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Grading the Canes: OU Report Card

The unpredictable Miami Hurricanes are back. Just when you think you've got your finger on what this team is all about, they go out and surprise you again. What a win, what an effort, what an amazing 3-1 start and step up for Randy Shannon's program. Nobody who covers this team on a daily basis (not even the Kool-Aid drinkers) not even secret Canes fan Kirk Herbstreit thought UM would bounce back from its loss at Virginia Tech and win three of its first four tough games.

Now, the Canes control their destiny (somewhat). Win out and there's no doubt UM will play in a BCS Bowl game. Win out and get a little help with a Virginia Tech loss or two and who knows there's a chance UM could be playing in Pasadena. Here's the good news for the Canes (as long as they don't fall asleep), only two teams left on their schedule should really be tough tests -- at North Carolina (Nov. 14) and at South Florida (Nov. 28).

Here's who gets the love for the effort against OU...

Randy Shannon > Game balls - Offense: Javarris James (his 150 yards rushing on 15 carries were huge). Defense: Sean Spence (his team-leading 10 tackles were great to see). Special teams: Matt Bosher (did a great job pinning the Sooners and making them go the length of the field). Coaches: All of them.

> Helmet stickers - Offense: Jacory Harris (had two bad early picks, but was pinpoint the rest of the way).Defense: Ray Ray Armstrong (for his big lift), Vaughn Telemaque (for his nine tackles) and the entire beat up defensive line. Special teams: Corey Nelms (for his huge hit).

> Quarterbacks: Two of his first four passes went for interceptions. But after those two mistakes, Harris played like the Heisman candidate I still say he is. He finished 19 of 28 for 202 yards and three touchdowns. He made great decisions and throws on the game-clinching drive and threaded a perfect pass between four DBs to Dedrick Epps on his 11-yard pass. If not for the two early mistakes, Harris would get an A. Grade: A-.

Javarris James > Running game: How about Javarris James? I've been one of his biggest critics most of his career, wondering why UM continued to feature him as the primary back when Graig Cooper was playing better. James made me eat my words in the Canes' biggest win since he's been here. His career-high 150 yards were great, but what I enjoyed most were the tough, six and seven yard bursts he provided against what was the nation's No. 1 run defense. UM finished with 140 yards on 32 carries when you throw in Jacory Harris' four sacks. But make no mistake, the 175 yards UM gained were huge and as big a reason as any why the Canes won this game. Grade: A.

> Receivers/tight end: There were a few unnecessary drops. But all in all, when 11 different guys catch passes you have to tip your hat not only to Jacory Harris for spreading the wealth, but for guys stepping up and making plays. Aldarius Johnson made a nice return and finished with four catches for 45 yards. Travis Benjamin had three for 61 yards and a touchdown and Dedrick Epps made three clutch catches including one for a touchdown. And how about Jimmy Graham? He promised he'd catch the next ball thrown his way and he did. All he does is catch touchdowns: he's got two catches for two touchdowns. Grade: A-.

> Blocking: The Sooners stayed true to their season average by getting to Jacory Harris for four sacks. Jeremy Beal abused Matt Pipho and company for three of them. But where UM earned it's good grade was being physical in the run game and opening up some gaping holes. Big bad Gerald McCoy? He had a half tackle. That's a credit to UM's interior, AJ Trump, Joel Figueroa, Harland Gunn and Orlando Franklin did their job. Grade: B.

Ray Ray and Spence > Front Seven: Welcome back Sean Spence. Welcome back UM's good run defense. Welcome back pass rush. While things weren't pretty early, Spence and company answered the call over the final three quarters. Spence finished with a team-leading 10 tackles and Colin McCarthy -- playing injured -- showed his toughness after coming in during the second quarter and finishing with seven tackles. Oklahoma finished with 153 yards on 42 attempts. But take away Chris Brown's 48-yard burst at the goalline and the Sooners have probably their worst ay running the football in years. Allen Bailey and Marcus Robinson both got sacks and UM produced four quarterback hurries as a unit to make Landry Jones feel awfully uncomfortable. Grade: A-.

> Secondary: How do you measure the impact and lift freshman Ray Ray Armstrong provided this unit? With leading tackler Randy Phillips out and UM shorthanded by injuries at the position, Armstrong's bone jarring hits brought UM's defense and the home crowd to life. Vaughn Telemaque had a career-best nine tackles himself and except for one bad blown coverage, Brandon Harris was special. He had a sack and forced a huge fumble to help UM grab the lead. The only guy who had a forgetful game? Sam Shields. He got burned in coverage multiple times and was definitely somebody Landry Jones and the Sooners went after. All-in-all, UM limited Landry to 188 yards passing on 30 attempts. Not bad at all. Grade: B+.

> Special teams: There were a pair of ugly moments: Joe Joseph getting that bonehead penalty for running into the punter (even though it was very questionable) and the 51-yard punt return Dominique Franks had from his one yard line to put Oklahoma in position to come back and win the game. But overall, there were no major mistakes in kickoff coverage, Matt Bosher averaged 45.8 yards a punt including three that pinned Oklahoma inside the 20 and Mike James and Graig Cooper did decent jobs giving UM's offense good field position on kickoffs. And who will ever forget walk-on Corey Nelms' big hit to start the second half? That fueled UM's nice start to the second half. Grade: B+.

> Coaching: After being out coached by Virginia Tech, coordinators Mark Whipple and John Lovett put their players in the perfect positions to win this game. Whipple made the right decision to make OU respect UM's running game first before unleashing Harris and the passing attack. Defensively, after a terrible opening drive, Landry Jones and the OU offense simply looked uncomfortable with what Lovett was throwing at them. Even though Shields got burned, UM was in the right pass protection schemes. Personnel wise, Lovett made the right decision to cut Ray Ray Armstrong loose and continue to rotate him. UM coach Randy Shannon had his team ready, mentally and physically for this game. You couldn't have asked for anything more. Had UM lost this game, it certainly would not have been his or any of his assistants faults. Grade A+.