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Grading the Canes: UNC Report Card

RALEIGH -- About to head home with a bunch of Canes fans here from Raleigh-Durham Airport. A couple quick thoughts and then the grades:

Jacory Harris -- In the grand scheme of things Saturday's loss didn't mean a ton. After Georgia Tech beat Duke, all UM was playing for was a chance to play in a BCS Bowl. There was no guarantee that would happen even if the Canes finished 10-2. Now, does it really matter if they play in the Gator Bowl, Peach Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl or Meineke Car Care Bowl? Not to me.

-- Regardless of how bad Jacory Harris played Saturday, don't look for it to weigh on him very long. Harris was down in the post-game press conference. But he has a room full of 100 teammates and coaches that have his back. If Robert Marve or another quarterback who was capable of really running the offense was around, we might have seen Jacory sitting on the bench after his third pick. But there isn't that guy. You're going to have to live with Jacory's mistakes for now. He's just a sophomore. I have faith he'll get better.

Before I go, here are my grades for yesterday's 33-24 loss to the Tar Heels.

> Quarterbacks: Although it really wasn't all of his fault, the Hurricanes lost Saturday because Jacory was at his worst. It wasn't just some of his throws, it was his decision making. He admitted so himself. Not only did he force balls into double and triple coverage, he didn't put the right touch on passes either -- preferring to float the ball in instead of firing it in. Does Jacory have the arm to fire it in? Yes. Does he do it enough? No way. That's something offensive coordinator Mark Whipple has to focus on more with Jacory next spring. Like I said, he can't take all the blame for a career-high four picks. LaRon Byrd got out-jumped for the first one even though he had four inches on the UNC safety who picked off the pass. Byrd admitted as much afterward. Still, it was worst his day as a Cane. Grade: F.

Graig Cooper > Running backs: Miami didn't have a great day running the football. But when you only carry the ball 25 times and throw it 50, it's hard to. North Carolina's front seven is one of the best in the game, but still struggled stopping UM's running game consistently. Graig Cooper finished with 63 yards on 15 carries. We never saw Javarris James. But Damien Berry had a really good day. He had six carries for 46 yards. My question is this: with UM trailing 23-17 in the fourth quarter why didn't we see more of Berry and less of Jacory throwing the football deep? That's something I wish we could ask Whipple, but will never get a chance too. Still, a decent day for the backs. Cooper had 7 catches for 37 yards and Berry had two grabs for 50. I think it's safe to say we should have seen more of them than we did, especially after UM got back into the game in the fourth quarter and when Jacory was still struggling. Grade: B.

> Receiving: Nine different receivers caught passes Saturday. But none other than Leonard Hankerson's key fourth down grab in the third quarter that led to Miami pulling to within 23-17 really stand out. The fact Byrd got outleaped for a ball was inexcusable. He dropped a key pass on the opening drive. Hankerson dropped a touchdown too. North Carolina's defense was good. But I still expected more from this unit and they didn't deliver enough. Grade: C-.

> Offensive line: There are more than few misleading stats to make you believe Jason Fox and company had a decent day. One, UM's offense produced 435 yards. Two, Jacory Harris won only sacked twice. Here is the stat you really need to look at QBH: Quarterback Hurries. Jacory was hit or pressured 11 times. UNC's T.J. Yates? 3 times. It's hard to feel comfortable in the pocket when one out of every five throws is under pressure. Grade: D.

> Front seven: These were on the verge of being heroes Saturday. But as linebacker Darryl Sharpton said afterward, when the Canes needed a stop down 30-24 in the fourth quarter "we fell apart." Ryan Houston, contained most of the afternoon, ripped off five consecutive carries on the game-sealing drive and tallied 32 yards. That was the ball game. Sharpton finished with nine tackles and Colin McCarthy had a season high 13. Ramon Buchanon had a career-high six tackles. But where was the pressure? Josh Holmes had a sack. But Miami only pressured Yates three times. That's not nearly enough against a beat up UNC offensive line. Grade: C-.

> Secondary: DeMarcus Van Dyke wanted to redeem himself after last year's fiasco. Didn't happen. He got burned by Greg Little on a 29-yard touchdown pass. No, he didn't get any safety help. But what else is new with this UM secondary? Ultimately, UM didn't get enough pressure on Yates. But he shouldn't have been 17 for 31 for 213 yards and a touchdown. Miami had one pass breakup -- and Ramon Buchanon achieved that when he deflected a Yates pass as he threw it. That's called not getting the job done and playing too far off the ball. Grade: D.

> Special teams: Matt Bosher was once again MVP. He averaged 46 yards a punt and had one pinned inside the 20. He made a 39-yard field goal and had a touchback on a kickoff. He even made a tackle on Greg Little to prevent a kick return for a score. UM also did a pretty decent job fixing its punt protection woes. The decision to have guys point out who they'll be blocking before the snap only led to one delay of game penalty and five clean punts. And Mike James and Graig Cooper did a decent job giving UM good field position. The bad? There was a huge block in the back penalty on Thearon Collier's punt return in the fourth quarter. Instead of having the ball at the UNC 46, Miami started at its own 35 with 11:41 to play. Still, a better day overall than last week against Virginia. Grade: B.

> Coaching: Remember when some of us were thinking Mark Whipple might be gone after this season? Probably not going to happen anymore. Not only is his star pupil second in the country in interceptions, but the offense isn't as good as it should be week in and week out. But my biggest beef -- aside from Whipple continuing to call for Jacory to throw deep even after Miami had rallied to bring the game within one score -- was the clock management before the half. Miami was on the UNC 32 yard line and there were 14 seconds left on the clock when Jacory was sacked to end the half. UM had one time out left and didn't use it and instead the clock ran out. If UM connects on a field goal there, it's a 33-27 game in the fourth quarter and Miami still has a chance on the final drive. Instead, it was a nine-point game and out of reach. Grade: D.