One of things I've shied away from on this blog is grading this team on a week-to-week basis. I never liked getting my report card when I was in school because it usually meant I was going to be grounded (my parents weren't happy when they saw anything less than B).
So, when I got to high school, I made a decision that paid off. I decided to sign up for weekly progress reports, thinking at the very least the whole shock factor on report card day wouldn't be as strong. Instead of receiving grades, my parents received comments from my teachers like 'He's trying hard and he's doing good' or 'He missed an assignment this week and needs to focus more.' It somehow made the blow of when I did get a C a little less hard to take.
Anyway, that's my long-winded explanation as to why I've decided to begin giving you weekly progress reports instead of report cards after each game. My grading system system, in honor of the Canes, is simple: National championship material (excellent), BCS worthy (good), MicronPC Bowl here we come (average), Coker-esque (poor) and Scout Team reserve (the bottom of the barrel).
Quarterbacks: Say what you want about Robert Marve's two fourth quarter interceptions, he still was only making his third career start. He finished 18 of 27 for 135 yards and two touchdowns and nearly led the Canes to a thrilling come-from-behind victory with :46 seconds left and the ball on his own 31-yard line. He threw an absolute bullet to Kayne Farquharson to bring the Canes within the red zone and then just missed on the winning touchdown pass. Jacory Harris, who played a series, also moved the team down the field after getting new life on a running into the punter penalty. He didn't make any mistakes and led UM to a field goal for the second week in a row. This week's Progress Report says: BCS Worthy effort. Stay clear of making a few silly mistakes and get some better coaching and you can move up to the next level.
Running backs: Before North Carolina quarterback Cameron Sexton stole the show and brought UNC back from a 24-14 deficit, Graig Cooper was en route to MVP honors. He had 19 carries for 110 yards and caught 3 passes for 29 yards and scored twice. Without Javarris James and not a lot of help from the rest of Miami's backfield (Derron Thomas carried the ball 3 times), Cooper moved the pile plenty and made plenty of special plays on his own. My worry is, if Coop goes down, how much trouble are the Canes going to be in? How about big? This week's Progress Report: BCS Worthy effort. With Coop making the plays he's making, he's making UM's backfield look amazing. But when you consider nobody else is getting involved right now you worry this unit can go back to being MicronPC material should Cooper stutter or get hurt.
Receivers/tight ends: Kayne Farquharson didn't make the big catch. But he's quietly becoming the go-to receiver for Marve. The 29-yard pass he hauled in before taking a licking from Darius Williams was Terrell Owens-esque. He also caught a touchdown for the second consecutive week. Also starring for the Canes, tight end Dedrick Epps, who picked up a crucial first down on third and long to set up Aldarius Johnson's first career touchdown reception. While there were some bright spots, UM's receivers still are dropping passes. Richard Gordon had two. Thearon Collier had another that would have kept a drive alive in the first half. Laron Byrd only seems to get short, quick out passes. It's not entirely the units fault. Offensive coordinator Patrick Nix has to give these guys some room to work. This week's Progress Report: MicronPC Bowl Here We Come. A few different, more aggressive pass patterns and less drops and you'll be flying into the BCS level in no time.
Offensive line: Jason Fox provided the first sign Saturday UM's offensive line came out meaning business when he absolutely flattened a Tar Heel lineman on the second play of the game. The Canes offensive line did its job for the most part facing a tough defensive front. But two holding penalties -- one on Fox and another on center Xavier Shannon -- hurt UM in the fourth quarter badly. This week's Progress Report: MicronPC Bowl Here We Come. A BCS-worthy effort became wasted with those penalties late.
The Front Seven: For yet another week, Miami's front line of defense had a stellar day. Colin McCarthy, Sean Spence, Glenn Cook, Steven Wesley and Eric Moncur helped shut down North Carolina's running game, limiting the Tar Heels to 35 yards on 33 carries. Moncur notched a sack for the second consecutive week. But unfortunately for UM, he was the only guy in the front seven to get a sack. Freshman defensive back Brandon Harris had one, too. But it certainly wasn't enough pressure to stop Sexton from mounting a comeback. This week's Progress Report: MicronPC Bowl Here We Come. Another BCS-worthy effort stopping the run was wasted because UM simply couldn't get to Sexton when it mattered.
The Secondary: For two series, Miami's secondary looked like a national championship contender. Then, Mike Paulus went out and Cameron Sexton came in. He torched the Canes secondary to the tune of 242 yards and two scores. A lot of it was because of the play-calling by Bill Young, who tried to bring in extra blitzers to create pressure. It left guys like Bruce Johnson and DeMarcus Van Dyke on an island to make plays. They didn't. Johnson missed two tackles. Van Dyke failed to cover Brooks Foster on the game-winning touchdown pass. Shannon lamented on blown coverages after the game. How about just very poor secondary play? UM still doesn't have an INT on defense. Chavez Grant said some guys might be pressing to make plays. If Miami doesn't find a remedy, good teams will continue to exploit. Even teams with guys like Cameron Sexton at quarterback. This week's Progress Report: Coker-esque. This was really the only unit who still resembled last year's 5-7 team. And you saw how much it hurt Miami late.
Special Teams: There were big hits and big returns on the Canes' special teams again this week. Colin McCarthy had a big block. Grant had the biggest. It sparked freshman Travis Benjamin on a 37-yard punt return. Matt Bosher, meanwhile, connected on 1-of-2 field goal attempts (he missed off the infield dirt) and had three of his four punts downed inside 20 (including one at the one by Sam Shields who finally made an appearance). But it's his last punt everyone will remember, the one that was partially blocked and gave UNC good field position on its final scoring drive. It wasn't Bosher's fault, another blown assignment by a blocker according to Shannon. But it still hurt. So, did a few long returns by Brandon Tate. This week's Progress Report: MicronPC Bowl Here We Come. The missed assignment on Bosher's last punt was the killer.
Coaching: Tough not get on Canes coaches here considering they had a 24-14 lead with nine minutes to play and blew it. It wasn't all their fault. But Shannon and his assistants obviously needed to make some adjustments and didn't. I thought the offense shutdown after Aldarius Johnon's touchdown catch and simply tried to run out the clock instead of giving Marve a chance to win the game with his arm. Instead, they gave a tired, beat up Graig Cooper the ball. Defensively, Young gambled with the blitz today and lost. He left his corners on an island far too much. This week's progress report: When you lose a game you should have won, you don't get to the BCS or play for it all. MicronPC Bowl Here We Come.