. But I think its safe to say there are no gimmies anymore in college football, especially when it comes to conference play. And Canes fans ought to realize a hard-fought 24-14 win against may not have been pretty, but it was still a win. And these days that's all that matters.
OK, enough preaching. Let's share some postgame thoughts and play a little Monday morning quarterback. Here's what impressed me Saturday and what I learned:
- Kyle Wright is tough. Yeah, he threw two picks, including one in the end zone. But Shannon pointed out the first one was the fault of receiver Leonard Hankerson who ran the wrong route. All in all, Wright completed passes to a season-high eight receivers. He finished 19 of 23 for 230 yards and came back in the fourth quarter after busting his mouth with his own helmet. The reason it took so long for him to get back? The first round of stitching with trainers didn't go right. Wright told me he was listening to what was happening through the crowd and through updates security guards.
It was good he came back, too. Kirby Freeman did OK, but he didn't looked very comfortable and nearly cost Miami what turned out to be the winning score when he heaved an incomplete pass into the end zone that luckily drew a pass interference penalty on Duke. On the next series, Miami didn't move the ball. Shannon said he liked Freeman's pass into the end zone. But I disagree. It looked ugly and forced and was almost picked. When Wright came back in, his first pass to Dajleon Farr capped Miami's scoring. Derrick Morse told me in the locker room Wright's return motivated the offense. "Just seeing Kyle come back all stitched up and barely able to talk motivated the hell out of us," Morse said. "He's a warrior. He knew how important the game was and he came back."
- Miami's nine sacks were impressive. It didn't seem like it, but when I actually read the final total I was shocked. Eric Moncur had the most important one -- the one on Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis on fourth and 5 at the Miami 30 late in the fourth. Without Miami's pass rush Saturday, the Canes might not have come out victorious. The Canes actually rank fourth over all in the country now with 20 sacks, behind No. 1 Indiana (who knew about the Hoosiers), Michigan State and Georgia Tech.
- Here's a shout out to my buddy Kayne Farquharson for enjoying his first career start by leading the Canes with six catches Saturday and scoring a touchdown with a hell of a catch in the back of the end zone. Kayne told me from the first day I met him he was a throwback Cane and wanted to have lots of fun when he was at Miami. Good to see he restrained himself. That's what will probably keep in the starting lineup this week against North Carolina. Unlike Sam Shields and Ryan Hill who appear to have slight problems taking orders, Farquharson is doing what is asked of him.
- For those of you wondering where Calais Campbell had been before Saturday, he came through with some big plays against Duke that Miami needed. He forced the fumble on Thaddeus Lewis that led to Graig Cooper's winning touchdown run. And Campbell finished with 8 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Shannon called his game average Sunday. Last year, Campbell had only one sack after the first four games. It looks like he's heating up. And how about Vegas Franklin? Five sacks to lead the team. Got to be happy for him.
- As good as the defensive line was, the Canes missed what looked like a boatload of tackles, especially in the backfield for losses. And there was another blown coverage on a pass to the fullback out of the backfield. That's twice in three weeks.
- As for Duke's quarterback, Lewis, the local Hialeah-Miami Lakes standout who got away, I spoke to several players Saturday who told me they would have been more than happy to have Lewis as a teammate. All expressed how good he really is and how they think he could be one of the conference's best QBs by his senior year. I covered Lewis in high school. Although coach Randy Shannon said last Tuesday Miami tried to recruit him, Lewis told me several times when he was at HML the Hurricanes never took him seriously or offered him a scholarship. In fact, he cited worry about the way black quarterbacks didn't play enough at Miami (the whole Derrick Crudup fiasco was going on when he was in high school) and told me several times he thought even if Miami had recruited him harder that he wouldn't have gone there anyway even if he did like Miami growing up.
- Is it me, or is Graig Cooper looking more and more like the go-to back? No knock on Javarris James, but I'd have to say Super Coop has a leg up on JJ right now. He's had longer runs and has provided more explosion than James. And his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield gives UM a dimension James really hasn't been able to provide yet as a Cane.
- I didn't mean to jinx the offensive line. But I can't help but feel kind of responsible for what happened Saturday (I'm just joking of course). As soon as I wrote a story about how they only had two holding penalties through the first four games of the season, they have their worst game of the season and get flagged three times for it. Canes fans, though, should know Duke is a team that is very aggressive. Before the game, Shannon pointed out how the Blue Devils probably blitz more than any team the Canes will face this season. All in all, Wright was sacked just twice. Look for the Canes to get it corrected next week. Morse told me he expected to do a lot of running Sunday after practice. "He seemed kind of pissed off," Morse said when I asked him about line coach Jeff Stoutland. "But we deserve it. The penalties killed us. Even if he doesn't do anything, we got to take it upon ourselves to fix it."
- Kicked Francesco Zampogna booted a career-long 47-yarder but missed a 42-yarder right before the half. But his miss came on the open end of the stadium. Zampogna is 9 of 13 for the season. I want to ask him Tuesday if the misses might be because of the wind or the Canes line up. Both of his last two misses have come on the open end of the stadium from the left hash-mark.
- Here's a cool stat. The Canes have held all four opponents at home scoreless in the opening half. They've outscored visitors 64-0 in the first half. Now, they need to work on that fourth quarter.
- As for the injury front, the Canes got several players back. Linebacker Romeo Davis came back and played a few snaps. Shannon said Sunday Davis needs to get in better football shape. Cornerback Glenn Sharpe and his troublesome hamstring weren't trouble Saturday. He had a fumble recovery and played 35 snaps. And defensive tackle Josh Holmes played some and Shannon said he was productive.
- On the recruiting front, several local players were in attendance Saturday. I saw the usual Northwestern crew of linebacker Sean Spence and defensive tackle Marcus Forston, Booker T. Washington cornerback Brandon Harris and receiver Davon Johnson and Chaminade linebacker Jordan Futch, who was removed from his high school game the night before. Futch told me the incident was blown out of proportion and that he hasn't been kicked off the team. "I haven't talked to my coach yet, I will Monday, but I haven't been kicked off the team. It was just a bad situation. I got frustrated we were losing. My dad got mad and came down and said some things. But it's all good. I'll be back playing soon."
OK, I'm done. Now, its your turn. Fire back at me. Remember, Tuesday I'll be here live from 8 to 9 p.m. to field questions. Have some good ones for me.