Three wins in a row for the Canes including what I now consider the most impressive win of the season. In all honesty, while wins against Duke, Charleston Southern, UCF and Texas A&M all obviously count, this was the first time this season I felt Miami beat a good team. Wake Forest doesn't have much of an offense and doesn't score a bunch of points. But the Demon Deacons are still a formidable foe with a very good defense, a group of experienced starters and backups, and a quarterback that up until last Saturday was leading the ACC in passing.
Like I said in Saturday's postgame analysis, Miami got pounded for a quarter by a veteran team. But, then, the Canes turned the tables and played like the more physical team for the better part of the final 2 1/2 quarters. That was impressive. Now to the progress report. My grading system system, in honor of the Canes, is the usual: 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).
Quarterback: For the second week in a row, it was one of UM's young quarterbacks and not their veteran running backs who rallied the troops. Robert Marve wasn't spectacular with his arm, completing 11 of 20 passes for 153 yards. But he did something he hadn't done since his first start at Florida -- he was turnover free. And, he made the biggest play of the game, turning the momentum for good in Miami's favor when he faked on the Wake defense with a 43-yard run to setup the game-winning touchdown. It was the second longest TD run by a QB since 1983 and maybe the most important play of the season for Marve, who showed us all why Randy Shannon gave him the starting job in the first place. He made good throws for the most part Saturday and showed the leadership of a champion. Jacory Harris, meanwhile, didn't regress. He just stepped aside for Marve, finishing 4 of 8 for 41 yards. This week's progress report says: Gator Bowl Here We Come. It wasn't quite BCS worthy, but not MicronPC bad either. 2.5 stars.Marve impressed me with his speed on the long run, but even more on that long completion to Thearon Collier on third and long late. It's the kind of plays he should be making more often.
Running backs: I know Halloween is just around the corner, but can someone please tell Graig Cooper and Javarris James to stop dressing up like impostors? Coop and Baby J can't force the ball out of Robert Marve's hand for handoffs or steal the playbook from Patrick Nix, but they can do a better job running the football when given the opportunity. They had eight more chances (18) than last week, but finished with 41 combined yards. Wake Forest's defense was very good, and UM's offensive line wasn't, but at some point I want to see these guys make the highlight runs we thought they could. Or, dress like the Coop and Baby J we thought they were. This week's progress report says: Coker-esque. Last week they didn't get enough chances. This week, they didn't earn more.
Receivers/tight ends: Start engraving the offensive MVP trophy for this season and put Travis Benjamin's name on it. It seems like every week he has a key play in a win. He led UM with four catches for 72 yards -- including the long one that setup the first field goal. He also made a nice catch racing out of bounds on a late drive and a nice 10-yard run on a reverse (take notes Baby J and Coop). The rest of the Canes' receivers didn't have as nearly as good-a-day. Thearon Collier had a nice catch late, but Aldarius Johnson had a couple drops and Laron Byrd had another bobble. I love those guys. But they show themselves to be freshman more often than Benjamin. Before I forget, how about a thumbs up for Sam Shields? He made his first catch in weeks and made a nice move to pickup a first down. Maybe, it is a sign of things to come.This week's progress report says: Gator Bowl worthy.Benjamin gets 3 stars. The rest of the receivers get 2. That's another 2.5 rating.
Offensive line: It's time to start ripping into this unit. Jason Fox, you have the right to leave the room. I'm not sure why we were told this unit was the strength of the team (I remember, they have the most experience next to the running back), but it's quite obvious this unit is quite pedestrian. Two weeks in a row of not getting enough push up front to open up holes for the running backs and two sacks allowed against a Wake Forest defense that eight on the season coming in. Not good. And will someone please tell Xavier Shannon to stop hiking the ball to Shaquille O'Neal? Marve is 6-1 my man -- not 7-2. This week's progress report says: MicronPC Bowl Here We Come. It wasn't quite Coker-esque, but it was dangerously close.
The Front Seven: When a team runs the ball 24 consecutive times, there's a reason. Wake felt it could win the battle up front and did for the first quarter and a half. But little gold stars go out this week to guys like Romeo Davis and Adewale Ojomo, who manned up and rallied UM's front seven. Wake finished with 195 yards rushing on 52 attempts, but ad 135 yards at the half. Normally, defenses wear down. UM's got tougher. The Canes also got a nice rush on Riley Skinner, forced a key fumble and sacked him twice. I already gave Ojomo a game ball for that. This week's progress report says: Gator Bowl worthy. I wanted to make them BCS worthy, but getting physically beat for a quarter and a half demoted them.
The Secondary: Wake Forest only attempted eight passes and completed three of them despite having the top passer in the conference. Aside from one long catch and run by DJ Boldin, the secondary also did a nice job wrapping up when the catches were made. Safety Ryan Hill had a nice pass breakup on third down and for the first time this season, teammate Anthony Reddick got to relax. This week's progress report says: BCS Worthy. Hard to grade this unit considering Wake only attempted eight passes. But they still only gave up three completions. Shocking as it might sound, UM's pass defense now ranks 16th in the country. That's not a typo.
Special Teams: Matt Bosher continued his campaign for MVP -- he's got my vote -- with another great day with his toes. Bosher booted a career-long punt last week at Duke. Saturday versus Wake, he absolutely crushed a 52-yard field goal -- another career long. He was 3 of 3 on attempts that included a 36 and 43 yarder and is now 12 of 13 on the season. He shanked a punt -- not a weekly tradition. But he finished with a 47-yarder and 36-yard average. Not bad. The unit also scored major points with their trick play -- the Benjamin to Shields flip which led to UM's first points of the second half. This week's progress report says: National Championship worthy.Randy Shannon and Joe Pannunzio tag-team coaching this unit. There's no question special teams is the honest-to-god strength of this team.
Coaching: This week, the we need to get Patrick Nix out-of-here campaign picked up again because UM was unable to generate much of a running game -- save for the Marve run -- or a passing game -- save for that long Benjamin catch. But I'm not with it. Wake Forest has a good defense and although UM couldn't sustain much, Nix still found ways to at least get in scoring position. Bill Young, meanwhile, put the clamps on Wake's running game when he needed to and he somehow figured out the best way to beat Riley Skinner was to make Wake believe its best not to throw. Shannon, meanwhile, rolled the dice twice on fourth down and didn't get it and went for an onside kick that was good, just not executed. But I like his style. I thought they were good calls. This week's progress report says: Gator Bowl Here We Come. Notice a theme yet?