Here's a quick preview of what could be in store next Wednesday, National Signing Day.
> NOTE: I wore the old Cubs jersey in honor of the late great Ernie Banks.
Good news regarding QB Kyle Wright's injured ankle could be on the horizon. Coach Randy Shannon said that Wright was able to complete three-fourths of Wednesday's practice work and could have a chance to play this Saturday if his health continues to improve. Wright said he is still experiencing pain at times on his ankle and on his knee, but he will try his best to be ready for N.C. State.
- Freshman DB Doug Wiggins has not been with the team for almost a week, Coach Shannon said Wednesday. Wiggins, who has been rumored to be interested in transferring, has been dealing with personal issues according to Shannon. I'm still trying to reach Doug's high school coach, and hope to have more info later this evening. Shannon said Wiggins is still on the team at Miami.
- I spoke with Freshman LB Allen Bailey about his role on the team this season. Bailey, who was recruited as a linebacker, said he wants to continue to play at the linebacker spot, and is not yet ready or willing to move to the defensive line.
- I'll have audio interviews with Shannon, Wright, Bailey, Defensive Line Coach Clint Hurt, and Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke up on our site later this evening.
One of the most frustrating things for a reporter to do is cut his or her story or sound bite or video clip for time and space. It is an unfortunate part of the business. But here on the internet, whe space is unlimited for the most part (video can take up a lot of space), we can do so much more. As one of the few sports writers in the country who also does multimedia audio recordings, I feel I have the advantage of bringing you closer than most other journalists do -- right to the scene of the interview.
Every time I go out to UM or other assignments, I collect audio clips from my interviews and post them online. And for the past year, I've shared all of what I've gathered during my interviews when my audio recorder was on (the off the record stuff has to stay off the record). Unfortunately, I think most of you haven't been aware of the extra work I've been doing. Why? There's only a tiny little logo on our Hurricanes home page that says "AUDIO." I know a lot of you have missed it. My wife has. She had no clue it existed. Neither did my mother. So, in order to direct you to what I've been doing for over a year now, I'll provide you with the link here. But, please bookmark it and check it out if you are in to listening to interviews yourself. I know it can be time consuming. But it may answer some of your questions. After all, that's the goal here.
OK. Among the highlights from this Tuesday's interviews, which includes Randy Shannon's Tuesday weekly press conference (I post it every week)...
- Left tackle Jason Fox talks about how Chris Rutledge has become a key contributor to UM's offensive line as well as how some of the young guys are doing. He also talks on another audio take about how the Canes have gained confidence now that they control their destiny again in the ACC.
- Quarterback Kyle Wright talks about the way his injured ankle and knee are being treated, how his practice went Tuesday and how it compared to his normal practices.
- Freshman Damien Berry talks about his frustrations sitting on the bench, what he's learned in his first season and how other freshman -- including defensive back Doug Wiggins (who was not at practice Tuesday) -- has dealt with that frustration of having to sit on the bench.
- Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, who was once believed to be lost for the season, talks about his knee injury and when he plans to return (likely the Virginia game).
- Receiver Lance Leggett talks about his return from his foot injury that kept him out of the FSU game and what he would like to accomplish in his final four regular season games as a Hurricane.
- Guard Derrick Morse talks about the differences at quarterback when Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman are under center, defensive tackle Teraz McCray and how the bye week came in handy for the Canes.
- Safety Lovon Ponder talks about the way there's a different feeling at UM than there was last year, how renewed hope has energized the team and his thoughts on fellow safety Randy Phillips and quarterback Kirby Freeman.
- Safety Randy Phillips talks about the matchup with N.C. State and how the Hurricanes need to start experiencing "some joy" and get to a big bowl game this year.
Other football interviews include: Safety Kenny Phillips, cornerback Glenn Sharpe and linebacker Colin McCarthy. I've also got a lot of interviews from the UM men's and women's basketball media day last week. Stuff I haven't even been able to blog about yet. It's all there though for you to listen to.
Coach Randy Shannon just walked out of the room after meeting with the media for 15 minutes. Here are the biggest tid-bits I gathered from his short press conference.
- Shannon didn't sound very optimistic about having Kyle Wright under center Saturday against N.C. State despite his return from his ankle injury. Shannon said Wright was back out "practicing a little" on Sunday when the team regrouped after three days off. He said Wright "moved around" and will do some indoor drill work this week. Shannon said Wright "needed to complete a practice" if he was going to play Saturday. My sources told me last week Wright would be out this week and would not return until the Virginia game. I don't expect him to play this week. Look for Kirby Freeman to be the starter.
- Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon will be back out at practice this week as will receiver Lance Leggett, who practiced some last week. Both missed the FSU game. Dixon's return is a pleasant surprise considering he was expected to be out a long time. I've been told by sources Dixon won't be back on the field until Miami goes back out on the road. But maybe this is a sign he'll be back even earlier.
- Shannon was asked about the fact the Canes now control their own ACC championship destiny following the losses by Virginia and Virginia Tech last week. His response: "We don't even worry about it. All we're worried about is N.C. State. WE got to take care of them first."
- Shannon said his team will not take the Wolfpack (3-5) lightly. He said he asked his team Sunday why they had two losses. Their response according to Shannon: "We took them [Ga. Tech and North Carolina] too lightly."
- Shannon said the improved play by punter Matt Bosher is a direct result of how he is "dropping the ball" on punts. Shannon said Miami coaches have worked with Bosher to correct it. Bosher of course had his best game against FSU averaging 45.6 yards a punt.
- I spoke to offensive tackle Jason Fox who says he and teammates were exchanging text messages and celebrating this weekend after Virginia and Virginia Tech lost. The results opened the door for the Canes if they win out to reach the ACC title game.
- Safety Lovon Ponder told me the extended time off -- along with the losses by Virginia and Virginia Tech -- has really brought life back to the team. "You could tell just by the way guys were running yesterday," Ponder said. "It was like the summer time. New blood, new life."
I'll be back later with more from football practice. Don't forget about our live Q&A here from 8 to 9 p.m. See ya.
Hurricanes fans can rejoice. The final game played by the University of Miami at the Orange Bowl Nov. 10 against Virginia will be a 7:15 p.m. kickoff carried on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.
I know Canes fans have to be thrilled. There is nothing like a night game at the OB. It's definitely the best way to go out in my mind.
What are your thoughts?
Our Barry Jackson is reporting that the two top Miami Dr. Krop High prospects, linebacker Etienne Sabino and cornerback Travis Howard, have decided to cross the University of Miami off their list.
Howard, considered one of the top defensive backs in the state, said he orally committed this afternoon to Ohio State. "The atmosphere, the fan support, everything at Ohio State was awesome," he said. "I considered Miami very hard. But I did not want to be in Florida. I wanted to accomplish new things and meet new people."
Sabino informed UM that he is no longer considering the Hurricanes according to his mentor, Brett Goetz. Sabino, rated the 17th best player in the country by ESPN.com, has now narrowed his choices to Ohio State and USC.
Back out here at Greentree Practice field where the Canes were having some fun today with what pretty much amounted to Oklahoma drills -- where a running back takes a pitch and tries to run downfield behind a few lineman and against a few defensive players.
There was definitely a lot of hard-hitting. With most of his assistants gone and out recruiting around the state, Randy Shannon, Patrick Nix and Tim Walton were the only coaches -- aside from grad assistants -- running things today. We got to see the first 25 minutes of practice. Shannon had a classic line today during the Oklahoma drills when he ripped into Derron Thomas with "You run that [bleeping] guy over god damn. Run that [bleeping bleep] over."
* Freshman Shawnbrey McNeal had a huge run, bowling over two UM defensive players that drew some big "Oooohs!" from his teammates.
* Safety Tervaris Johnson, who hasn't been on the field much, had a big hit on Derron Thomas on another carry.
The guys definitely looked like they were having fun. Unfortunately, we couldn't stick around to watch it all.
As for injury news, Kyle Wright was not out there again. I spoke to several people who told me Wright will miss the N.C. State game. Shannon said Tuesday he expects Wright will be back for Sunday's practice after his cast is removed. My sources tell me UM is realistically hoping Kyle will be back for the Virginia game. I guess we'll see what happens.
Just got back in from the end of football practice and have some news to share. As Susan Miller Degnan reported her in story, quarterback Kyle Wright did not practice today. Kirby Freeman took most of the snaps under center.
Freeman told Susan in a prepractice interview that Wright was wearing a cast. Not good news for Canes fans considering Freeman is the only scholarship quarterback avaialable if Wright is seriously injured. According to Susan who spoke to Freeman, the third string quarterback is now Jake Byrne, a walk-on from Gulliver Prep who played safety in high school.
** QB UPDATE...
When coach Randy Shannon was asked about the QB situation, he said: “Kyle I don’t know when he’ll come back,” Shannon said before pausing. “He’ll be back next week. It’s an ankle. So, that’s about it. Don’t make no more about it.” When asked if Wright would play against North Carolina State, Shannon simply said: “He’ll be back next week.”
When asked if Wright would be the starting quarterback against N.C. State, Shannon said: "If Kyle's fine, he'll play. Right now it's just an ankle sprain, it's just isolated, secured. He should be ready by Sunday. He'll have what, four, five days off. He should be ready."
Byrne currently signals the offensive plays to the quarterback. When asked if Byrne might actually get into a game, Shannon said: "I'd have to think about it."
Freeman, who said his ribs are still sore, did practice Tuesday. He said it hurts him "a little" when he lifts his right arm. He did, however, say, he was able to make some crisp passes including the same one he said he completed to Darnell Jenkins before his game-winning touchdown pass to Dedrick Epps Saturday against FSU.
Some good news: Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon no longer has a huge cast on his injured left knee and was off to the side practicing on his own early Tuesday. I asked big Dix, who was wearing a small black brace, if he might be back in two weeks. His response: "I hope so." He was in much better spirits obviously. Shannon said Dixon is not ready to return yet. Defensive line coach Clint Hurtt told me it would be "a couple weeks," before Dixon is back.
As for other injured players...
* Eric Moncur was practicing on the side with the injured players. Moncur suffered a concussion in the third quarter of Saturday's win over FSU.
* Receiver Lance Leggett, who didn't fly to FSU was back out at practice. Shannon said Leggett is healthy enough to play but would have to compete for playing time.
The Canes will practice today and Wednesday before having the rest of the week off. Coaches are expected to travel around the state this weekend and visit potential recruits. Two guys Miami could be taking a serious look at: JUCO linebacker Kion Wilson and Jacksonville Trinity Christian running back Jamie Harper.
MORE RECRUITING NEWS
* According to Rivals.com, local Hialeah defensive end Corey Liuget committed to Illinois this weekend. He was a Canes target.
* Ely cornerback Patrick Johnson disspelled the rumors he's no longer committed to UM after an LSU recruiting website said he had opened things back up. "I'm telling some people what they want to hear – it's just they keep ragging me about it and they keep asking me the same old questions," Johnson told Canesport's Matt Shodell. "I'm starting not to like (the recruiting process)."
* As for Columbus High offensive tackle Mike Goodman, I spoke to him last Thursday and he told me he expects to pick a college soon. I just don't expect him to pick The U even though he said every school has a chance. Goodman has family in the Boston area and likes Boston College a lot.
I'll have more after practice.
* REMINDER: Our live Q&A tonight will be over at Canespace.com from 8 to 9 p.m. Please start leaving some questions here below.
Kirby Freeman's ribs are sure to still be sore this morning. Kyle Wright's ankle probably looks like a balloon. And Eric Moncur might not remember much following his third quarter concussion. But be assured the Hurricanes are all collectively feeling -- and U too -- a lot better today after UM's little miracle last night.
Because that's what it was, honestly, a miraculous finish. I know I wasn't the only person on the field last night who thought Miami's chances died about 40-inches short of the goalline with 5:39 to play. I know I wasn't the only one who didn't think Freeman (1 of 8 for 7 yards and 2 INTs before the final drive) could move Miami 83-yards downfield for a game-winning touchdown. I know I wasn't the only person whose jaw-dropped a little when Colin McCarthy scooped up that fumble and scored and sent UM's sideline and about 10,000 Canes fans at Doak Campbell into a tizzy.
But that's where these Canes had us after seven games -- believing they just couldn't do what they did Saturday night. Then, in what was once-typical UM fashion, they pulled a fast one on the 'Noles AND us. The funny thing is there honestly wasn't much surprise in UM's locker room.
"I knew Kirby could do it," Derrick Morse told me. "We just needed the ball one more time."
Really? We didn't know you could do it.
"We just kept believing," a happy Calais Campbell told me. "Those games we lost, those close calls, we knew we just needed a break. We never stop fighting. We don't quit."
Unfortunately, Calais, many of your fans had quit on you. Before Kirby turned things around and found Dedrick Epps in the corner of the end zone, most Canes fans had lost hope. The bashing on this blog and on many other UM-related message boards had commenced. Canes fans had traded in their green and orange pride for more vile and fury. Even the ones in the stands in Tallahassee were being critical, sounding a lot like the guy in the OB who chastised coach Randy Shannon with the "Why don't your put the names back on the jerseys so we can see who stinks!" following last week's loss to Georgia Tech.
But then, when the comeback was realized, everyone was a Cane again. When UM ran off the field toward its locker room, even Freeman was getting some love. The players no one wanted anything to do with we're suddenly beloved heroes again. The hypocrisy was in full swing. I was happy for UM's players. It had been a while since any of them felt good. It had been a while since any of them had been cheered and not jeered. But I was disappointed with the Cane hypocrites.
I'm not going to tell you how to behave as a fan. It's not my job. Even Randy Shannon said last week fans we're entitled to rip his team when they lose. But I feel obligated to remind U that this team hasn't quit on you. 5-3 isn't the season U wanted. 5-3 isn't the season the guys wearing the U wanted. But it's what their lack of talent has allowed them to achieve. Instead of hating on what Randy Shannon and his players are not achieving, how about praising them for what they have? How about not quitting on them? How about sticking around for the climb back to prominence instead of just being there when they get back on top?
Look at yourself at the mirror today Canes fans and ask yourself if you are a REAL FAN. Then, ask yourself if this team has quit on you. I'll tell you -- they haven't. Should you?
