Notes, quotes and observations from Saturday night's 41-31 loss at Nebraska:
> It's now safe to say the improvement we saw on run defense by the Hurricanes over their first three games was simply a mirage. Nebraska became the fourth team to run for over 300 yards on the Hurricanes since Al Golden and Mark D'Onofrio came to town in 2011. In all, 15 opponents have gashed the Canes for 200 yards or more since 2011. Here's a trip down memory lane.
MOST RUSHING YARDS VS. GOLDEN/D'ONOFRIO
376 - Notre Dame, 2012
358 - Duke, 2013
343 - Nebraska, 2014
335 - Georgia Tech, 2013
288 - Kansas State, 2012
287 - Georgia Tech, 2012
272 - North Carolina, 2012
265 - Kansas State, 2011
243 - Virginia, 2013
233 - Bethune-Cookman, 2012
224 - N.C. State, 2012
222 - Virginia Tech, 2012
220 - Pittsburgh, 2013
218 - Florida State, 2012
207 - Virginia, 2011
> For some perspective, Miami gave up 200 yards rushing nine times when Randy Shannon was the head coach, but only twice did a team put up more than 300: 472 by Georgia Tech in 2008 and 308 by Georgia Tech in 2010.
> The sickening part of Nebraska's 343-yard performance really is that the Hurricanes knew the Cornhuskers were going to run and still couldn't stop Ameer Abdullah and quarterback Tommy Armstrong in their zone read option attack. Nebraska only threw the ball 13 times.
That's the fewest a UM defense has seen an opponent throw in a 300-yard-plus rushing game since Georgia Tech threw it only seven times on the night they scorched Miami for a record 472 rushing yards in 2008. Nebraska by the way only threw it four times in the second half and ran it 25 times for 169 yards over the final two quarters.
> Asked after the game in Lincoln by Hurricanes reporters if it was time to change Miami's defensive scheme, Golden responded: “We didn’t tackle well enough. We came up against a good back. We turned the ball over three times.
"Look, I don’t know what you want me to say," he continued. "There’s no excuse for not tackling. There’s no excuse for not doing better on third down. But, we are not giving up on the scheme. We’ve made a lot of progress so far this year. We didn’t play well enough tonight. That’s it. Against a good team on the road. We turned the ball over three times and had a lot of selfish penalties."
> Miami missed tackles and didn't get enough push up field on the defensive line (Miami had no tackles for loss) but these aren't new problems. It's been this way for four years -- and not just against Nebraska. Abdullah told ESPN in the week leading up to the game Miami had a physical defense, but he liked playing against those kinds of defenses because he could bounce off tacklers.
Scheme is one thing (UM rarely crowded the box), but there were countless instances Saturday when instead of trying to wrap up the ball carrier players were trying to deliver the big hit. Safety Deon Bush cashed in once coming up with a forced fumble on Armstrong. But that was it. Abdullah actually dropped a ball, but it was on his own on a bad exchange. UM could not recover that one.
D'Onofrio did try corner and safety run blitzes. But the biggest miscues I saw were made by linebackers and ends not sticking with their assignments or responsibilities. They also whiffed a few times.
> As for the good, quarterback Brad Kaaya is at the top of that list. For a 19-year old true freshman starting his fourth game in college he played good enough to win. Yes, he threw two interceptions (another was negated by a penalty). But he was tough as nails and not afraid to stand in there and take a hit. He's the biggest reason for hope moving forward. He finished 28 of 42 for 359 yards, three scores.
"There's no question Brad is going to be a really good football player, a heck of a football player," Golden told WQAM. "The environment is not too big for him. I thought we did a heck of a job protecting him. We did a great job picking up their pressures, giving him time. I thought he answered the bell. I can't imagine what kind of night he would have had if we didn't turn it over three times.
> Phillip Dorsett made a heck of a catch in the fourth quarter against the defenders helmet for a 32-yard gain. Somehow, though, the fastest guy on the team isn't the one getting bubble screens thrown his way. He had just two catches after last week's explosive 201-yard, 2 TD performance. He had just one deep ball thrown his way aside from the 32-yarder down the sideline, and he he and Kaaya weren't on the same page for it. Nebraska was smart to take the deep ball away from Miami playing its safeties deep for most of the game.
> I thought tight end Clive Walford could have fought harder on Kaaya's first interception, but he bounced back and played well the rest of the way. He finished with seven catches for 80 yards and a score.
> Braxton Berrios finally looked like a freshman -- for a moment. He dropped what would have been a first down, but still had a nice night overall with four catches for 43 yards and a score. I think he's the best one-on-one receiver on the team. He made a nice 23-yard catch on a third down. He's definitely one for the first guys Kaaya looks for when he's in trouble.
> Until the fourth quarter, Miami's offensive line kept Randy Gregory and Nebraska's pass rush quiet. Gus Edwards whiffed on the block that allowed Gregory to sack Kaaya on the opening play of the fourth quarter. UM eventually had to settle for a field goal after right guard Danny Isidora was beaten to the inside on a designed draw play for Duke Johnson.
All in all, though, I liked what I saw from the offensive line because Kaaya had plenty of time to throw and they got his back when he was hit cheaply by Nebraska's defense. Both center Shane McDermott and Jon Feliciano came to his defense on multiple occasions. That's a good sign.
> Duke Johnson had 93 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown and had some really nice runs. But we're only going to remember the fumble that changed the momentum of the game in the third quarter and led to a 57-yard touchdown return for the Cornhuskers. Afterward, Duke took the blame.
“[It was] me just thinking the play was over instead of me protecting the ball knees to the ground," he said of the fumble. "That was just mishaps on my behalf. I should have made sure I hit the ground and give the ball to the ref like I’m told. I think that was one the play that actually changed the game in a big one.”
> Tracy Howard had an interception -- Miami's second of the season on a really bad decision by Armstrong and a heck of a diving catch. Maybe it will get Howard, who has struggled early, going.
> Miami's secondary looked bad on the opening drive when it gave up the 40-yard touchdown pass to Armstrong. Golden told WQAM the play was "an unforced error." Artie Burns delivered a nice hit to break up a pass, but missed Abdullah on a tackle on the swing pass for a TD and also got beat on a key third down pass. With better form on the attempted tackle of Abdullah the Hurricanes might have held Nebraska to just a field goal there.
> Miami didn't have any major miscues on special teams and freshman walk-on kicker Michael Badgley made a 34-yard field goal in a tough environment. Call it a great week for that group.
> Miami will take on Duke (4-0) at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium.