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Grading the Canes: FSU Report Card

With Miami off until back-to-back 5:45 a.m. practices Thursday and Friday, I figured this was a perfect time to reflect on the FSU game for the last time -- before we move onto Georgia Tech -- with a report card and a Canes Top 10 player progress report.

Sitting way up in the press box and writing on deadline for a night game can be tough for sportswriters to catch everything that happened in the game. I know I didn't get to watch the game as closely as I wanted to, so I'll be watching the rebroadcast tonight on Sunshine Network at 11 p.m. But with what I was able to see and gathered in the postgame locker room, here how I graded the Canes.

> Quarterbacks: What can you say about Jacory Harris that hasn't already been said? He was banged up and still set a Canes record for passing yards (386) against FSU and led UM back from deficit three times in the second half. He just made one bad decision -- forcing a ball in FSU territory for a pick. The other was the result of being hit on a pass. He was the ACC Offensive Player of the Week and even got a Heisman vote at ESPN. Still think Robert Marve was the better quarterback? Grade: A.

Javarris James > Running game: Miami ran 30 times for 104 yards (3.0 avg). But I thought Javarris James (11 carries, 36 yds, 1 TD) and Graig Cooper (7 carries, 31 yds, 1 TD) played outstanding. James looked exactly as advertised by his teammates -- faster and healthy. Cooper made an outstanding touchdown catch. Lee Cambers was the only backup to get a carry and had 5 for 10 yards, not exactly spectacular. And freshman Mike James had 1 catch for five yards and another play he tripped on that almost turned into a disaster. But I thought the backs made all the plays when they had to. Grade: A-.

Travis Benjamin > Receivers/tight ends: Outside of two drops by Leonard Hankerson and a ball tight end Jimmy Graham needed to fight for better than he did, I thought the Canes receivers were aces -- even with their best NFL prospects Aldarius Johnson and LaRon Byrd dinged up. Travis Benjamin led the way with four catches for 128 yards and a score and Hankerson made up for his drops with two really tough catches in traffic and a 4 receptions for 72 yard night. Even tight end Dedrick Epps got back into the mix with two catches for 46 yards. Grade: A-

> Blocking: With two new starters on the right side in Harland Gunn and Matt Pipho, I thought the Hurricanes did a decent job protecting the quarterback. FSU was obviously able to put some pressure on Harris -- forcing a pick-6 with a blitz from freshman DB Greg Reid. But all in all, UM's guys got the job done, opening holes in the running game when they needed a touchdown late and keeping Harris clean for most of the game. Veterans Jason Fox and Orlando Franklin were flagged for false starts and Pipho was flagged for holding in the second quarter. But that was it for the o-line. Receiver LaRon Byrd picked up the flag with an illegal block. Harris was sacked twice, once officially (Pipho's holding waived off the other). Grade: B-.

Olivier Vernon > Defensive line: Shorthanded without Adewale Ojomo (jaw) and veteran Eric Moncur (groin), there is no question the Canes struggled putting any sort of pressure on Christian Ponder. But part of that had to with the fact FSU's offensive line is considered one of the best in the country and that defensive coordinator John Lovett hardly blitzed all game. I thought the line did an outstanding job containing FSU's running game, which had 30 carries for 110 yards -- the last 30 coming on the one real time Ponder was able to escape the pocket for a big gain. Allen Bailey had a sack and plugged up the middle exceptionally well, and Marcus Robinson came through with a huge sack and strip of Ponder when Miami needed a turnover. I also thought freshman Olivier Vernon had a nice debut. All in all, a pretty good day considering the circumstances. Grade: B.  

> Linebackers: Not too many great plays, but not too many missed tackles or blown assignments. Colin McCarthy had seven tackles in his first game back, including one for loss. Sean Spence was nearly invisible and got beat in coverage by Caz Piurowski for FSU's first touchdown. But I think this unit simply did what was asked of it by Lovett, hardly blitzing until the end and making sure Ponder didn't have a huge day running the football. No doubt, though, they and the secondary have worked to do on pass defense. Grade: C.