* I wrote this earlier this morning in the Tallahassee airport. Now that I've gotten back home and read some of your comments, I realized some of what I wanted to say might have been misinterpreted. For starters, I'm not criticizing all Canes fans. There are the die-hards who show up to the OB or watch every week on TV. Everyone always has a right to complain and I'm not knocking you for wanting more for your team. But I guess what has really bugged me is the fashion in which some of you have done it. Some of the comments have been crude, unwarranted and just flat out mean. These are young guys who are trying their best. I could understand if the players had totally given up on you. If they were deliberately losing. But being up close to these guys on a weekly basis, I can tell you I don't get that sense at all. If they were quitters, they wouldn't have battled back against North Carolina. Guys like Kenny Phillips wouldn't spend 10 to 15 minutes after the Georgia Tech loss dispondent. All I'm saying is have a little more respect for your team.
I'm at Doak Campbell Stadium. Let's watch the game together and share our thoughts.
With 8:43 left, the Hurricanes trailed 29-24. FSU has the ball and is trying to run out the clock. The Hurricanes have four turnovers, three in the second half, and need some one to do something -- NOW!
*I'll be heading down to the field at the 6-minute mark. Feel free to pour in your thoughts after this one is over.
DRIVE BY DRIVE SUMMARY
FSU's 10th Drive (1st and 10 at the UM 31)
- On first down, Calais Campbell sacks Xavier Lee back at the 41. FSU is also flagged for holding on the play. UM declines the penalty. On 2nd and 20, Lee takes a direct snap and run forward for about 7 yards. On 3rd and 12, Lee pitches the ball and is nearly picked off by Campbell. Smith runs for 6 yards bringing up a 4th and 6 at the UM 27.
- Gary Cismesia connects on his fifth field goal of the game, a 44-yarder. Drive: 4 plays, 4 yards, 1:08. FSU 29, UM 24.
UM's 11th Drive (1st and 10 at the UM 35, 14:04)
- Freeman scrambles right and throws a bad pass to Graig Cooper, incomplete. UM is flagged for an ineligible receiver downfield. On 1st and 15 from the 30, Cooper runs for 2 yards. On second down, Cooper gets tackled for no gain. On third and long, Kirby Freeman scrambles for four yards. Miami will punt. Matt Bosher gets a good, 48-yard punt off that gets down at the FSU 16 with 11:57 left.
FSU's 11th Drive (1st and 10 at the FSU 16, 11:57)
- FSU gets nine yards on first down from Antone Smith and a 7-yard run and first down from their fullback on the next. On first and 10 at the FSU 32, Lee throws an incomplete pass downfield. On seocnd down, Smith gets tackled by Sharpton for a 1-yard loss. On 3rd and 11, Lee throws the ball to Preston and it is dropped. Likely would have been a first down. Miami will get the ball back with 10:03 left to play.
UM's 12th Drive (1st and 10 at the UM 16, 9:49 left)
- Ryan Hill gets flagged for a block in the back, nullifying a 7-yard return by Graig Cooper.
- On first down, Javarris James runs up the middle for 6 yards. On second down, James gets one yard on a run to the right. On third and four, Freeman throws the ball behind Sam Shields and incomplete. FSU will take over at its own 30 following a 48-yard punt by Bosher.
FSU's 12th Drive (1st and 10 at the FSU 30 with 8:43 left)
- On first down, Lee gets hit at the line of scrimmage and his pass is hauled in at midfield by Greg Carr. It was ball that could very much could have been intercepted.
- On the next play, Randy Phillips makes his second interception of the game with 7:16 left and returns it to the FSU 11.
UM's 13th Drive (1st and 10 at the FSU 11, 7:16 left)
- On first down, Javarris James runs for 6 yards. On second down, James runs up the middle for 2 yards about to the 2 yard line. It brings up a third and 1 at the FSU 2. James bulls his way ahead for what looks like a first down. After the measurement, UM is short by inches.
- On fourth and 1 from the 2, Freeman sneaks forward and the Canes fall short by less than 6 inches.
FSU's 7th Drive (1st and 10 at the FSU 20, 15:00)
- On first down, Antone Smith takes a pitch and runs wild for a 36-yard gain to the UM 44.
- On the next play, Lee hits De'Cody Fagg for a 29-yard gain to the UM 15.
- On the next play, Preston Parker takes an end-around and gets stripped by Daryl Sharpton. But the play is under review. The play, which resulted in a Carlos Armour 60-yard fumble return, is overturned. FSU retains possession at the UM 17.
- On 2nd and 12, Lee runs out of bounds for a 2-yard gain. On third down, Lee's pass to De'Cody Fagg is thrown out of bounds. FSU will attempt another field goal. It's good. FSU 23, UM 17.
UM's 8th Drive (1st and 10 at UM 39)
- On first down, Javarris James runs for 3 yards. On second down, James runs hard up the middle for 9 yards and a first down.
- On first down at the FSU 48, James runs right for a 9-yard gain. James picks up another first down with a five-yard run. On the next play, Shawnbrey McNeal fumbles the handoff and FSU's Letroy Guion recovers at the FSU 34.
FSU's 8th Drive (1st and 10 at the FSU 34)
- On first down, Smith runs for 1-yard. On second down, Smith runs for 8. On third and inches, Seddrick Holloway bulldozes his way for a 10-yard run, knocking over Canes defenders on his way up the middle.
- On first down at the UM 47, Xavier Lee runs the playaction but overthrows Greg Carr incomplete. On second down, Colin McCarthy is helped off the field. Looks like his right knee again. On third down, Lee tries to scramble, but is brought down for no gain by Teraz McCray. FSU gets a 37-yard punt.
UM's 9th Drive (1st and 10 at the UM 13, 9:32 left)
- On first down, Graig Cooper explodes on a 42-yard run to the left, reaching the FSU 44. Guard Orlando Franklin goes out with an apparent left shoulder injury.
- Two plays later and on third and 5, Kayne Farquharson comes through with a clutch first down catch at the FSU 30.
- Miami eventually gets itself into a fouth down situation. The Canes line up for a field goal, but instead of a kick, kicker Francesco Zampogna takes an over the shoulder flip from UM's holder and throws a pass to a wide open Dajleon Farr that results into a 26-yard touchdown catch. More shock and awe for the Canes. UM 24, FSU 23.
FSU's 9th Drive (1st and 10 at the UM 39)
- Michael Ray Garvin gives FSU tremendous field position with a 59-yard kickoff return.
- After a holding penalty moves the ball back a few yards, Antone Smith runs left for a 16 yards to the UM 27.
- Another holding penalty on FSU moves the ball back again to the UM 37 and brings up a 1st and 20. FSU decides to run some trickery of its own with a wide receiver Greg Carr. Chavez Grant gets a hand in late to help knock away a potential touchdown pass. On the next play, Grant makes a nice play to tackle in the open field bringing up a 3rd and 17. On the next play, Lee scrambles for a 7-yard gain. Gary Cismesia comes on and connects on a 45-yard field goal. The drive: 7 plays, 12 yards, 3:21. FSU 26, UM 24.
UM's 10th Drive (1st and 10 at the UM 26)
- After two runs by Javarris James net one yard, Miami gets called for delay of game bringing up 3rd and 14. Kirby Freeman falls just short of the first down, rushing for 13 yards. Miami will punt. But on fourth down, FSU gets flagged for offsides. The Canes hustled up the line and try to snap and FSU's Geno Hayes comes and kicks the ball, drawing the flag. Smart, smart play.
- Miami gets a first down and a false start almost right away, making it 1st and 15. On the very next play, Kirby thinks he has a free play and floats the ball up in the air and it gets picked off by Anthony Houllis and returnd to the UM 31.
My first half thoughts...
- UM couldn't have asked for a better first quarter, grabbing an early 14-10 lead and taking advantage of an FSU mistake and scoring on it. But the Canes gave up 136 yards on defense in the first quarter and couldn't stop FSU's short range passing game.
- Xavier Lee looks too comfortable for UM's taste. FSU's quarterback has thrown an interception, fumbled and had an exchange problem with Antone Smith which led to a fumble, but all in all, I'm pretty sure Canes fans would take Lee's ability to work the short and medium passing game over what the Canes currently have.
- Miami has had a few big plays in the first half. But the big plays won't happen all the time. UM needs to start making the small ones.
- The Hurricanes have 8 yards rushing at the half. That's not going to beat FSU.
- Have to give UM's defense credit. They've produced three turnovers in the first half. They might need to do the same to keep the Canes in it in the second half.
- The Canes have lost two players to injuries: OL Jason Fox left in the first quarter and quarterback Kyle Wright. Chris Rutledge was dinged up on the Kirby Freeman interception return. Cornerback Glenn Sharpe and receiver Lance Leggett did not make the trip to Tallahassee.
FIRST HALF - FIRST QUARTER
* PREGAME: FSU won the coin toss and deferred to the second half.
UM's 1st Drive (1st and 10 at UM 20, 15:00 left)
- Kyle Wright opens the game with a swing pass out to Javarris James for a 5-yard gain. On second down, James runs up the middle for 4 yards. On third down, the Canes look like they blow the assignment and Wright nearly gets picked off. It was supposted to be a handoff. Instead, Miami punts the ball 46 yards and Preston Parker gains one yard.
FSU's 1st Drive (1st and 10 at the FSU 26, 14:02 left)
- On first down, Antone Smith gets dropped by Colin McCarthy for no gain. On second down, Xavier Lee runs up the middle for 1 yard. On third and 9, Preston Parker takes a short pass up field for 22 yard gain and a first down.
- After an incomplete pass and four-yard run by Antone Smith, Lee completes another short pass, this time to his tight end Caz Piurowski for a 17-yard gain and another first down.
- UM's defense is not covering up well.
- After another short run on first down, Preston Park picks up 14 yards on another short pass turned up field for a big first down. FSU is at the UM 19.
- On first down, Parker gets the reverse and picks up 13 yards to the UM 6. This looks like North Carolina all over again.
- After a first and goal run goes nowhere, Greg Carr catches a ball in the back of the end zone. But his foot lands out of bounds. On third and goal, Xavier Lee looks for tailback Jamaal Edwards, but over throws him. FSU is going to kick a field goal.
- With 8:44 left, Gary Cismesia connects on a 23-yard field goal to put FSU up 3-0. The drive: 13 plays, 69 yards, 5:18. FSU 3, UM 0.
UM's 2nd Drive (1st and 10 UM 33, 8:44 left)
- On first down, Kyle Wright holds onto the ball too long and Paul Griffin sacks him back at the UM 25. And the War Chant begins. On second and long, Javarris James runs up the middle about a 4-yard gain. FSU cornerback Michael Ray Garvin is helped off the field. On 3rd and 14, Kyle Wright gets some time and finds Darnell Jenkins for a 64-yard gain down to the FSU 7. Wow. Where did that come from?
- On first and goal, Javarris James battles his way up the middle for a 5-yard gain to the FSU 2. On second down, Javarris James gets hit at the line by Derek Nicholson for no gain. On third and goal, FSU juumps off sides, moving the ball to the 1. On third and goal, Kyle Wright tries the sneak and gets stopped short.
- On fourth and goal from the FSU 1, Kyle Wright breaks the plain of the goal line according to officials for a touchdown. But the play is getting reviewed. It's ruled a touchdown. Daren Daly kicks the extra point to make it 7-3 UM with 5:08 left in the first quarter.
FSU's 2nd Drive (1st and 10 at FSU 20, 5:08)
- On first down, Antone Smith fumbles in the FSU backfield and Miami recovers at the FSU 17 by Tavares Gooden.
UM's 3rd Drive (1st and 10 at the FSU 17)
- On first down, Wright attempts to connect with Graig Cooper in the end zone, but the pass falls incomplete. FSU gets flagged for defensive pass interference. On the next play, Cooper follows his blockers to the left for a touchdown with 4:48 left in the first quarter. UM 14, FSU 3.
FSU's 3rd Drive (1st and 10 at the FSU 30, 4:43 left)
- On first down, UM's run defense smacks Antone Smith down for a 1-yard loss. Canes are feeling it! On second down, Preston Parker catches a quick slant and picks up 14 yards before Kenny Phillips brings him down. Parker is injured on the play.
- INJURY UPDATE: FSU cornerback Michael Ray Garvin has a mild concussion and may return later in the game.
- On first down at the FSU 44, Antone Smith picks up a yard. On second down, Lee looks like he's going to take off. But he stops and finds Parker open in the middle of the field for a 21-yard gain to the UM 34.
- On first down, Smith runs for 2 yards. On second down, Lee finds Greg Carr open for a 13-yard gain. Carr got licked by Teraz McCray on the pass. FSU is making quick short passes to make sure Miami's defense doesn't have time to get to him.
- Following a couple of runs by Antone Smith that gives FSU a first and goal at the UM 8, Wallace runs for 2 yards up the middle. On second down, Xavier Lee runs the bootleg and scores on a 6-yard run to make it 14-9 with :05 left. Cismesia makes the extra point to make it 14-10. Drive: 10 plays, 70 yards, 4:38. UM 14, FSU 10.
UM's 4th Drive (1st and 10 at UM 12, 15:00)
- Randy Phillips gets flagged for an illegal block, nullifyingf a nice return by Ryan Hill and moving the ball back to the UM 12.
- On first down, Wright tosses a screen pass to Graig Cooper that picks up 12 yards and a first down.
- On first down at the UM 24, Wright escapes the pocket and finds Cooper for a 6-yard gain. On second down, Cooper picks up three yards on a sweep. UM will have a third and one from its own 33 when play resumes with 14:03 left. On third down, Darnell Jenkins catches a short 5-yard pass for a first down to keep the drive alive.
- On first and 10 at the UM 38, Cooper gets hit in the backfield by Alex Boston for a 5-yard loss. On the next play, Kyle Wright gets everyone in South Florida to hate him again. Wright gets picked off by linebacker Toddrick Verdell and returned for a 45-yard touchdown return with 13:07 left in the second quarter. Wright was throwing the ball into triple coverage. FSU 17, UM 14.
- Wright has 26 career INTs in 27 career starts.
UM's 5th Drive (1st and 10 at the UM 22, 13:01 left)
- On first down, Javarris James runs for 2 yards. On second down, Javarris James runs for 8 yards and a first down.
- On the next play, UM tries to get fancy with a reverse to Darnell Jenkins. He slips down in the backfield for a loss and UM's Jerrell Mabry gets flagged for a block in the back. FSU declines it.
- On second down and 14, Wright tries a QB keeper up the middle and loses a yard. On third and long, UM runs the screen pass to Javarris James, but Miami's blockers miss Varnell on the block and hits James for a loss. Matt Bosher gets off a 43-yard punt. FSU will take over at its 34 with 9:52 left in the half.
FSU's 4th Drive (1st and 10 at the FSU 34)
- On first down Antone Smith gets hit for a 1-yard loss. On second down, Lee overthrows Preston Parker on a slant pattern. On third down, Parker catches another short pass for a 12-yard gain and first down. FSU is exposing Miami's lack of pass defenders.
- On second down, Xavier Lee scrambles forward for three yards, bringing up at 3rd and 7. On the next play, Xavier Lee bobbles the snap and Tavares Gooden recovered the fumble at the FSU 41.
UM's 6th Drive (1st and 10 at the FSU 41)
- After back-to-back Kyle Wright incompletions Wright gets sacked at the FSU 47. Wright is hurt on the play with 6:38 left. LaTroy Guion gets flagged for a personal foul giving UM a first down.
- Kirby Freeman comes in.
- After two short runs, UM is faced with a 3rd and 6 at the FSU 28, Freeman falls forward for a 2-yard gain. UM is setting up for a field goal. Daren Daly connects on a 44-yard field goal with 4:43 left in the second quarter. The Drive: 7 plays, 14 yards, 2:14. UM 17, FSU 17.
FSU's 5th Drive (1st and 10 at the FSU 30)
- On first down, Xavier Lee hits his tight end for a 1-yard gain. Colin McCarthy had a nice tackle on the play. On the next play, Antone Smith runs for an 11-yard gain and a first down.
- On first down, Lee tries to go deep, but his receiver turns in instead of out. On second down, Greg Carr catches a 9-yard pass, setting up a third and one at the UM 49. On the next play, fullback Seddrick Holloway runs up the middle for a first down.
- On first down at the UM 45, FSU loses two yards on the run. UM's run defense is doing a much better job wrapping up this week. On second down, Lee throws an incomplete pass to Antone Smith. On 3rd and 12, Randy Phillips makes a nice one-handed interception and returns it to the FSU 39. The pass was intended for Preston Parker, who partially deflected it.
- Have to give UM's defense credit. They've produced three turnovers in the first half. They might need to do the same to keep the Canes in it in the second half.
UM's 7th Drive (1st and 10 at the FSU 39, 1:39 left)
- Kirby Freeman's designed screen to Graig Cooper is short and falls incomplete. On second down, Freeman overthrows Cooper. FSU calls time out.
- On third and 10, UM gets flagged for an illegal substitution, moving ball back to the FSU 44. On 3rd and 15, Freeman telegrafs a pass that is intercepted by Patrick Robinson -- formerly of Gulliver Prep and who wanted to go to the U -- and he returns it ot the UM 33 with 1:21 left.
FSU's 6th Drive (1st and 10 at the UM 33, 1:21 left)
- After an incompletion, Greg Carr gets open at the UM 19 for a first down and 14-yard gain. On first down, Kenny Phillips blitzes from the safety spot and forces an incompletion. On second down, Lee goes for the end zone, but throws an incomplete pass. On third down, UM brings the blitz again and there is a flag on the play. UM's Vegas Franklin was offsides.
- On third and five, Lee scrambles for two yards. With :33 left, FSU will attempt a field goal. Cismesia makes it to make it 20-17 with :15 left. FSU 20, UM 17.
What's up Eye on The U crew? I'm up here in Tallahassee three hours-plus before kickoff. It's a beautiful day today. But it was pretty ugly and nasty all week in the state capitol. Lots of rain yesterday should make the field a little slick for today's game, which as usual, I'll be blogging live about and sharing my thoughts with you throughout the game in just a few hours.
Before that, though, I just wanted to share my keys to the game for the Canes. I spent some time breaking down the numbers and talking with our FSU beat writer Jeff Shain about the 'Noles yesterday at Ted Turner's restaurant Montana Grill up here in Tally. Shain likes the 'Noles 9-6 in the game. I predict a Canes' 17-16 victory.
But in order for the Canes to pull off what has become a rare road victory these are my five keys to the game.
- 1. Put pressure on Xavier Lee: FSU's receivers are going to be a tough assignment for the Canes' secondary. The 'Noles have been able to create lots of big plays in its passing game since Lee took over at quarterback -- averaging at least one pass that goes 50 yards or more since he took over. Lee creates that with his legs and by scrambling and by forcing defense to vacate their assignments. Miami needs its front four to take advantage of some switches on FSU's line this week due to injury and create the kind of pressure it did on Duke's Thaddeus Lewis three weeks ago. If Eric Moncur, Calais Campbell and Teraz McCray are busy "eating" (that's what Clint Hurtt calls getting to the quarterback) than Miami can force Lee, making his third start, into turnovers, which leads me to...
- 2. Create turnovers that lead to easy points: In Miami's wins this season, the Canes have forced 11 turnovers that have led to 41 points. In the three losses, UM has produced only three takeaways resulting in 17 points. Scoring has been hard to come by in this series over the years. Considering Miami is on the road, they'll need emotional lifts. Nothing delivers that more than an interception or fumble recovery.
- 3. Control the clock and the ground: There's no doubt UM's defense will carry the burden in this game. But UM's offense will have to do something too -- control the clock and move the chains. In FSU's two losses this season, the common factor was that their opponent controlled time of possession and ran the ball well. FSU's run defense is still one of the best in the country. But the 'Noles are a bit dinged up at defensive tackle, much like UM. The Canes' best weapon on offense is its backfield -- Shawnbrey McNeal, Javarris James and Graig Cooper. If those three can get rolling and help Miami move the football, the Canes will have a chance. But if the 'Noles, who held UM to 2 yards rushing last year, shut down the run game, Miami could get blown out in this one.
- 4. Have a great day on special teams: The Seminoles own the edge in all three major statistical categories -- net punting, punt returns and kickoff returns. They've also blocked two punts this year. Miami can't afford to continue to lose the special teams battle. Matt Bosher needs to punt like he does in practice.
- 5. Avoid dumb penalties: This game is going to be an emotional for both teams -- regardless of the current state of both and their records. Miami can't afford to give FSU a second chance with dumb penalties -- like late hits out of bounds or personal fouls. They've got to stay poised regardless of what the scoreboard says.
So, what do you think are the keys to the game? What's your prediction? How are the Canes going to pull this one out? Can they do it?
On my daily commute to work in heavy Washington, DC traffic, I was listening to my collection of old school hip hop hits, when two songs came on back to back that got me to thinking. The first song was Foxy Brown’s Letter to the Firm (Holy Matrimony).
“I mean damn, me and U forever hand in hand, I’m married to the Firm Boo U got to understand. I’ll die for ‘em, give me the chair man I’ll fry for ‘em, and if I got to take the stand, I’ll lie for ‘em.” – Foxy Brown, Letter to the Firm (Holy Matrimony)
As the smooth sample from Isaac Hayes’ “Ike’s Mood Part 1” kicks in and the chorus above begins, I began thinking, WOW; she’s so committed to her crew. So much so that she would go all out for them no matter what. Now that’s a COMMITMENT. I mean, she couldn’t have put it better, isn’t that what we all want from our commitments, or from those that we say that we LOVE? That UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, where we know that our loved ones are supportive of us at all times, through the good and the bad, the ups and the downs?
Ironically, however, the next song that came on, MC Lyte’s, 10% Dis, has a message that is essentially the absolute opposite.
“Beat biters, dope style takers, I’ll tell ya to ya face you ain’t nothing but a faker.” – MC Lyte, 10% Dis
The two songs couldn’t be more different, but for Hurricane fans, each song describes in part the components of the fickle Hurricane fan base known as the LEGION. I have wanted to address the topic of Miami’s fickle fan base for a while now, as it has been a sore spot with me for quite some time, and I am fortunate that Manny has given me a forum to do so. While I know what I have to say won’t be popular in some circles, I do believe that it is something that needs to be said.
In the dictionary, a fan is described as an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, team, pastime, celebrity, etc; an enthusiast, fanatic. Does that define a Hurricane Fan? In some cases yes, but in most cases NO, because in reality, the majority of our fan-base is fair-weather, they are as MC Lyte said, Beat Biters, Dope Style Takers. I’ve always found it funny how that when the Canes are winning there are so many so called Canes fans. You know them! The ones on the fan sites and message boards that say, “I LOVE THE ‘CANES! I BLEED ORANGE ‘N GREEN!” But when you dig a little deeper, you find out they know diddley squat about the Canes, nor the tradition the program was built upon. It really becomes apparent when things for the Canes aren’t going well, and those fakers so called love affair with UM then turns into, “F the Canes, they SUCK, this person STINKS, or that person STINKS.” To those so called fans I ask, “Where is that unconditional, undying support? That true commitment that Foxy mentions in her song? Where is your commitment to The U?”
If you are only going to be there when things are good, then please, do us all a favor and cancel your Caneship. We don’t need that kind of fickle support amongst the ranks of the LEGION. What we do need are fans, REAL FANS that bleed ORANGE, GREEN, and WHITE. Fans that know and respect Cane tradition, and love UM Football no matter if we are 12-0 and National Champions, or 0-12 at the bottom of Division I-A. Now don’t get it twisted. Being a REAL FAN does not take away from your right to be critical of the team, the players, or the coaches. But when those criticisms turn into personal attacks of the team, its players, and the coaches, then that is when things have gone too far. Things like the heckling that happened to Kyle Wright and his father last year after a loss are despicable and deplorable. No wonder why the rest of the nation feels we have the worse fan base in all of college football. While I can understand the frustrations that mount due to our struggles at QB, lack of playmakers, and losing, I cannot condone those types of actions. Remember, no matter what, Kyle still chose to come to Miami, and he still wears the U on his helmet. Turning our backs on him or any other player, the coaches, or the team for that matter won’t make things better. These guys need us as fans to support them through thick and thin. You can’t appreciate and enjoy good times, without knowing the pain and hardship of bad times. It pains me to hear reporters on ESPN say that Hurricane fans are the worse fans in the nation, or to hear even Manny say, “Miami fans are fickle and not enough of them are real fans. The U in my opinion has about 20,000 real fans, the diehards who surf the message boards and show up every Saturday. The rest all jump on when the team is good. The rest bash them.” I hate sights like the ones we’ll see this weekend of Doak Campbell full to capacity, with rabid Seminole fans, despite the opponent, while at the OB Miami can only get a “near” capacity crowd, if FSU, UF, or other big name school comes to town.
Do I ever think this will change? Unfortunately I don’t. It’s been this way since I can remember, but as a TRUE CANE FAN, I will admit that it makes me sick when the bandwagoners and fakers destroy the reputation of the entire LEGION. Its my hope that one day these so called fans will realize that there won’t be smooth sailing all the time, but that being a part of the LEGION is like Foxy said, “…being Married to the Firm”…For better or for worse.-bg1906 C.C.M.J.T.K.O.
So, I am sitting here in my apartment in Tucson, AZ watching ESPN’s College Gameday, and for the first time that I can remember, nobody is talking about the upcoming Miami-Florida State game. Every year, this game is something that I think both school’s players and fans look forward to because there is usually a lot of hard hitting and bit time plays by both teams on both sides of the ball. This, however, has not been the case for the past several games in which Miami fans have been left wondering, “what happened?” The topic of this week’s blog – What is a “real Hurricane”? – may lead to the answer of the aforementioned question. Where are the big time playmakers that used to come up with the game changing or game saving plays that made this rivalry so exciting to watch? This current team (and the teams of the last several years for that matter) has not had a single one of these playmakers.
I pointed to Randy Shannon being the only true Hurricane on this team, but I’m not sure that he can even count because he is the coach. In order to determine why this team does not have a single true Hurricane (for now), I had to go back and think of all the successful teams in the past 25 years and what made those players “real Hurricanes”. The result of my digging found that the most successful teams had players that seemed to play for one end result: the NFL. They may have displayed leadership qualities, a winning attitude, and teamwork skills, but the bottom line is that those were bi-products associated with teams loaded with talent that played hard to get to the end result. Winning was the best way to get there. And knowing they were going to win every game was the Miami attitude.
The Hurricanes now do not have that “knowing” attitude, and there has not been a single player on this team that has become the go-to guy or big time playmaker. I believe that Randy Shannon will bring in those players, and Miami will return to the powerhouse that it once was, but it will not succeed in doing so until players step up and become “real Hurricanes”. That’s not to say that the team right now does not have the potential. Many of the people who responded to the blog pointed to Javarris James, Graig Cooper, Calais Campbell, Orlando Franklin, Eric Moncur, Kenny Philips, etc. I say to these guys as a fan speaking for the fans: PROVE IT!
Since I have a couple of extra words, I wanted to send a shout out to Kevin Everett and say that our hearts are certainly with him and I hope he continues to make progress with his rehab.
-Dave (aka AZCanesDude)
A little background on me is that I grew up in NJ and fell in love with Hurricanes (literally). When I was about 7 years old, I decided that my dream was to go to the University of Miami and graduate with a degree in meteorology. I've successfully completed that (I think that literally makes me a true analyst of "true hurricanes"), and now I'm a graduate student at the University of Arizona in Atmospheric Science. I was accepted to UM just before we won the National Championship, and so I started at UM the year that we lost to OSU in Tempe. It's been kind of down hill since UM won that National Championship, and I was unfortunate to miss out on Butch Davis.
Not much news to report from Thursday's practice other than a slight surprise at defensive tackle and in UM's secondary, as well as what was expected -- receiver Lance Leggett and defensive tackle Josh Holmes are out for this game.
* Defensive line coach Clint Hurtt said he's starting Vegas Franklin and not Joe Joseph, who made his first start last week, opposite Teraz McCray on Saturday at Florida State. The move will give the Canes two undersized guys together at defensive tackle, but will likely give them more speed in trying to rope in FSU quarterback Xavier Lee. Sounds to me like Hurtt is simply putting his best four guys -- McCray, Franklin, Calais Campbell and Eric Moncur -- out there.
