NEW YORK -- Greetings from the Big Apple. As you can see, I didn't end up going to Wake Forest this weekend to catch the Canes. After covering Games 1 and 2 of the World Series, I was asked to stick around and help cover Sunday's Dolphins-Jets game. It worked out well because my wife and I got to attend her grandmother's 102nd birthday this afternoon.
Between those family moments, I was able to follow the game on my Blackberry before I was able to sneak away and catch about the last 10 minutes on TV (I started watching right when DeMarcus Van Dyke grabbed his first career interception). Some quick thoughts on the game and more since I've been away all week...
> When it was 27-14 in the fourth quarter all I kept thinking about was how badly Randy Shannon and his coaching staff must have been getting ripped by some in Canes Nation. Now, after the thrilling come-from-behind win, I'm guessing some of them are back to being "his biggest supporters." Got to love the fine line between loved and hated.
> The Hurricanes are now 6-2, 3-2 in ACC play. To me, all we've really learned over the last four games is that this team isn't as great as we thought they were (Yes, that was a little Dennis Green like).
Look, I'm not taking anything away from Miami's blowout of Georgia Tech or the 21-20 win against Oklahoma. But those four ranked opponents UM played to start the year now have a combined record of 22-11. The last four games haven't been played against better teams either. And yet, no matter how uncomfortable you feel about the Canes this morning (and you might be asking yourself are really that much better?), progress HAS been made.
This team has won games this year it didn't win last year and accomplished things it failed to do last year. UM played another wild game against FSU, but won. They grabbed a double-digit lead against Oklahoma and didn't let the Sooners come back on them like North Carolina did in 2008. They struggled against UCF again, but stepped on the gas and surged ahead instead of letting the Knights stick around. And finally, Saturday, they fought back from 17-0 down in the first half and 27-14 in the fourth quarter and won.
It's not major progress (this clearly isn't a Canes team on the same level of many of the other great ones before it and still has a long ways to get there). But it's still a better football team than the last four Miami has had.
> I think it's officially safe to say Mark Whipple was right about his offense last month when he said they weren't nearly as good as he wants them to be. How Miami had two yards of total offense in the second half before embarking on its game-winning drive was eye-opening. Give Jacory Harris credit for leading UM on the game-winning drive, but he and his receivers still have work to do.
> Wet conditions or not, Leonard Hankerson had drops he shouldn't have. Hankerson is definitely the most improved player on the team. But he's not completely beyond struggles. Miami is lucky Aldarius Johnson and Travis Benjamin were able to hang onto a couple big pass plays. UM definitely needs every one of its receivers. None of them has been able to separate themselves as the definite go-to-guy.
> This pass defense is a lot like the offensive line -- average on its best days. UM's defense gave up 555 yards to Wake Forest. But 408 yards came through the air. According to the media guide, it was the third-most passing yards ever against UM. Wake Forest ranked fifth in the ACC in pass offense and has a good quarterback in Riley Skinner. But there are just way too many times when guys are wide open. It wasn't just this week.
FYI... I'll be back on the Canes beat Tuesday (this time I mean it).