Randy Phillips > Secondary: Can't give this group high praise when Christian Ponder carves them up and receivers end up being as open as they were. But it's hard to cover guys for more than five seconds. It was Lovett's choice to not send more blitzers at Ponder and to sit five yards back in coverage. All in all, these guys made some plays when they had to. I was impressed with Brandon Harris, who bounced back from his late pass interference penalty and batted away two balls. FSU didn't look his way often. Randy Phillips also had a pretty good day with six tackles and a big interception before the half. But there's no doubt this team needs work and needs to get healthy. Demarcus Van Dyke went out with an injury early. Sam Shields, making his first start on defense, got burned a few times. I believe Jojo Nicholas and Jared Campbell see a lot less time if Vaughn Telemaque and Ryan Hill are healthy. And Chavez Grant, UM's second best boundary corner, certainly isn't playing safety. I think what was saw ultimately was UMs Plan B secondary play most of the night. They badly need Plan A out there. Grade: C-

> Special Teams: Mixed bag here. I thought Matt Bosher had a solid day punting (4 punts, 2 inside 10) and kicking field goals, but obviously a horrible day on kickoffs. Shannon said the team was ultimately forced to squib kick because Bosher wasn't getting enough hangtime on his kickoffs. But UM didn't do a great job either tackling. On the flip side, Graig Cooper looked spectacular on kickoff returns. He gave Miami great field position nearly every time he touched the ball. Grade: C.

> Coaching: Mark Whipple gets the golden star here for his great play-calling. I also liked the fact he got in Jacory Harris face after the interception (no kid glove treatment). Defensively, Miami's game plan stunk. If Jarmon Fortson makes the catch in the end zone on the final play, we all would have been ripping Miami's defense much harder than we are. And the clock management once again was ugly. Somebody on the sidelines has to stop the confusion of who is supposed to be in and when. On one play near the goalline, Harland Gunn ran off the field and then back on it. Harris was forced to call timeout. At the end, it was another personnel mixup that forced UM to stop the clock with 19 seconds left and FSU inside Miami's five. Randy Shannon can't afford to have this continue to happen. Grade: C-.

FYI, I'll be posting the player progress report shortly. But now for a what if...


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Hate to do it, but FIRST.

Thanks, Manny. Great write up.

I second that...great job Manny.

Pat Hill also did a great job blocking, that guy can really deliver a blow.

Sam Shields did great considering CB is a new position for him. It's pretty sick to think about him covering in that goalline situation. Great job by a guy who could've packed it up and quit. He's really come a long way.

I agree with almost everything. The O-line did a bit better than you said and the D-line a bit worse, but you're right to say that going against one of the best o-lines (at least acc to the experts) on the first game gives the D-line a bit of a mulligan. Not sure why we didn't blitz more, but judging from how poorly the secondary was playing and that those guys were, as you said, the second unit, Lovett may have been scared to death to blitz more. If they pick it up it's death. I thought getting pressure would have bailed those guys out, but maybe Lovett was thinking we'd just bend and not break and let our offense win it in the end, which is what happened.

The time management is frustrating, but again, since I'm riding high from the victory, I'll use the "young players in the first game at Doak Campbell" excuse. However, we have a buy and then a home game, so if that stuff pops up again there's no excuse.

And if we don't fix the special teams issues then Virginia Tech is going to wipe the floor with us. They have no offense whatsoever, but they thrive on D and special teams, and if our horrible weakness plays right into their strength up in Blacksburg, it could be trouble.

But that's weeks away! All in all, I'm lovin life and I think this team is poised to do something special this year. A few improvements on some game 1 problems and I'm busy in early January.

Go Canes!

Why not the option of ST Coordinator / RS for continuting to give FSU a short field to work with. A TO and only 50 yds to go w/ what was 1:40 or so on the clock isn't impossible as was was seen.

But hey a great win is a great win. I'm sold on Jacory. Tighten up the D, and to the Great Cane fans please no more references to Marve, Cook, B Brown, the Gators and asinine game score predictions.
GO CANES - - Woosh Woosh!

for bad clock managment please do not blame shannon HATERS.that is for the assistacne to handle that. with a week of preperation we should get everything in order.


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Featuring Former cane Pistol, TRIGGA, RedCoat, & Big Pimp

Great win in the NDB Monday canes.

For whatever reason, Lovetted decided no to let the Deffensive Ends go for broker by coming hard aff the edges... They seemed to stay in allighment with the DT's on purpose.

Ponder is sharp, but i think it was worth a shot to have a couple of zone blitzes thrown at the kid for good measure; instead of playing him the same way until the end.

I think Spence is better suited for roaming free upfield, rather than dropping back into pass coverage.

Sam Sheilds i think did a pretty good job, great way to stay on the guy wit hands up, and avoid the penalty. Also was impressed with Sheilds no shying away from contact - which was my concern with him.

Brandon Harris played awesome!

safety play was decent except for the long pass up the middle on 3rd down, where JoJo Nicholas looked confused about who should have picked the guy up in the middle of the feild.

Shannon's stoic, nothin bothers me character showed in the players inner ability to not guage when things appear to look bad.

Great job getting those kids ready, those guys never quit !

Lets go Canes !