* Glenn Sharpe, who played more than he had in a while last week against Georgia Tech and got beat on a few plays, will be limited in his role this week. Defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff said he noticed the sixth-year senior, who has battled hamstring issues his entire career, was gimpy in practice Wednesday. So that means freshman DeMarcus Van Dyke and juniors Bruce Johnson and Carlos Armour will play much more.
* Also playing more this week: Safety Lovon Ponder, who was hurt in the Oklahoma game and returned in a limited basis last week against Georgia Tech. McGriff told me Willie Cooper will start opposite Kenny Phillips but that Ponder, who began the season as a starter, will "play a lot this week."
* McGriff said this week will be arguably the biggest challenge for Miami's secondary -- especially because of FSU quarterback Xavier Lee's running abilitiies. Said McGriff: "It’s probably going to be the set of receivers we’ve faced as a core all year. They got height, speed and then you add the quarterback play. He can beat you both ways. It’s going to be a challenge for the secondary not because the receivers are so talented but because our guys have got to understand coverage. When that guy gets outside the pocket, he’s very athletic and he’s not always looking to run the ball. He can hurt you if you come out coverage. We have to do a great job staying in coverage until he crosses the line of scrimmage and then look out because its going to be tough to tackle him. He’s a big kid."
* Francesco Zampogna and Matt Bosher will continue to handle the kicking and punting duties this week, even though Randy Shannon didn't seem happy about. "We can't trade them or cut them," Shannon said. "They're all we got."
* On a side note, I asked McGriff how safety Anthony Reddick is doing considering this is another season going down the tubes for him because of injury.
"He has good and bad days. I mean you got to understand the guy has been battling injury. He’s a tremendous football player. He has his good points. Sometimes, he has his low points and wishes he could be out there helping the football team. He has done an outstanding job attending meetings. Being attentive in practice. He asks questions like he’s getting ready for games. His spirits are up for the most part. I think he’s just scratching and clawing to get back on the football field and get healthy.
What do you guys miss about him?
"The thing you really miss is his leadership ability on the field. He still does [lead]. But when he’s not out there its still pretty tough to provide leadership when you’re not out there and in the locker room. We really miss him from that standpoint of being the coach on the field because he really does bring a lot of leadership ability to this football team when he’s healthy and in the mix."
* OK guys, I'll be back tomorrow with our guest bloggers and my keys for the FSU game. Going tonight to watch Coral Gables take on Columbus tonight at Tropical Park. Gables has some nice talented underclassmen.
Speaking of recruits, I was reminded today how badly the Canes want Krop linebacker Etienne Sabino and Hialeah High defensive end Corey Liuget. Both are two of the top five recruits in Dade Miami has yet to get a commitment from. If I had to rank a Top 5, I'd list them like this: 1. Tommy Streeter, WR, Northwestern; 2. Brandon Harris, CB, Booker T. Washington; 3. Etienne Sabino, LB, Krop; 4. Corey Liuget, DE, Hialeah; 5. Ben Jones, OL, Miami Northwestern.
The current Hurricane players who read your responses and take some of those messages to heart. I want thank those of you who participated in what is now our weekly question of the week: Who is a Real Hurricane?
I loved many of your responses. But I had to pick a winner to post a guest blog by Friday I'd select a top three -- AZCanesDude, A Realisst, and BG1906 -- last week's co-winner. If you guys can send me an email before the end of the day we can discuss what your going to write about. I'll post your blogs here on Friday afternoon.
Here are some of my personal favorite lines...
"The current team has less "real Hurricanes" than I have fingers on one hand. In fact, the only one I see is Randy Shannon, and he's not a player. A few could emerge (e.g. Javarris James, Graig Cooper, Orlando Franklin, Demarcus Van Dyke, etc.), but I think they have a long way to go to embody that playmaker role." Posted by: AZCanesDude | October 17, 2007 at 03:52 PM
"In looking back at our successful teams, one common characteristic was that the players seemed to take ownership of the team. They knew the responsibility to win was on them, and accepted the challenge. Those players took UM's success or failure personally... We've got a few too many employees here, and not enough owners. Maybe the reconnection with Dade County (assuming the verbals hold up) will help RS install the pride of ownership that seems to be lacking." Posted by: Mephistopheles | October 17, 2007 at 03:17 PM
"To me, four words define a Real Hurricane: LEADER, PLAYMAKER, COMPETITOR, and WINNER. All the great Canes of the past (Kelly, Irvin, Walsh, Blades, Torretta, Dorsey, Reed, Lewis, to name a few) exemplify these 4 qualities. The Hurricane tradition as we know it was built on those 4 principles. Great Hurricane teams of the past no matter the regime (Schnelly, JJ, Erickson, Davis, and Coker) all had great Leadership (Coaching and Locker room), Playmakers, Fierce Competitors, and they were all Winners! In recent years, we've struggled in all 4 phases and this is why our teams struggle now and why they fall short of the expectations the fans have." Posted by: bg1906 | October 17, 2007 at 01:42 PM
"The Miami program is the one that most closely resembles the characteristics that we Marines have. The brotherhood, selflessness, camaraderie, doing more with less, overcoming obstacles, never quit attitude. I know it when I see it. The U football team does not accept applications only selfless commitments.That is what attracted me as a fan. I am a CANE fan for life!" Posted by: IndianapolisCane | October 17, 2007 at 11:30 AM
The University of Miami has done well for itself this season in recruiting despite the team's current record and struggles. The Hurricanes have netted more than 20 early commitments since the summer, including many of the top local players from the nation's No. 1-ranked high school team at Miami Northwestern.
The goal now for Randy Shannon and his staff? Getting as many of those recruits to enroll early as possible. The Hurricanes will have the maximum alloted 25 scholarships to use on National Signing Day in February. But if the Canes can manage to get a few to sign in December and enroll in classes by January at the school , it will only open up more spots for this team because none of the scholarships would go toward the maximum 25 in February. Those scholarships used in December would be counted against this past season. My understanding is the team has as many as eight open slots they could use for potential recruits in December.
“Huge," said UM recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt when asked how important it was for the Hurricanes to sign more kids in the early period. "We need to get in as many guys in here as quickly as possible. We have a certain number we can bring in at midterm. That’s something we’re working on now. There’s no doubt about it. We can bring in as many as we can. We’re going to have a lot of guys here in January. You can write that up just like that."
The early targets -- the kids who have the grades to get in -- include Northwestern quarterback Jacory Harris, defensive tackle Marcus Forston and linebacker Sean Spence are all players who could potentially enroll early at UM. Same with Ely cornerback Patrick Johnson and another current non-UM commitment, Booker T. Washington cornerback Brandon Harris.
As for Miami's image in the eyes of recruits following the last two losses, several recruits told me Tuesday they actually feel more encouraged to join the program. Hollywood Chaminade High linebacker Jordan Futch, a UM commitment, told me he's spoken to current UM targets who now seem more eager to attend UM because they've seen freshman play this season and the potential to play next year.
“They all feel like they’re going to be the ones to bring us back," Hurtt said when asked about the way recruits are reacting toward him and the program. "It’s almost like they’re creating a union among each other. Guys from Dade, Broward and Palm Beach – all those guys are recruiting each other. They’re saying we got to get things back together and get the rings back on. We got some talented guys now. But we need to be 85 strong."
- For those of you wondering what's going on with Miami's defensive line and linebacker issues, the Canes are basically in trouble right now. They've been mauled by injuries at defensive tackle. Hurtt joked Tuesday about trying to sneak into a uniform. Right now, the only healthy Canes at defensive tackle are Teraz McCray and Joe Joseph. With Antonio Dixon not expected to return until the end of the season or a bowl game, Dwayne Hendricks out for the season and Josh Holmes dinged up, Miami will rely on undersized Vegas Franklin to rotate in at defensive tackle as the No. 3 man. Luqman Abdullah and Steven Wesley could be used in emergency situations. But that's it.
- As for linebacker, Colin McCarthy's return this week should help. McCarthy has done a good job on the strong side. But Miami needs Daryl Sharpton, who is starting at weakside, to be in better positions to make plays. Eric Moncur told me coaches spent a lot of time Tuesday "slowing things down" in practice so guys knew where they had to be in running lanes. The Hurricanes gave up a combined 450 yards and five touchdowns on the ground in their last two games. Before that? A total of 485 and one touchdown in the previous five games combined.
- Some of you have pondered if freshman Allen Bailey could or would be switched to defensive line. Hurtt told me UM's coaches promised Bailey he'd stay at linebacker and the only way he would play defensive line is if Bailey asked for a switch. Of course Bailey, who is 6-4, 270, could eat his way into moving into the line. Shannon hinted Tuesday that Bailey needs to maintain his current weight: "If he goes up to 320, he won't be a linebacker."
- Javarris James' recent struggles in the backfield (he's had 16 carries for 21 yards in the last two games) could possibly be the result of a neck injury he suffered against Duke. UM running backs coach Tommie Robinson said James has been "a warrior" and will continue to practice and will play this week. James did some extra running Tuesday because of his fumble against Georgia Tech. Shannon said he plans to use a three-man rotation -- James, Graig Cooper and Shawnbrey McNeal -- for the remainder of the season.
- Former Canes receiver Lamar Thomas passed by camp Sunday and spoke to the team according to players. He isn't the only alumni who has been calling and trying to contact the Canes. UM safety Kenny Phillips says he's been receiving phone calls from former Canes John Beason, Brandon Meriweather and Ed Reed telling him "they're embarrassed" by the way Miami has played lately. Hurtt said he's received phone calls from Dan Morgan and Damione Lewis who want to know "what the heck is going on."
“Guys are frustrated and that’s because how high the bar was set – especially a lot of them that played with me," Hurtt said. "The guys know what we went through in the mid 90s, late 90s. I’m letting them know we’re going through growing pains. Ain’t nobody accepting. And that’s what former players are getting frustrated with. They don’t want to see anybody expecting it. They’re like what are you guys going to do about it? Are we playing the guys who are willing to go the extra mile that need to do what they need to do to put us back to where we need to be?”
- Speaking of Kenny Phillips, he spent the final moments of the loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday standing in the back of the end zone as the teams met at midfield to shake hands. Afterward, he declined interviews with reporters.. But on Tuesday, I caught up to him after practice. Phillips said Miami's struggles are hurting his soul and that he's physically sick of losing. Check out the complete audio interview in our audio section (I've got a lot of good ones, including a good one with Derrick Morse).
- Shannon said Tuesday running back Charlie Jones and linebackers Romeo Davis and Glenn Cook would all miss the remainder of the season. But when asked if any might return next year, he was non-committal.
- Shannon was asked Tuesday to point out which freshmen aside from Shawnbrey McNeal he thought have played well thus far. His response: "Lee Chambers was coming around then he got dinged up. DeMarcus Van Dyke is coming back around. He had a lull. Damien Berry has been unbelievable on special teams. Orlando Franklin – he’s playing half with Andrew Bain. He’s playing a lot better than a freshman is. Hankerson started the season off well and hit that lull but he's coming back."
- Shannon said punter Matt Bosher has to kick the ball better in games. "In practice its 50 yards, he gets in the game, he gets nervous. He’s not a freshman anymore. He needs to step up and accept that job. If he does a good job this week, we’ll have a great chance to win this game."
In the aftermath of the University of Miami's second consecutive loss, I've been trying to put my finger on what coach Randy Shannon has tried to get his team to understand about what he wants and expects from them.
In a sense, I feel Shannon has been undergoing his own journey of understanding. As Miami's defensive coordinator for six seasons, Randy never really got to understand what was happening on the other side of the locker room. (For those of you who never played the game, offenses and defenses rarely to speak to one another. When one is on the field, the other is in a huddle on the sidelines, game planning the next step. The same applies with practice during the week).
When Shannon took over this job in January, the only part he recognized was his own -- the defense. So, he brought the team together in the spring -- joining the lockers, establishing his unified rules -- and began pushing the offense as hard as he's always managed to push the defense. The problem? Randy's realized not everybody was pushing back and many simply don't know how. I think he finally came to that understanding last week when he went on his now infamous tirade in front of reporters at the end of last Tuesday's practice. A quick recap: Shannon cussed the team out and pointed to guard Derrick Morse and shouted "He's a real Hurricane!"
I think for awhile Shannon believed all he had to do this season was point -- like he did last Tuesday -- and like magic, eventually things would fall into place. The guys who weren't real Hurricanes could somehow become one through following the footsteps of "The Real Hurricanes." The problem is there are not enough "Real Hurricanes" around to this team escape its current state of mediocrity -- not yet anyway (but the troops are on their way). And, the imposters don't have enough ingredients to be "Real Hurricanes."
As UM fans, I can understand your frustration with this program. You have high expectations. You expect perfection. Here's the good news: Shannon and his staff do too. They remember the Old U. The problem is expectations can cause problems. And you've been terribly misled. I hear the gripe all the time -- but I thought our recruiting classes were among the best in the country. What we fail to realize is that the guys making the evaluations -- on those recruiting websites and at The U the last couple of seasons -- weren't very good. As one former Hurricane told me Tuesday, there aren't just enough real Hurricanes in this group.
So what does being a Real Hurricane mean? I define it as a mixture of mental toughness, the undying desire to win at all costs and the athletic ability to carry all of that out. The bonus feature? Real disappointment with losses and feeling unsatisfied with losses (just look at the way Kenny Phillips reacted after the Georgia Tech loss). Miami's coaches have realized there aren't just enough Real Hurricanes around. Now, you have to see it too. This team may not be playing at its best, but there's not much more ceiling to go right now. Go through the roster yourself and you'll see it littered with sophomores and juniors and seniors who have never smelled the field. Why? They aren't good enough.
Miami's new staff is weeding those people out right now and my guess is don't expect to see many of those guys back. Butch Davis made a similar ultimatum when Miami was going through its previous struggles in the late 90s. Guys left and things changed. From all the conversations I had Tuesday, expect to see the same in the coming months from Shannon and his staff.
