PITTSBURGH -- Couple of thoughts and post-game interviews after UM's 31-3 win at Pittsburgh on Thursday night:
> The defensive effort I saw Thursday night was about as good as I've seen a UM defense play in a long time. The Canes' defense finished with nine tackles for loss, five sacks and two interceptions. I think I could count the number of missed tackles this week on one hand. Hats off to the coaching staff for a great job in practice this week. Now, that being said, Pittsburgh's offense was horrendous. Even when their quarterback had time to throw, he still missed open receivers downfield. When he did find them, many times they dropped it. The Canes deserve credit for a great effort. But Clemson will be a much stiffer challenge next week.
> UM coach Randy Shannon continues to put the blame for Jacory Harris' interceptions on his receivers. After the game (and in the interview you can watch below) Shannon says Travis Benjamin is responsible for four of Jacory's six interceptions this season. When I got back to my hotel room and watched the rebroadcast of the game on ESPN, I heard the announcers say that they had spoken to offensive coordinator Mark Whipple about the INTs before Thursday's game. According to Craig James and company, Whipple is also putting much of the blame on the receivers joking at one point that if he was in the NFL, he'd cut them.
I'd love to ask Whipple myself what the issue is but assistant coaches are no longer being made available to local beat writers who cover the team -- just ESPN (TV) and WQAM (radio). I'd also like to ask Jacory what he saw on those plays. But we were informed in the fourth quarter tonight Harris would be "taking a break" from interviews. We're not sure how long it is going to last. But I'm guessing he might be the only college or pro quarterback in the country who gets to avoid post-game interviews and tough questions. Call me a whiny reporter, but even as a fan I'd be crying about it.
> Freshman offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson looks like he's making strides -- and I wonder if it won't be long before he gets his shot at the starting job. The Canes are using him mostly in rushing situations. He came in near the goalline on the opening drive and sprung the key block that got Damien Berry into the end zone.
> Senior defensive tackle Allen Bailey ended his sackless streak (7 games) on the first defensive play of the game. Bailey said he was in for about 12 snaps at defensive tackle. He said the emergence of Andrew Smith (2 sacks Thursday) is part of the reason he's been able to move inside and help the Canes' at tackle, where a few players have been lost for the season with injuries.
> Congratulations to Ryan Hill on getting a pick in his first start at cornerback. He said he wasn't even sure he had made the interception until after his teammates told him. Hill was recruited at corner, but had to play receiver when he got to UM because the Canes were shorthanded. And how about DVD? DeMarcus Van Dyke, who lost his starting job to Hill, made his second career pick to cut short a Panthers potential scoring drive. He then added to it with a beautiful 74-yard return.