Shannon is not a very good game day head coach. Not yet at least. He made some good gutsy calls going on fourth down but made a few other things that he takes the blame for as head coach. That being said, college football is 90% about talent. And no one can say he is doing a bad job of recruiting. Whipple did great with the offense, we will see Lovett's worth next week against GT. Randy has a lot to learn as a head coach but if he gets 2 more recruiting classes like the ones he's gotten, there won't be much need for game day coaching!

My only question about this game is, what happened to Spence? He became the invisible man Monday night when I was expecting him to really shine this year.


1. Did Shields really start or did he just fill in for Van Dyke? I ask b/c if Van Dyke is not starting then he needs to develop/improve!

2. How does Stanford pluck Torrian Wilson out of our backyard? Would appreciate it if you could investigate the story behind this...


After all the negativity for how Shannon chose to let Jacory play last year. How he favored the Bulls players, blah blah blah. Can someone, anyone, mainly those persons who were so critical, can you give hime his props now that you see the magic he saw in Jacory a long time ago?



Hey except for a few bad write in's I really enjoyed this. Manny great colom. good views and excellent coverage. Big Sonny said all that needs to be said. The coaches got these kids ready to play and they played as a team. When you can do that NOBODY CAN AND WILL beat you. Keep up the good work players. one down and eleven to go. One game at a time one after the other. Do not worry about the polls that will take care of itself the more you keep winning. I see not problem with GA Tech, VA Tech or OK No reason on earth this team can not be 4-0 after the first month. This team is special I can see it in their faces.


A good team celebrates a hard earned win. A great team takes the mistakes from the win and learns from them.

Just because we won doesn't mean we played flawlessly. Unless you are willing to learn from those mistakes, we will always be a mediocre team with an occasional upset.

why post hypothetical questions about something negative that didn't happen? It really doesn't matter, and it is time to move on to the next game.

FSU is a tough opponent and a rival, they are going to expose weaknesses. Let's just move on.

How does Miami stop the triple option is a better question.

We can take it a little easy on Lovitt. He is without DVD, Ryan hill, VT, Moncour, and Odjomo. Plus, it is first game of the year. Does anyone think Jojo is gonna play once the others are heatlhy? We need at least Moncour (I think he is done) or Odjomo back. Wesley and Robinson arent bad but Vernon is still young.


How about asking why no blitzes? What was the rationale? We did blitz on every play at the goaline at the end of the game.

PATRICK HILL is definately an unsung hero...

Cant wait to see the TE group mature a little more. With so many threats at receiver, who can cover the BIG tight end (Epps or Graghm) when they slip out behind the line backers on PLAY ACTION?

The progression of the TE will be our dagger in the harts of opponents a la FRANKS, SHOCKEY and WINSLOW...Teams just can't cover a GOOD TE!

Let's go Epps and Grahm....GET IN THE MIX and help this team D O M I N A T E!

I hated giving FSU the short field on the last drive (or, for that matter, all night). But, don't you see....... IT HAD TO BE THAT WAY. It couldn't just end on a FSU 3 and out.

Yes, in all the UM/FSU classics....WR I, WR II, WR III, WL, and now this one, FSU comes back. Never say die............which makes it more agonizing for the FSU faithful in the end!

Manny I was perplexed with the no blitz thing to be honest. I think it was the product of Ponder running all over us last year. We wanted to make sure if he took off we had the LB's waiting. I think the Dline was also looking like they had been told to stay in there lanes and make sure the QB did not kill them. With that said. The DB's will look better with a pass rush. The pass rush will be better if we get Moncur back. Even if we don't it will be better as the year goes on. Since the FSU oline is young but very good. Also when we show some blitzes and such it will soften up other teams.

BUT the one important thing to consider is this. If we play on offense like Monday night the defense will have a much bigger margin of error. I think that we will have some games that we run and run and run teams to death. That will help the D. Other than the OU/VT D will we face a faster D than FSU? Will we face better D's than OU/VT? I do not think so. Our O will help our D. IMO.

Have a hard time with the blame game you play. To have two new coordinators with a young team and produce like they did against Florida State is an A or B across the board. We where 6.5 point underdogs going to Tallahassee where most of our starters had never played before. And then to top it off w/a survey on who to blame if we had lost, what a shame. You are a reporter, somehow you have a hair up your behind w/respect to Coach Shannon.

I don't think its right to be too critical about this team. Take a look at the circumstances. This is a new coaching staff, new offense and defense. Things will get better as the season progress. It is too soon to have issues with this team. The team won the dare game!!!!! What else do you want!!!! Let’s be thankful the team got off to a good start especially with the scheduled the team has ahead. ONE STEP AT A TIME!!!!!!

I got to agree that the defensive coordinator was not to blame. Games are chess matches. Early in the game, FSU showed the capacity to throw the wide reciever screen, a play we lived on in the 1980's. That play goes for TDs against a blitz, especially when two or more backers are blitzing. Having shown it early, Lovett played the sit back and respond defense. And for the most part, it worked. Ponder threw short and our guys came up and hit them, sometimes hard. They tackled so much better than last year there is no comparison. Occasionally, Lovett did send Spence on a blitz but he was largely ineffective.

When the game was on line, Lovett blitzed often in the red zone, and put alot of pressure on Ponder. He also shut down the option run down close and the team dominated the running game until the fourth quarter when they tired. There were only 4 or 5 times when I saw a play and thought, geez, how does that happen? Last year, our guys were out of position and clueless more often than not.

The most surprising thing in the game, defensively, is how Spence struggled. He is really undersized to play read and react defense; he is an attacking player, alot like Randy when he played. Randy could line up outside the defensive tackle near the line of scrimmage and be at the quarterback in less than 3 seconds. That really should be Spence's role in pass defense.

I am concerned about Spence's role against GT. His size really limits his ability to fight off blocks in the running game. He needs to do a better job studying film and beat the lineman to the blocking point against the option.

The other thing that struck me about our defense is that if you can't get to the QB, you must put your hands up in the air and restrict the QB's vision. On the last play, everyone ran to Ponder but no one had their hands up in the air. Every defense should tip or bat at least one ball down a game at the line when the quarterback stays in the pocket. That didn't happen but it was just the first game.

But overall, I was impressed. I thought the defense played a very experience FSU offense quite well. I think their performance is not getting the credit it deserves, considering it was Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell and they stopped FSU 5 times inside the ten.

I can't even begin to type how impressed I was with Whipple's play calls, and even more so, Jacory's execution of them. Whipple exploited every mismatch the Canes had all game. It was amazing. And Jacory proved he is the real deal. I don't want to revisit the whole Marve thing, when many of us saw Jacory as the better player and were met with such consternation for saying so, but this kid has an NFL brain. Once his body catches up, and he is 210 or 220, he will have every tool needed to excel in the NFL.

So, I guess my beef is that the coaching grade should be at least a B+. The last squib kick didn't go well, but give FSU credit for moving Greg Reid up on that play. We only had one timeout, so we couldn't have called one there to tell Bosher to kick somewhere else even if we noticed he moved up. The previous squib kick we pinned them down at the thirty, which was perfectly acceptable. When we really needed a timeout this game, Randy called them. I didn't see one time out that wasn't called. And in the bowl game last year, Randy had to call that time out because Nix was procrastinating calling the play with time running down.

Overall, that was a very well played game by both teams. Bobby is right, it is one of the best college football games I have ever seen. It was be in his top three, but I was at BC Miami in 1984, which was the best game I ever saw. I could probably list 5 or 6 more that did not involve FSU that were close, but the best FSU game for showing Miami heart still remains the 26-25 game. But this was as close to that as it can possibly get.

By the way...how IS Robert Marve doing?

SJM.., nice post

You gotta love the U. Even if you hate the U! And if you do hate the U, you're wrong. It's the U man. College football is better when the U is right. The world is better when the U is right.

J. Rome 9-8-09

Manny, I think in your poll you should have added a question on who to blame in UM would have lost to the kick-off/squibb kick calls. I really don't buy that Bosher could not kick it for more than 30 or 40 yards.

Defense played a great game against a very good FSU team. They were missing 4 players on defense. Look Ponder would have picked the bliz up with no problem and or dbacks were to young to be left out there alone. We surrived which is the key, now correct and get ready for GT. I'm still saying we could be 3 and 0 waiting for Oka. Do you think our D will back
down from Bradfort after facing Ponder. I don't think so. I am telling ya with this win up at FSU, this team could be very special.
Miami Bob

I think Shannon needs to either take over the D or let his coordinator run the show straight up. This business with naming a coordinator and then meddling with the game plan is nonsense. Does anyone really think that positioning the LBs in the secondary to prevent big plays was Lovett's idea? That was absolutely ridiculous.

The meddling is one of the reasons that Bill Young left for OSU after only 1 year. Did anyone notice how well his D played against Georgia? OSUs defense actually was worse then Miami's last and it looks like he has turned that D around in short order.

Same goes for special teams. This business about Bosher having a "tired leg" and not being able to kick it deep is nonsense. Those pooch kicks were planned. Again, I have a feeling that was Shannon's doing.

It seems that because of some of his poor hiring of coaches when he first got the HC position, Shannon is now trying to micro-manage his coaches in some aspects of the game. He needs to knock if off. If he tries that crap with Whipple, he will need to hire a new OC next year too, because Whipple will not put up with it.

Shannon is an excellent recruiter, administrator and disciplinarian and he needs to stick with those things and let his coaches coach...like he said that he was going to do. While he is at it, he needs to a hire a clock management specialist as well.

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