* BLOG TOPIC: So, how do you participate in our Blog Topic of the Week? I want you to tell me how you as a fan define a Real Hurricane. Who are The Real Hurricanes on this team? Which former Canes do you look to as fan as Real Hurricanes? What makes you a Real Hurricane fan? As usual, our winner will have an opportunity to be a guest blogger Friday. I'll need all responses limited to 500 words or less by 10 p.m. Wednesday. I'll pick a winner and announce here on Thursday morning.
OK folks. I'm going to get started with our weekly Q&A session soon. Feel free to leave your questions below. I'm going to go back and find the ones you left me earlier this afternoon.
I spoke to several people today including Calais Campbell, Eric Moncur, Clint Hurtt, Robert Marve, Derrick Morse, Joe Joseph, Chavez Grant, Kenny Phillips and Kyle Wright and some others. Audio is being posted as we speak on our UM audio link if you want to check out what they said.
See you at 8 p.m.
But when Canes fans finally do get to see the 6-1, 195-pound freshman from Tampa, Marve said they'll see a fully healed and tireless worker who knows the playbook and is ready "to command the troops."
"I'm feeling really good right now, physically," said Marve, who met with the media for the first time since fall practice began and showed reporters the scars he suffered on his left wrist and non-throwing hand from the rollover car accident he was involved in this summer.
"Being able to go out and practice has helped me mentally. I'm just trying to keep my arm strong, throw routes to receivers. So, I throw 10 or 15 deep balls a day. I work on my footwork some days, run through the plays by myself. I feel good about everything."
Marve, who said he still experiences slight pain from nerve damage on his left hand, fully expects to be 100 percent healthy by the spring. By then, he could be in the middle of a tight race for the starting quarterback job with current backup Kirby Freeman and two current Hurricane commitments, Miami Northwestern High's Jacory Harris and Texas native Tyler Cook, who are both trying to enroll at UM by January.
Right now, though, Marve is trying to heal. He's gained 12 of the 14 pounds back he lost after the accident and said he began running Miami's scout team the week before the Texas A&M game on Sept. 20.
Marve said he accidentally re-opened his "open wound'' taking snaps a couple of weeks later and had to have stitches put in and now wears a glove during practice to protect his injured hand. And although some days Marve says he can't grip the ball, Marve said his hand is starting to feel better.
"He throws it very well," UM cornerback Chavez Grant said of Marve. "He drops back and he's looking around and scrambling and everything. He's very accurate -- I believe he's deadly accurate. He has a quick release. Once your watching film, you can see it. I think, he'll be great."
As for the playbook, Marve said he's picking it up little by little. "I've definitely been looking at the basics of the playbook, trying to know a couple basic things first before I start getting into something bigger. I feel good about where I'm at now in the playbook," he said. "There's a lot to it, the audibles, there's a lot of things that go into it. It's going to take time."
As for his relationship with his future competition, Marve said he and Freeman are ‘‘good friends," and that he and Harris, whom he knows well, are also friends. "We all want Miami to succeed," Marve said. "That's the ultimate goal -- to win."
Florida State week is now in session. I've got lots to share from Tuesday's press conference including interviews with quarterback Robert Marve, defensive tackle Joe Joseph, good stuff from Derrick Morse and a long talk with cornerback Chavez Grant.
But it's going to take me some time to piece it together. Check back around 4 p.m. and I'll have a nice notebook chalk full of info here for you.
For now, feed me some questions for tonight's live Q&A at 8 p.m. Plus, anything you might want me to ask a player or coach after practice. Practice usually ends by 5 p.m.
I'm here at the OB for Georgia Tech and UM. Feel free to watch the game with me and feed me your thoughts as the game moves along.
- The Canes needed an answer and got it. Now, they need another one. With 7:34 left, Georgia Tech connected on a 39-yard field goal to take the lead once again. Can the Canes' offense and Kyle Wright respond again like it did on its previous drive? Will the defense hold if it needs to? We'll find out.
* I'm going down to the field at the 7-minute mark. All the media do. I'll update the blog after the game. But feel free to continue to pour your thoughts in as you watch it all unfold as well as after the game. As usual, I'll have my postgame locker room coverage and more.
THE RECAP, DRIVE BY DRIVE (Key plays and notes)
UM's 8th Drive (1st and 10 at the UM 27, 2:26 left)
- On the first play, Darryl Richard sacks Kyle Wright for an 8-yard loss. Not the type of play you want to start your comeback.
- But on the next play, the Canes catch a bit of a break when Tech is flagged for pass interference.
- Freeman comes in again following a Graig Cooper first down run to the UM 48. But his pass is just over the outstretched arm of Sam Shields down field, incomplete.
- AT THE END OF THE THIRD QUARTER, Miami has a third and three at Tech's 45.
- On a key third and three, Wright fakes a handoff and scrambles forward for a big first down. On the next play, Cooper comes through with another nice run, rumbling down for a first down at the Tech 24.
- On third and two, McNeal picks up one yard. UM goes for it on fourth down and gets it with a McNeal run up the middle for 6 yards to the GT 9.
- It all comes down to this series inside the GT 10. On third and goal from the GT 3, Wright puts the ball in the air in the end zone for Shields and he comes down with the catch with 10:37 left. Drive: 14 plays, 73 yards, 6:53. UM 14, GT 14.
GT's 9th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the GT 30, 10:30 left)
- Tech had a chance to move down the field quickly on the first play, but a pass from Taylor Bennett to Greg Smith was just out of reach near midfield.
- On third down, Bennett connects with Demaryius Thomas for a big first down and a 14-yard gain to the Tech 46.
- Tech picks up another first down and moves into Miami territory. Choice does it with his legs again. Tech has a first down at the UM 44.
- Choice burns the Canes again -- a 15-yard outburst. Miami's old reliable -- its run defense -- is not existant today. Choice has 184 yards right now.
- A big 3rd down and 3 at the UM 22... let's see what happens. Bennett throws an incomplete pass. Looked like UM jumped offsides. Canes caught a break.
- Travis Bell ends the drive with a 39-yard field goal to give Georgia Tech a 17-14 lead with 7:34 left. Miami is going to need its offense to come through again. Drive: 10 plays, 48 yards, 3:03. GT 17, UM 14.
GT's 7th drive (1st and 10 at the GT 20, 14:45 left)
- Tashard Choice, limited to 52 yards on 13 carries in the first half, gets the first two plays of the second half and picks up a first down with 10 combined yards.
- On his third carry, he explodes up the middle and rumbles downfield for a 54-yard gain to the UM 16. He's brought down by Bruce Johnson.
- Miami calls timeout with 12:44 left in the quarter. On third and four from the UM 12, quarter Taylor Bennett fakes a handoff, and runs the bootleg for a touchdown with 11:58 left in the quarter. Drive: 7 plays, 80 yards, 3:02. UM 7, GT 7.
UM's 7th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the UM 20)
- The offense goes three and out. Wright is forced to scramble on third down and he falls short of the first down by 2 yards. Matt Bosher gets off a good punt, 49 yards, to the Tech 23 that is fair caught. Tech takes over with 10:29 left in the quarter.
GT's 8th DRIVE (1st and 10 at the GT 23)
- Tashard Choice is starting to maul Miami on the ground with big chunks on carries.
- After another hefty gain, Tech gets flagged for holding. Might be what saves the Canes here.
- Maybe not, cornerback Glenn Sharpe gives Tech a first down on a defensive holding penalty.
- Tech moves inside the Miami 30 and down to the 24 on a 15-yard pass completion. Sharpe got burned on the coverage.
- On second down from the same spot, Tech picks up 17 yards on a playaction fake to the tight end. Miami's defense looks confused.
- The drive finally ends with Taylor Bennett scoring his second TD of the game on a 3-yard run. Drive: 14 plays, 77 yards, 7:59.
- Miami's defense has got to be exhausted.
- Miami has done a decent job limiting Tashard Choice and forcing Tech to use its terrible pass offense. But UM hasn't been able to cash in.
- UM freshman Shawnbrey McNeal scored the game's only touchdown on a 39-yard run. But other than that, the Canes offense has been bottled up. Miami somehow still racked up 108 yards rushing on the Georgia Tech defense that ranks sixth nationall in rushing defense.
- Kyle Wright has managed a good game thus far, escaping the blitz a number of times. He hasn't been sacked yet.
- Dwayne Hendricks has gone down with an apparent right knee injury. He's the third UM defensive tackle out of this game. The only healthy ones right now are Joe Joseph, Teraz McCray and Luqman Abdallah.
- Miami has outscored opponents 71-0 in the first half this season at the OB.
GT's 3rd drive (1st and 10 at the GT 32, 1:52)
- Tech faces another third down and short, and Bennett completes an 11-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas for a first down to the Tech 49. END OF THE FIRST QUARTER.
- But after Tech moves the ball into UM territory, its drive fizzles and ends when Bennett throws a third and three pass behind his receiver and out of bounds.
UM's 4th drive (1st and 10 at the UM 15, 14:38)
- Miami goes a quick three and out, but had a chance for a big play on first down when Wright puts the ball on the money on what would have been a 40-plus yard gain. But the pass falls incomplete when Sam Shields can't haul it in. The Canes avoid disaster on third down when Wright's pass and a potential interception is dropped by Tech's Phillip Wheeler at the UM 30.
GT's 4th Drive (1st and 10 at the GT 43, 13:52)
- Tech converts another third and long on its first series on a pass play. A play later, the Canes look to have more trouble at defensive tackle. Dwayne Hendricks has gone down with an apparent right knee injury.
- On fourth and three at the UM 37, Tech decides to go for it. But Eric Moncur gets in and swats a pass away incomplete. The Canes will take over with 11:38 left and good field position.
UM's 5th Drive (1st and 10 at the UM 37, 11:38)
- Miami picks up a first down right away on back-to-back runs by Graig Cooper which total 13 yards. - But penalties start to kill the Canes. On the next play, Cooper looks to have picked up another first down on a 12-yard toss sweep. But the Canes are flagged for holding. It moves the ball back to the UM 40. On the next play, Sam Shields gets flagged for a block in the back, bringing up a first and 30 at the UM 30.
- Kirby Freeman makes an appearance yet again. Looks like offensive coordinator Patrick Nix is using him simply to run the option out of the shotgun. It hasn't been very successful.
GT's 5th Drive (1st and 10 at the UM 47, 8:11 left)
- Josh Nesbitt comes in at quarterback for Tech and immediately takes a direct snap and runs forward for 15 yards to the UM 32.
- Bruce Johnson has a chance at a second interception, but drops the ball at the UM 10. On second and 15, Nesbitt scrambles for a 14-yard gain, but Tech's Matt Rhodes is flagged for holding and a personal foul, moving the ball all the way back to the Georgia Tech 40. Wonder what Randy Shannon would have done to Rhodes if he was a Cane.
- Tech eventually punts.
UM's 6th Drive (1st and 10 at the UM 32)
- After a second down pass to Chris Zellner picked up some of the yardage lost on a first down carry that lost four yards, Kyle Wright escapes the bltiz and scrambles forward on third down for a first down to the UM 47.
- On third and seven at midfield, Wright finds Sam Shields for a 10-yard gain and another first down. Hey, Shields caught it!
- On the next play, UM has a chance at another score, but Wright just overthrows an open Darnell Jenkins downfield.
- The Canes end up having to punt. David Strimple comes on -- he's the pooch punter -- and gets the ball inside the Tech 20 where the Yellow Jackets take over with 3:09 left.
GT's 6th Drive (1st and 10 at Tech 17, 3:09 left)
- Tech picks up another first down on third down when Demaryius Thomas finds himself open at the Tech 37. The drive marches forward but eventually ends with a punt. Miami ends the half by taking a knee.
UM's 1st drive (1st and 10 at the UM 20)
- The Canes run the same play, a deep streak down the sideline -- twice to Darnell Jenkins and once to Sam Shields -- on the first three plays from scrimmage. But none of the passes are completed. But one draws a defensive pass interference penalty on GT corner Jahi Word-Daniels, moving the ball to the Georgia Tech 35. The Yellow Jackets end the drive though with some pressure on Wright.
- Lucky for the Canes, Matt Bosher gets a nice bounce on his punt, which trickles down to the GT 14.
GT's 1st drive (1st and 10 at GT 14, 13:23 left)
- On second and 7, the Yellow Jackets run the counter to Tashard Choice for a big 17-yard gain. Miami's defense got run over on that play. Choice then converts a third down and long, moving the ball to midfield, on a swing pass. But Miami's defense gets some pressure on GT QB Taylor Bennett and ends the drive with three incompletions.
- Tech punts the ball to the UM 14.
UM's 2nd drive (1st and 10 at the UM 14, 10:55 left)
- Jerrell Mabry picks up Miami's first positive gain and first down, on a short pass that he turned up field for 10 yards.
- On the next play, Kirby Freeman comes in for one play that loses eight yards when Javarris James fumbles and recovers back at the 18. Miami looks ugly on its next two plays with Wright back in and the Canes punt from their 20.
GT's 2nd drive (1st and 10 at the UM 36, 7:58 left)
- Tech has great field position, but can't move the ball. And on third and 3, Bennett gets picked in the end zone with UM cornerback Bruce Johnson stelas the ball from Greg Smith. Nice grab.
UM's 3rd drive (1st and 10 at the UM 20, 6:32 left)
- On first down, freshman Shawnbrey McNeal escapes on a 41-yard run into Tech territory. I use escape for a reason. UM center John Rochford is flagged for holding. The Canes are eventually forced to punt. But on fourth down, Miami gets gutsy and calls for the fake punt. Running back Derron Thomas takes the direct snap and rumbles his way down to the Georgia Tech 48.
- On the next series of downs, Miami gets a nice grab from Chris Zellner makes a nice catch on third and 7, bringing up a 4th and 1 at the GT 39.
- On the next play, Shawnbrey McNeal picks up a first down and then some, leaping over a pile of Yellow Jackets on his way to a 39-yard touchdown. He turned on the after burners. The drive: 8 plays, 80 yards, 4:32 on the drive. UM 7, GT 0.
Some quick keys to the game for the Canes
- Protect Kyle Wright as long as you can. Georgia Tech is a sack machine. Kyle can't spend his day running for his life.
- Limit Tashard Choice. He's the key to the Tech offense.
