The way Jacory Harris and his wide selection of receivers opened the season, it looked like the Canes were going to be able to stretch the field all year long.
While Harris has hooked up on a few deep balls the last couple weeks (remember Travis Benjamin's 38-yard TD catch against Oklahoma and Leonard Hankerson's 37-yard catch against FAMU), the big play simply hasn't been there quite as often as it was against Florida State and Georgia Tech. The reason? Opposing defensive coordinators are game-planning for Miami better, taking away the deep ball and forcing Harris to work underneath more and more.
"The first couple of weeks everyone was playing us man," Harris said after Wednesday morning's practice at Greentree Practice Field. "They didn't know what we were coming with. So it was opening up the deep passing game. Now everybody is playing soft, so now we can throw little short routes."
If you are wondering why Harris has thrown as many interceptions (5) as he has TDs (5) in his last three games, he already knows the answer.
"I'm trying to go for the big play instead [of settling for a short gain]," Harris said. "I just got to make smart reads and trust everything around me and read the defense. [The interceptions] will lower itself."
Harris didn't see much action against UCF last season. He was 4 of 6 for 14 yards and came in late to convert a two-point conversion scoring play. UM had its second-worst passing day of the season against the Knights, throwing for just 88 yards as a team. Robert Marve, who played most of the game, was intercepted three times by a talented UCF secondary.
This Knights secondary isn't as experienced. But it is littered with South Florida speed. Freshman corner Josh Robinson was a standout at Plantation, junior Darin Baldwin was a star at South Dade, strong safety Michael Greco, a senior, starred at Cardinal Gibbons and freshman free safety Kemal Ishmael was a star at North Miami Beach High.
"They're going to give us a good game. They have a bunch of wonderful players," Harris said. "They want to take down Miami, and I guess that can make their season. A lot of people just want to bring down the University of Miami. We already had one disappointing loss, and I don't think this team wants any more losses. We're going to go out there and play our hardest in order to win."
> The last time UM was ranked in the Top 10, they fell hard at Virginia Tech. Harris said the team is approaching their second venture into the Top 10 differently.
"Last time we were real excited being ranked No. 9," Harris said. "At this point we understand we can't get like that anymore. We've just got to be our regular selves, and we just go out there and have fun. Keep winning games and all the rankings and things like that will come."
> Sophomore linebacker Ramon Buchanon seems like a nice kid. But getting two words out of him feels a lot like trying to scratch out a nasty stain on a shirt. We asked Buchanon about eight different ways how he feels about being given the opportunity to play more with Jordan Futch going down.
Here are some of his short and sweet responses...
- Do you feel you have a pretty good grasp of the plays? "Yeah."
- What would you say has been your biggest challenge? "Staying focused."
- Do you feel more comfortable having played the last two games? "I'm getting accustomed to the game speed. I played the whole fourth quarter and like the last 10 minutes of the third. It was pretty exciting."
He's only a sophomore. He'll come around. We hope.
> UM's official injury report will be released Thursday. But for now, here is what coach Randy Shannon told us this morning: Safety Randy Phillips (shoulder) didn't practice Wednesday; Running back Graig Cooper did and should play; defensive end Olivier Vernon is back, "He practiced all week. I expect him to go in the game," Shannon said.
> Junior Allen Bailey said he's still playing "a few snaps" at defensive tackle, but has played primarily at defensive end since the Georgia Tech game.
> For all of you enamored with the SpongeBob-Canes connection, Harris told us the team has decorated the locker room with SpongeBob fathead stickers.