- Win on special teams. Miami needs to win the field position battle because Tech will put pressure on UM's passing game all day.
Notes: Receiver Lance Leggett and defensive tackle Josh Holmes are scratches for this one. Linebacker Colin McCarthy is also out.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 20, Miami 17. Hate to do this to The U. But I'm going to see if the opposite approach brings them some luck.
I know you die-hard veterans and Herald.com regulars are aware of this already, but for those of you newbies or those of you that don't pay very much attention, we have an interesting feature here on our Hurricanes web page where I store all of the interviews I conduct for your listening pleasure.
It's real easy to find. On our Hurricanes home page, just click on the link that says AUDIO. It will lead you to everything I've collected in the past year -- from post-game interviews to press conferences to practices to chats with recruits and much more.
Today, I went out to UM's first basketball practice and spoke to coach Frank Haith and several players including center Anthony King, who liked happy and excited to be back after last year's injury-riddled season, and newcomer Lance Hurdle, who appears to be this year's Jack McClinton. I'll have my practice report in tomorrow's paper, but for those of you who always want news quick, just an FYI, I always share my interviews online pretty quickly.
So, even if I don't have a blog up or a story online, there's always the interview or press conference for you to check out. A lot of times, there's stuff from our interviews that never make the paper. It goes the same with TV and radio. There's always space and time issues. Not on our website, though. I give you everything I collect. Hopefully, more of you will begin to enjoy it.
* As for my impressions of the first day of basketball practice:
- Dwayne Collins looks much bigger than he did last year -- and I mean that muscle-wise. He said he's only gained 10 pounds, but he looks ripped in his upper body. It should help him be much more physcial in the paint this season. He's also worked hard on his footwork and attended a big man's camp for a week this offseason that helped craft his game even more.
* Lance Hurdle is going to play a lot this season. The JUCO combo-guard has impressed Haith since arriving on campus. "Lance has been a little bit of a surprise," Haith said. "At our workouts he's been really good and I think he has a chance to be a really good player. He's a hard worker and very much in the mold of Jack in terms of how hard he works. He's a guy that puts a lot of time into his game. He watches tape."
* UM's point guard job is up in the air right now -- between Jack McClinton, Hurdle and freshman Edwin Rios. Hurdle had some nice things to say about Rios, whom he played with this summer. "I love him. He's a strong guard. I remember reading about him when I was in high school and played against him in Vegas. He's everything I read about. He's a great shooter. He can take it to the basket. He plays great defense. He's a great player. He can play both positions [point and shooting guard].
* Big 6-8, 291-pound recruit Reggie Johnson from Winston Salem-Prep in N.C. attended practice Friday with his parents. He's one of the big men Haith is targeting. He's rated the 38th-best center in the country according to Scout.com and has Virginia and Virginia Tech also interested in him.
I'll have more on basketball in the coming weeks. I'm supposed to have lunch with Coach Haith some time next week before I leave for Tallahassee and the Florida State game. Also on tap next week, quarterback Robert Marve. After weeks of trying to get UM's SID department to get him for us, he's supposed to attend Tuesday's press conference. Everyone will get him, but look for the audio and some more on him here next week.
On tap for tomorrow, my in-game blog, plus my predicition on the game. See ya guys tomorrow when Georgia Tech visits the OB.
What ails JC about the Canes? He tells us it's Miami's offense. Read what one of our guest bloggers has to say about it.
About JC: His name is Justin Carlson and he flew into Miami this afternoon to attend Saturday's Georgia Tech game. But before he left, he left us his take. Here it is...
Canes fans, like the U itself, are a strange bunch compared to the mainstream of college football. Some fans are a fickle group that shows up for big games during winning seasons. Then there is the hardcore group I am proud to be a part of. But no matter our level of dedication, we’ve all been privileged to an astounding run of five national titles in 25 years and six other bowl games where a national title was a possibility. The home winning streak and the NFL talent and everything is well documented. We’ve only suffered through two breaks in the dominance: from 1995-1998 and the present day.
As fans without the excuse of scholarship restrictions, we’ve struggled to rationalize how the U arrived at this point and what can be done. Recently on this blog we confronted that issue and almost unanimously the belief is recruiting. The problem was the lapse under Coker and the solution is Shannon being awesome at it. Emphasis has been placed on reclaiming what Howard Schnellenberger proclaimed “the State of Miami” when he drew a recruiting line behind which the U would always dominate.
We’re all excited with what Randy has done thus far, but are we getting ahead of ourselves? What do we expect? Obviously the goal is a national title, and none of us expect to have to wait 10 years between them. But I’ve seen lots of people saying national title in two years. That would be 2009, a schedule featuring Oklahoma, Clemson, @USF, @FSU, @Va Tech.
Granted, national titles are won in years you least expect it. No one at all saw the ’83 title coming, ’87 was a rebuilding year, ’89 was the first year of a coach transition. However, I’d be curious to know not only what ails the Canes, but what ails the fans? And what do you “reasonably” expect/demand from Shannon’s recruits?
Personally, this is what ails me:
2003 vs. Tennessee, L 10-6; vs. Syracuse W 17-10
2004 vs. Clemson L 24-17 in OT, vs. VaTech L 16-10
2005 vs. FSU L 10-7, vs. Georgia Tech L 14-10, vs LSU L 40-3
Point Average: 9 per game
This is not the occasional no-show game, it’s a trend. Most of these low-scoring games are not only losses, they are painful to watch. Last season was filled with nothing but horrible wins and losses. The 14-13 win against Houston. The Labor Day game against FSU which was the single most boring and horribly played game I’ve ever seen in my life. Losing sucks, but I don’t mind losing to elite teams in entertaining fashion as much. I hate watching the Canes struggle to win or lose and put up points against average to poor defenses. The Duke and FIU games this year were atrocious.
I don't care about undefeated right away. What I want from Shannon’s recruits within two years is at least an average of 25 points per game. Miami has won over 150 consecutive games when scoring 31 or more points. I want two to three 40 plus point games and at least one blowout per year. I want to see everything the current Canes lack: a fire on the field, a magnet for the end zone, a will to win while there is time on the clock no matter what the score or situation, a determination to represent the U and be proud no matter who turns against them or what people say. I want it to be a Canes thing again, and I don’t want anyone else to understand. No excuses, just execution.
More than anything, I want to enjoy watching football. Canes football. I can’t help but believe that if the Canes make football fun again, the worst they can ever do is 9-3 and somewhere in there the national title will take care of itself.
Why is Randy Shannon going to be the guy to get Miami out of its malaise? BG1906, one of our two guest bloggers this week, takes a shot at answering that question as well as giving the Canes a few suggestions as to how to do it.
A little about BG1906: Bryce Gaylor is a 34-year old web applications developer from Bowie, MD. "I'm married (wife Maria) with no kids. I was born in Tennessee, but moved to Hollywood when my parents divorced. During my high school years, my family would relocate again to the Washington, D.C. metro area, where I currently reside. I attended Bowie State Univ. (MD) but graduated from U of Maryland-University College. I have a BS in Computer Studies and am working on a dual masters degree (IT/MBA). Been a Canes fan since I was 8 yrs old. Go Canes!"
Here's his take...
Why, I’ll Tell You Why… As the Larry Coker Era at “The U” came to an end, I vividly recall the sense of frustration, despair, and anticipation felt by the LEGION as we all questioned the future of our beloved program. The Hurricanes had been on a steady decline that finally culminated in a disappointing 7-6 season, in which the Canes needed last minute heroics to defeat both the Duke Blue Devils and the Nevada Wolfpack—teams that in years past, the Canes would have disposed of quite handily.
Facing reality, the administration at the University of Miami decided that Coach Coker was no longer the man they wanted to lead the program, and he was quickly fired at season’s end. But, then a new problem arose. It was the height of recruiting season, and the University of Miami, the most dominant football program of the last 25+ years, was without a head coach. The program had a negative image, we were losing, and recruits were decommitting. My-oh-my, what do were the Canes to do? We needed a coach who could not only come in and restore the pride and true fighting spirit associated with University of Miami football, but one who could also re-instill discipline, accountability, and the never-say-die winning attitude that the Canes had historically been known for. He had to be a master recruiter, and realize that the key to the success of the University of Miami football program rested in primarily recruiting from the plethora of high school football talent in South Florida (Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties). Yet, the question remained: Who would want to coach at the University of Miami? The expectations are unrealistic, the facilities aren’t the best, the pay isn’t on par based with other elite programs in college football, the fan base at times can be fickle, and furthermore, it is no longer viewed as an elite program. Who wants to coach at UM?
As it turns out, there were plenty of trendy names out there to throw around: Greg Schiano (Rutgers), Mike Leach (Texas Tech), Steve Kragthorpe (Tulsa/Louisville), Gary Patterson (TCU); hell, there was even a Steve Spurrier (S. Carolina) rumor floating around at one time, but none of them were, as they would say in the Matrix, “THE ONE.” None of these individuals fit the bill. The right man for the job was actually in front of us the whole time, and he is exactly the man UM needed to inject life into a now malaise Hurricanes football program. That man was none other than former Canes defensive coordinator, Randy Shannon.
Many times while watching the Canes play on ESPN, I would hear both Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso rave about how good and well coached the Miami Hurricanes defense was, and how one day Randy Shannon was going to become a very successful head coach, and that some team was going to benefit tremendously from his vast array of football knowledge. I remember thinking to myself after Coach Coker was fired, “Why are we looking everywhere for a head coach, when the perfect candidate for the job is already amongst us? Why let him go be somebody else’s ‘great head coach’ when we need him here at ‘The U’? We want him here at ‘The U’!” Lucky for us Canes fan, whether it was because those other coaches turned us down or not, we got our man!
Coach Shannon is everything UMIAMI; he is a tried and true Hurricane. He has played in the program, coached in the program, and has come of age in the program. He has been under the tutelage of some of the greatest Hurricane coaches of all times: Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis, and like it or not, Larry Coker. He has seen the successes of them all, but also witnessed their failures (Erickson and Coker) giving him a wealth of experiences and history to draw from. He knows the program from a perspective that no one else can: as a player, as an assistant, as a coordinator, and now as the Head Coach. He knows the formula that the Miami Hurricane football tradition was built upon (hard work, competition, and the us-against-the world mentality) and he has seen that tradition erode due to poor coaching, prima donna and complacent athletes, and strained recruiting relationships within the South Florida high school community.
Immediately following his hire, Coach Shannon began attacking those problems he knew were holding the program back. He meticulously and carefully assembled a group of coaches whom he has full confidence in as his supporting cast. He did not go out and get all the big names like FSU, but he went out and got coaches that he respected for their recruiting acumen and football prowess. Each coach—Nix, Walton, Stoutland, Hurtt, Robinson, Barrow, Mosley, McGriff, and Panunzzio—are outstanding recruiters first and foremost, and each is establishing the recruiting ties again, not only in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, but throughout the entire state of Florida, as only 2 of Miami’s 19 current verbal commitments are not from the state of Florida.
Shannon is also recruiting kids that fit the traditional Miami Hurricane blueprint. These kids are leaders on their teams and in their communities. They are confident, resilient, hard-working, competitive, and above all, they are winners. By recruiting this type of athlete, half of Coach Shannon’s “work” is already done, because he at least doesn’t have to worry about “deprogramming” the mind set of the athletes that he is recruiting, because they already take on the very same traits that make Coach Shannon special. They can relate to him on all levels—athletically, socially, and academically—because in many ways Coach Shannon is just like them. In Coach Shannon, they see a man who has come from the same “struggle,” yet despite the hardships he has had to overcome, he continues to triumph, as he refuses to lose or make excuses.
This is the type of leader and inspirational figure that must be at the head of the football program at the University of Miami, and lead us back to that from whence we have come. I have total confidence in Coach Shannon, and I truly believe in what he is doing to restore the Hurricane tradition we all know and love. Without a shadow of doubt, I believe that Coach Randy Shannon was not only the right choice, but the only choice for leading the Canes back to the Promised Land, as we reascend into the heights of the elite in college football.
1. Continue to put up the “Fence” around South Florida (Recruiting): Coach Shannon and his staff are doing a fantastic job in recruiting. It is early and nothing is set in stone, but if these recruits stick, they are just the type of recruits that past great UM teams were built upon. They are no strangers to hard work, and want to compete and get better. They are superior athletes and more than anything, they are winners. It is important as the home school to keep these athletes here, as virtually every school in the nation knows that the best high school football is played in South Florida. However, it is important to nurture established out of state pipelines as well. States like Texas (Kevin Williams, Eric Winston), California (Ken Dorsey, K2), Louisiana (Reggie Wayne, Ed Reed), and lately Tennessee (Supa Coop), among others have traditionally given us great talent. However, we must do so without neglecting our home kids, as they must be the top priority of the program.
2. Continue to destroy the complacency and sense of entitlement that this era of Canes possesses: I love how Coach Shannon attacks the prima donna attitude that has set in here at “The U.” It will take time, however, to change the culture. This mental state was not developed over night, and will not disappear over night. Taking the names off the jerseys, while it might seem on the outside like an insignificant move, is an attempt to foster team unity, and to remove individualism and selfishness from the team’s culture. I also love that he demands the best out his athletes at all times in practice and in games. Again, this will take time as the poor practice habits and lackadaisical efforts on game day did not happen over night, so it will take some benchings and suspensions to get the players to understand what has been dubbed “The Shannon Way,” what I refer to as “The Hurricane Way.” In our hay days, hard work, competition, and team play were the staples of the program, and that must return.
3. Develop the family tree you’ve assembled (Coaches): Coach Shannon has assembled a very good coaching staff. Now he just needs to let them coach, but also nurture them by being the good example that coaches like Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis were to him. Miami has always been a place where coaches come in as virtual unknowns, but by the time they leave, are highly thought of and are some of the best in the business, college or pro.
4. Stay humble and stay hungry: Lastly, stay humble and stay hungry. Remember what got you here and what the expectations are. On a personal level, stay the same great coach that you are, and maintain the healthy respect your student athletes have for you, and understand that you are like a father figure to them (in many cases you, along with the other coaches, are the only father figures some of them may have) and that they can talk to you and trust you. Football wise, stay hungry and always want the best. You know the culture in Miami and what the expectations are. I love that you don’t shy away from those expectations, but embrace them and welcome them. Stay motivated, and success will continue to follow your every step because, as you already know…It’s all about “The U”!
One of the biggest questions or gripes I keep encountering is why the Hurricanes use the blitz more often. Today at practice, I put a couple of assistants on the spot and asked them point blank why the Canes are reluctant not to blitz more.
Defensive coordinator Tim Walton danced around the subject a little, but defensive line coach Clint Hurtt may have finally shed some light on the matter: "We can't blitz yet. Not with these young guys," Hurtt told me. "[Carlos] Armour and [DeMarcus] Van Dyke and our young guys aren't ready for that yet. You can go out there blitzing and you get the ball thrown over your head and we can't afford that right now. Right now, these guys got to get really good and accustomed to playing really sound, fundamental football. Not only because it makes it safe for them, but it allows them to get some confidence. Its simpler and easier, one at a time. If you try to let it all on a true freshman, your letting the kid out to dry."
It makes sense to me, now. Miami's secondary, once a strength of this team, has turned out to be pretty average -- especially at corner. North Carolina exposed that Saturday by taking Miami's strenght -- its pass rush -- out of the game. Hurtt told me the Tar Heels used max protection schemes most of the game, taking out Calais Campbell and Eric Moncur with double teams. Sadly, it could prove to be an even bigger problem for the Canes from here on out if Miami can't gets its cornerbacks and linebackers to tackle better.
* Also making matters worse -- the loss of Antonio Dixon at defensive tackle. Dixon, UM's biggest defensive tackle, was finally beginning to play soundly when he suffered a major knee injury against Carolina. Dixon was in low spirits when I saw him today at practice. He was walking slowly with his head down and gingerly in a large boot that covered his entire left leg -- from the thigh down.
"It hurts because he's playing so well," Hurtt said. "It kind of puts you in a predicament. Hopefully, now Teraz [McCray] can continue to elevate his game. That's the best his body felt really the whole season and obviously that showed against North Carolina."
Hurtt said Joe Joseph will now become the team's fourthdefensive tackle. Luqman Abdullah will be the fifth tackle this week. The way Georgia Tech can run the football, a lot of pressure is going to be put on the shoulders of McCray, Josh Holmes and Dwayne Hendricks this week to raise their level of play.
* Speaking of raising their level of play, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland told me Orlando Franklin is having a phenomenal season. Franklin is second on the team in package blocks, despite playing only 50 percent of the time (an estimated 40 snaps). Also playing better these days, redshirt freshman Joel Figueroa, who has moved into the backup spot at right guard.
* The biggest news from today's practice: No Colin McCarthy Saturday. McCarthy has not practiced all week and is a definite scratch. Look for Daryl Sharpton to move to the middle and Tavares Gooden to move to the weakside. Spencer Adkins will probably keep his starting spot but only because of injury.
* Receiver Lance Leggett could be out too. He's been limping around and not participating in practice too much this week. Shannon said he'll decide Friday.
* As for the kicking job, Shannon said he will also decide that after Friday's closed practice. He said both Francesco Zampogna and Daren Daly have done well in practice this week. Personally, I think Zampogna will keep it for another week. What's disappointing is that Matt Bosher isn't even involved in the competition.
U, the Eye on The U Crew. I want to thank everyone who participated in our first question of the week segment: What Ails The Canes? I spent two hours pouring over your responses and have to say for all the crap Canes fans get about being arrogant or moronic, most of you not only know what you are talking about, but you know how to deliver it too. I was impressed with how well some of you wrote such impassioned short essays in answering this week's question.
I know all of you didn't necessarily read everything that was posted by everyone here. So, I picked some of my favorites to share with you because some of you really made me laugh and some you made me want to strap on a helmet and hit the field for The U. Seriously, I'm not just trying to blow smoke up your rears. Some of you can really write. And there's no question all of you know and love your Canes.
Before I share my favorite posts and salute The Eye On The U Crew, here are my two choices for my favorite entries: JC and BG1906. If both of you could shoot me an email at email@example.com sometime Thursday before 6 p.m., we can talk about what you'll be writing about this week as guest bloggers for Friday. Also of note, if I had to choose a bronze medal winner, UMLam would be my choice. Nice, strong argument that was well written.
OK guys, here are my favorite responses to What Ails The Canes.
"Has UM just become regarded to the players as a stepping stone to the NFL with a lessoned sense of 'team'? When people talk about lack of talent and Cokers recruits, I'm not buying it. They have the talent and speed but not showing up for some games has been their MO for years regardless of the coach. I just see it as players having one foot in the U and the other in the NFL. I have the ESPN college package and I can honestly say that I have never seen a team that just doesn't show up sometimes. I always tell friends that I do not worry about an inspired UM team playing against a top rated opponent, I worry about an uninspied team that is to busy reading their own headlines and living in the past." Posted by: dubba dub | October 09, 2007 at 05:36 PM
"We are good enough to win every game, and bad enough to lose all of them. I believe in Shannon and his staff, it just sucks not winning these games.." Posted by: aqua | October 09, 2007 at 05:43 PM
"A great team walks onto the field and knows that they are going to win, a great team might be down at half-time but they know that they are going to win, and a great team might be playing in an away game across the country, with no fans traveling to see them but they know that they are going to win. The 2007 Miami Hurricanes are not a great team." Posted by: Ryan | October 09, 2007 at 05:59 PM
"What the Canes lack is a hunger to score, a reckless abandon to succeed, to inflict pain on the field and be the greatest. The us-against-the world mentality. Old UM teams would have lost to UNC and said (even to their fans) "go ahead, doubt us, we'll show you and you'll be back cheering for us. And even if you don't, screw you, we're the U and we've never needed you, we win with 25K in the stands!" Not these Canes." Posted by: JC | October 09, 2007 at 06:00 PM
"What happened to the Canes? Very simple, we started to recruit in other states instead of dominating our territory. We picked up 4 and 5 star duds who dominated their high school classifications in states that aren't very competitive in FB. As a result we lost out on guys like Dwayne Bowe, Nate Harris, Ali Highsmith (UM Pedigree), and H.B. Blades (UM Pedigree). Now schools like Florida and LSU have picked up our slack and have started to cherry pick recruits out of SoFla." Posted by: 305tilliDie | October 09, 2007 at 06:17 PM
"They play down to their competition because they believe they should win just because they are Miami. What they have to understand is that they are not THAT MIAMI. They have to go out and play hard and with focus and energy EVERY SINGLE TIME they play, no matter who it is, because they are fighting to regain national prominence, they must bring their hard hats and lunch pails each and every week, regardless of who they play." Posted by: bg1906 | October 09, 2007 at 06:28 PM
"I believe what has hurt the canes is a losing environment that has been created and accepted by the players. This is the reason why Shannon believes he has to re-program the players. It is all about attitude. That is the major difference between these canes and that of the past Canes. Im sure the past Canes would not allow themselves to be overcome mentally and losing was rare to them. Once you accept losing, it becomes a normalcy in your life. That is the attitude they have. What Randy needs to do is change that mentality, and what better way then bring up a crop of undefeated recruits (NW Bulls) who aren't used to losing, to back up what Randy is preaching. Basically, you are a product of your environment, and their environment has not been a winning one for a couple of years. Thats my take." Posted by: Mia Canes | October 09, 2007 at 07:02 PM
"Coaching under Coker was terrible, the offense was consistenly stagnant and he never showed any form of change in approach, he would just clap when we managed a field goal." Posted by: Tayson Gaines | October 09, 2007 at 07:34 PM
"...these guys are soft. Larry Coker was too interested in being their friend instead of their coach. You look at the Jimmy Johnson, Butch Davis. Taskmasters. Ballbusters. No excuses. You don't like it, go home. Don't letthe door hit you in the ass. That's how we got guys like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Michael Irvin, Frank Gore. Freaking warriors. These coaches busted their butts so much in practice, game day was like a day off. Ask any Cane who played for these guys... And this is what they'll tell you to a man. And now, the good news. Randy Shannon knows this. He was there and he saw first hand and knows what it takes to win. Discipline, accountability, hard work, and no guarantees. You earn it. You earn the right to wear that Jersey. This is freaking UM football dammit! Not some free four-year joy ride through South Beach. Time to snap up the chin strap boys, grab your package and sack up. Boot camp with Randy Shannon '08 coming to Greentree...Look out...Go Canes!" Posted by: Canefan66 | October 09, 2007 at 08:42 PM
"Where is the Warren Sapp, Ken Dorsey, Santana Moss, #47, even K2 running up and down the sideline hyping the others up? That attitude was squashed by Coker, who wanted a kinder, gentler Cane. I’m not saying RS should bring back the Randall Hill days, but this team is a dull knife that needs sharpening. And sharpening takes time. Kyle has played at times this year like the Kyle who suited up against FSU that night. So has the rest of the team. At times they regress back into the Coker inflicted Psychosis, which causes them to not believe in themselves, each other, or the coaches. RS and staff have started rehabilitating them. The third quarter against UNC is a great example of that. A strong talk from RS, and boom they look like the 2001 Canes." Posted by: DarthCanesFan | October 09, 2007 at 10:33 PM
"Shannon has got a huge task ahead of him to change the culture of this team and its not going to be done overnight, probably not even this year. But he’s laying the ground work for the identity he wants, which is great. Teaching the players the intricacies of the game and correct technique is the easy part. Having them trust and believe in their ability and the person next to them that is what is going to turn this thing around." Posted by: umlam | October 10, 2007 at 12:44 AM
"I think these kids need to be sat down and forced to watch Ed Reed's post halftime speech to his team during the FSU game in 2001 and Irvin's hall of fame speech over and over until something clicks. You can't win without a leader, no matter what sport you are playing." Posted by: Gibby | October 10, 2007 at 01:08 AM
"I forgot what it is like to have a guy other teams know is going to get the ball, but still can’t be stopped. This team has no playmakers, and that is all a function of weak recruiting. Until a player takes the field no one knows if he is a playmaker. The Canes are ailing because there is a lack of physical preparation, a leadership vacuum on either side of the field, and the talent level has dropped resulting in a lack of playmakers. The solution to the Canes’ ails will be great recruiting, great coaching, and most importantly lots of hard work. One of my favorite Hurricane players quotes from the Jimmy Johnson era; “game day is like a day off, because everyday during practice we know we are playing against the best offense/defense in the country.” Posted by: jtime | October 10, 2007 at 09:24 AM
"The Hurricanes have had no identity. These Hurricanes have had 2 head coaches, and God knows how many coordinators and assistant coaches. It seems that there is nothing reliable in the offense, on the defense, or in the locker room for them to fall back on when they struggle, or to build on when they excel. So what do they do? They borrow their identity from ghosts of years past. They run out of the smoke, jump on the visiting teams logo, and make the U sign with their hands. They think that is enough. It is not." Posted by: Robnyce | October 10, 2007 at 09:45 AM
"Perhaps, once RS has been able to purge this somewhat listless group of players (of course there are exceptions, I'm speaking globally) and replace them with guys with real hunger and attitude, UM will be UM again." Posted by: Mephistopheles | October 10, 2007 at 11:18 AM
"I think they have not adjusted very well to all of the noon starts. Still look kinda sleepy." Posted by: CCC | October 10, 2007 at 03:12 PM
What ails this University of Miami football program? What has caused this five time national championship program to look more like a middle of the pack team these days instead of the juggernaut it once was when it rolled in out of stadiums on Saturdays? Why is Miami still struggling to beat Duke at home? Why is Miami losing to 1-4 North Carolina on the road? Why can't the Canes play four quarters of football? Wasn't this all supposed to be remedied under the leadership of Randy Shannon?
Those are some of the questions U fans have been asking lately and one many of you thought would get resolved once Larry Coker was removed from his post. But through six games this season, the Hurricanes still have you nervous. They still have you yelling at your TV in frustration. So what is still causing these Canes to smell as stinky as last year's 7-6 team? Ask Shannon and he'll tell you its matter of trust. Sunday, he said his players needed to be reprogrammed.
This week, I want to challenge you (hopefully, we can make this a weekly feature). I want to know what you think. What ails the Canes? I'm going to try and answer this question on my own and provide you with my answer Wednesday. But I want to see what you think. Feel free to answer the question below between now and 6 p.m. Wednesday. The person with the best response in my opinion will get to be a guest blogger this Friday on a topic I'll discuss with them via email. Please keep your answers to What Ails the Canes to 500 words or less. Thanks. And have fun.
l've had beer, chips and my TV set tuned into ESPN2 from my living room. I watched the Canes take on former coach Butch Davis and the Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. We shared our thoughts and I kept track of some notes as the game went on.
- UNC finds itself back in Miami territory when UM cornerback Bruce Johnson falls down on coverage on a short pass and Brandon Tate runs past the Miami defense -- despite losing his shoe -- all the way to UM 27. UNC settles for a field goa, making 30-20 with 14:12 left to play.
- Can the Canes keep their momentum going now? The offensed has to come through again now.
- Big third down conversion on 3rd and 15. Wright finds Sam Shields over the middle for a first down. But shortly after, Wright throws his third interception of the game when he forces the ball in. UNC takes over at its 41.
- Well, UM's defense limits the damage and holds UNC to another Conner Barth field goal, his fourth of the game. With 10:55 left to play, Miami trails 33-20.
- Miami is moving the football on the ground, peppering UNC with Graig Cooper and Javarris James. Can the Hurricanes score?
- Big fourth down with 6:47 left to play deep inside UNC territory. Wright keeps it and gets the first down. Canes fans can breathe a momentary sigh of relief.
- And it lasts just a moment. Another bad decision and bad throw by Kyle Wright. Four interceptions for Wright. It looks like it just isn't meant to be for Miami. 6:15 left to play.
- It's not over yet. Graig Cooper flips the ball to Darnell Jenkins on a punt return, the Canes build a wall and Miami moves the ball to the UNC 11 with 2:59 to play. Miami eventually scores on a Javarris James' plunge with 1:17 left to play in the game. But the Canes had to blow two time outs inside the 5. Now, they need an onside kick.
- Hakeem Nicks recovers the onside kick for UNC. The Canes are going to go down in UNC again. But at least, they battled back and made a game of it. They just couldn't overcome a terrible first half.
- Wow. What was that? With 12:38 to go in the first half, a different UM team comes out of the break and marches right down the field and scores a touchdown on a 1-yard Kyle Wright sneak to make it 27-7.
- The Rock was at UM this week. Anybody smell a comeback?
- On UNC's first drive of the second half, the Canes force a fumble on the their third play. Kenny Phillips forces it. Spencer Adkins recovers. Miami has the ball at UNC 30.
- Miami capitalizes when Wright connects with Sam Shields on a 4-yard, fourth down touchdown pass. Francesco Zampogna, though, misses the extra point when he hits the upright. But so far, the Canes have shown some life. It's 27-13 now.
- It was announced on TV by the way that McCarthy and Dixon will not return from their injuries today.
- Change the quarterback! This team stinks! Where are you now pessimistic Canes fans? Kyle Wright connects with Darnell Jenkins on a 97-yard touchdown pass to make it 27-20 with 4:22 left in the third quarter. Wright tried it first with Shields, but overthrew him. The second longest play in UM history has the Canes right back in the game. Wow!
- The Canes get the ball back, but on third down, Wright gets sacked. Miami ends up punting and UNC gets the ball back. The pressure is now once again on Miami's defense.
- Canes have put themselves in a much deeper hole after having a punt blocked inside their own 20. Yates scores on a 1-yard sneak with 11:25 left to put Carolina up 20-0.
- Both Antonio Dixon and Colin McCarthy were injured in the last series. Dixon had to be helped off the field and appears to have suffered a serious knee injury.
- The nightmare continues. After Kyle Wright and the offense struggle to pick up a first down again, UNC takes over and scores again. Brandon Tate on a 55-yard reverse makes it 27-0 with 9:59 left in the first half. Is it time to fire up the buses? Already?
- What I wouldn't do to be a fly on the wall in the Canes locker room right now. UM has been outgained 279-113.
- Kyle Wright has thrown two interceptions and has looked like the old Kyle Wright. Everything has gone wrong.
- After the teams exchange punts, Carolina draws first blood when Anthony Elzy gashes the Miami defense on a long touchdown run with 10:33 left in the first quarter.
- With 4:33 left in the first quarter, Conner Barth connects on his 16th straight field goal, a 33-yarder, to put Carolina up 10-0. On the drive, Calais Campbell was flagged for a phantom roughing the passer penalty. Replays showed Campbell never hit quarterback T.J. Yates. Amazing!
- Miami responds by moving the ball downfield after Ryan Hill gives them a real nice return out to midfield. But the drive fizzles and Francesco Zampogna misses a 32-yard field goal with 2:15 left.
- The hits keep on coming for Carolina. After another long passing play moves the ball into Miami territory, Conner Barth -- that guy again -- connects on a season-long 51-yard field goal to put Carolina up 13-0.
- This just in: The Canes are in trouble.
I didn't make the trip this week to North Carolina, but I'll still be here to watch the game with you on ESPN2 from my living room and talk about the game as it goes on. Plus, I'm sure I'll talk to our Susan Miller Degnan throughout the game with other important updates.
I'll start by sharing my keys to the game and a prediction. As always, feel free to chime in with your thoughts. I think what I'd like to do every week is get you guys to start giving me your predicitons on Canes games, your keys to the game, etc. I'd love to keep count of who gets closest to the final score each week and whose keys turn out to be right on.
Here are my five keys to the game:
- Take the crowd out of the game early: The only time Miami went on the road earlier this year in Oklahoma, the Canes found themselves in trouble quickly after giving up a few big plays early against the Sooners. The Sooner fans were at a high pitch. As safety Randy Phillips told me earlier this week, "We got to make it real quiet so all you hear is that little patch of green and orange in the end zone."
- Win on third down: Nothing helps an underdog and an opposing crowd gain confidence more than when their team is converting first downs on third down and stopping the other team on third and long. Last week against Duke, the Blue Devils managed to stay in the game because they were extremely successful on first and second down and moving close to the third down marker. I didn't keep count, but I know the Blue Devils had a bunch of third down and 1 or third down and 2 situations. It helped them convert much easier. In all Duke was 8 of 15 on third down and UM was 3 of 9. The Canes can't play as poorly this week in Carolina and expect to pull off the win.
- Keep Kyle hot: Miami has won its last two games because quarterback Kyle Wright and the pass offense has been pretty successful. The pass offense, which was once dead last in the ACC, has climbed up to 8th overall and is now averaging 182.4 yards a game. Wright has been deadly accurate in his last two games despite the two interceptions against Duke. The reason? Pass protection and quick decision making. He's only been sacked five times since taking over the starting duties. That's not bad for Kyle. Miami's pass offense cannot revert to what it was doing early this year -- nothing. Carolina's pass defense isn't that bad. They actually are surrendering only 193.8 yards a game through the air than the Canes. Miami's defense is averaging 193.2. Look for a lot of underneath stuff from the Canes in the long run, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Canes try several long passes down field to stretch Carolina's defense.
- Do not give up the big play through the air: Miami's secondary got torched against Oklahoma, giving up 6 touchdown passes. It's marred their season stats, giving them 10 this season. The pass defense is honestly not that bad. But one thing Miami's pass defense has done each of the last three weeks is have a breakdown in coverage. Twice, against FIU and Duke, a fullback was able to come out of the backfield and score on a short pass play that does the distance. Players this week admitted part of that has occured because they lose focus and get bored. Carolina's three receivers Brandon Tate, Brooks Foster and Hakeem Nicks are averaging 16.3 yards per catch and combined for 14 pass plays that have gone for more than 20 yards this season. They can stretch the field.
- Don't get caught up in a battle of egos: Randy Shannon has tried to downplay all week how this game has nothing to do with him and former Canes coach Butch Davis. But knowing both men and their competitive egos, you know they want to win this one bad. Shannon can't let the pressure of being on the road in the hostile environment cause him to make any stupid decisions -- like going for it on fourth down in a bad situation, etc. Davis' team is 1-4, but pretty solid. Still, they simply are not as talented the Canes. Miami should win this game and doesn't need to take any unneccessary risks to do so.
My prediction: UM 27, North Carolina 19. Miami's pass rush should once again have a huge day getting to the quarterback after racking up 9 sacks last week. Line coach Clint Hurtt told me this week he expects his line to get between 8 to 10 sacks. Carolina has given up 15 sacks this season and Miami's pass rush should get to Carolina redshirt freshman quarterback T.J. Yates plenty. It's been awhile, but I think today the Canes defense will score a touchdown. I like Eric Moncur picking up a fumble and rumbling his way into the end zone. Still, I expect a close game. Kyle Wright will throw two touchdown passes -- and Javarris James and Graig Cooper will keep moving the chains.
I'm out here at practice, which has been slowed by lightning delays. Just wanted to share some notes with you from earlier this week. I've been slowed myself by having to go out to Dolphins camp yesterday and working on that Northwestern story so I appologize for leaving you without much to mull on since Tuesday night's live Q&A.
* MORE KAYNE: For those of you who missed Susan Miller Degnan’s story on Kayne Farquharson earlier this week, check it out in our archive. Farquharson, who made 6 catches for 43 yards and scored his first career touchdown in his first start, is a great kid. I profiled him back in December before he signed with Miami. Not only is he a talent on the field, off it, he’s a barrel of laughs. His teammates call him the biggest jokester on the team. He’s also a heck of a quote.
When asked earlier this week to talk about Javarris James and Graig Cooper sharing Miami’s backfield, this is what Kayne had to say: ”It seems like everybody in Division I-A and NFL going to the two-back thing. Baby J is like a Bentley. Cooper is like a Ferrari. It’s like which one you want to drive? You ain’t going to look bad in either one. It’s a good look for us. I say give them the ball 15 times each. I could block all day.
He was then asked, what are you then? “I’m Kayne. I’m your regular, Joe Schmo, blue-collar hardworking guy. Like a pick-up truck.”
Kayne said he celebrated his big day by heading out to the Golden Corral near his home in Homestead for some all you can eat dinner last Saturday after his big day. He said family and friends kept telling him “it’s about dang time.”
* THE SEARCH FOR A KICKER: Miami’s future kicking issues after Francesco Zampogna uses his final year of eligibility this year might be resolved with a scholarship player. Rivals.com is reporting the Canes are in the running for Jake Wielcaw, a senior from New Lenox Lincoln Way Central in Illinois who is the state’s career leader in field goals made. The 6-2, 180-pound Wieclaw recently connected on his 45th career field goal and also starts at wide receiver. Wieclaw told Rivals he’s been hearing from both UM and Illinois and will try to visit UM on an unofficial visit in the coming weeks. Purdue, Northern Illinois and Iowa are other schools who like Wieclaw.
* MORE ON WILLIE: Former Hurricane and Louisville linebacker Willie Williams pleaded not guilty to charges of marijuana possession this week after he was pulled over by cops and found with weed in his mouth last Friday. Williams, who was kicked off the team at Louisville, lost patience when he was here with Miami and was frustrated by a lack of playing time. Tuesday, Canes safety Randy Phillips was asked the what if question…
“If he would have had patience, he probably would have been a starter because he would have come in with the starters,” Phillips said. “We had a lot of guys hurt and a lot of young guys playing now. He would have learned the system. He would have been here 3 or 4 years and he would have been ready to go, but he made the decision of what he thought would be best for him and his family and he got to live with it. Willie was really cool. I don’t affiliate myself with too many guys other than football because you never know what guys are involved in. Hopefully, he can get himself together and have a turn around. He’s a great guy as far as I know. Hopefully, he can get his mind right.”
* Phillips also offered his two cents as to why the secondary has struggled this season and given up 10 touchdown passes in five games. Last year Miami gave up 9 passing TDs all year.
“It always has been one person. Everyone is doing right but then one person will slip up for a play and it will happen,” Phillips said. “FIU game, the linebackers slipped up, they caught us. One person will take a play off and a big play will happen. With Bruce [Johnson], Bruce is jamming the whole game, pushing him out of bounds the whole game. Perfect coverage. But then, it gets boring out there. But you got to stay in tune. I’ve been there at corner. Nobody is throwing the ball your way, you relax and as soon as you relax, you have a guy good enough to get by you. Bruce had a great game and other than that one play, Bruce had a great game.”
OK folks. I'm a little behind on my work. It was a busy day. I'll be on starting at 8:15 to answer some your questions. Start leaving them here. I'll make sure to go back and get the other question you have already posted on the previous blog. Thanks.
The usual Tuesday routine of football practice and weekly media day got a shakeup this morning when The Rock, former Hurricane defensive lineman Dwayne Johnson donated $1 million to UM's athletic program.
The Canes locker room will now be known as the Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson Locker Room. The money will be used to enhance and update the technology around UM's athletic facilities and renovate a wide range of football practice facilities at the discretion of coach Randy Shannon. President Donna Shalala called it the largest sum of money donated to the athletic department by a former Hurricane (Alex Rodriguez of course donated over $3 million to help the baseball program a few years back, but he's not a Cane). Last year, Johnson and Dany Garcia Johnson, who was on the rowing team at Miami and is a member of the UM Board of Trustees, donated $2 million to UM's alumni association. Both said more donations could be on the way in the future. Shannon told us he was going to use some of this money for the training room and had already ordered a collection Cybex weight machines.
Johnson spoke to the team in a surprise meeting right before practice at 2 p.m. A surprised Derrick Morse told me he had no idea The Rock was at UM and said he was a big fan of his. I'm interested to see what the players say he told them after today's workouts.
As for news, Shannon didn't have a ton of new stuff to tell us, but did address several issues including receiver Sam Shields, Jermaine McKenzie and the team's two biggest unsung heroes -- defensive lineman Vegas Franklin and center John Rochford. Read Barry Jackson's column tomorrow for what he said on Franklin and Rochford. As for Shields, he basically reiterated that Shields was not suspended last week and that he was benched for not practicing hard enough.
- As for McKenzie, Shannon told reporters Tuesday not to pay attention to that "blob stuff, that internet stuff you're reading." What he meant of course was what people read on blogs or hear from parents regarding his players (somebody else apparently reported McKenzie would be back this week on another blog). As he said last week, Shannon reiterated Tuesday that McKenzie, who injured his neck in a car accident this summer, cannot participate in contact drills and that he will not put him into contact drills until he has been cleared. "He can go out there and run around, but he cannot do practice," Shannon said. "He will not get touched. I cannot afford to as person... not as... as a person to put somebody's son who does not have the muscle strength [in his neck] to go out and play football."
- Shannon said he doesn't pay attention to statistics -- especially the fact the Hurricanes pass defense has already given up 10 passing touchdowns this year compared to the nine UM gave up all of last season combined. The most important stat to Randy -- aside from wins and losses -- third down conversions. The Canes are not doing so hot there. Last week, Duke was 8 of 15 on third down and UM was 3 of 9. This season, UM's third conversion percentage is 30 percent. Opponents are doing better, converting 38 percent. In '06, the Canes converted 35 percent of their third downs and opponents were at 32 percent.
- As for the players, I spoke with linemen Jason Fox, Derrick Morse, Rochford, running back Graig Cooper, safety Randy Phillips and receiver Kayne Farquharson -- who was this week's media star after his big game. I'll have audio from all those interviews as well Shannon's press conference and the Rock announcement up later tonight on Herald.com.
** Aside from everything happening on the football team, I took a walk over to the baseball field where coach Jim Morris and his team are preparing for the start of fall ball on Thursday. This year, the Canes will have 37 days of fall practice, up from the usual 14. It's all part of the NCAA's recent move to help create more of a competitive balance for teams in the northern part of the country during the winter months. In turn, the real season will now begin three weeks later on February 22nd. Morris said the extra practices in the fall will help him determine all of his starting spots, including the ones he considers up for grabs in left field, third base and designated hitter.
I also spoke with Cape Cod baseball league MVP Dennis Raben. You can tune into all of it later tonight... which reminds me. Please leave your questions below for tonight's live Q&A from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. I'll be back later with updates after practice.
*TV: The Canes and North Carolina game at noon Saturday will be televised on ESPN2. The next home game against Georgia Tech, also scheduled for a noon start, will be on ESPN.
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.