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Can Lamar Miller maintain this pace? Thoughts on Ohio State win and more

Now with the Pitt-Syracuse-ACC news out of the way, here are some thoughts on last night's 24-6 win over the Buckeyes. The Canes (1-1) will host Kansas State next week at 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

OFFENSE

Lamar Miller > What else can you say about redshirt sophomore Lamar Miller's performance Saturday other than it was special? Since 2005, Ohio State had only allowed 10 players to run for more than 100 yards against them. Miller became the 11th after the first quarter with 115 on nine carries. He finished with a career high 184 on 26 carries. Heisman talk? Maybe not yet. But after three weeks of college football, Miller ranks fourth in the nation with a 151.5 yard average on the ground. Only South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore (178), San Diego State's Ronnie Hillman (165.67) and Michigan's Denard Robinson (153.0) are averaging more. The question is can he keep up the pace? Miller said he wasn't gassed after Saturday's game. But 26 carries a week for 184 yards will wear on anybody. By the way, can we now refer to Miller and Mike James as Batman and Robin? It's pretty clear after James fumbled again Saturday (UM caught a lucky break when it went out of bounds) who the hero and who the sidekick is.

> UM coach Al Golden told us Jacory Harris "would show us all Saturday night." He sure did. Harris showed us all he's still the same interception prone, soft tossing, queasy-stomach producing quarterback we've seen since the Heisman talk died down two games into the 2009 season. Harris finished 16 of 23 for 123 yards and it was clear from the get-go Jedd Fisch didn't want him throwing deep as his four passes flew in distance less than five yards. But once Ohio State started stacking the box, UM needed Harris to throw the ball downfield and he simply couldn't do it consistently. Outside of a pinpoint 29-yard pass to Tommy Streeter right before the half, Harris only completed three other passes for more than 10 yards. Sorry, but unless UM can steamroll every team it faces on the ground, that's not going to be good enough to help the Canes offense the rest of the season. By the way, it looks like until Harris totally implodes, he'll remain the starter. Golden made it clear he remains committed to J-12 in his post-game assesment: "I thought he made some big time throws, had command of the offense. There are some things we have to fix. But I believe in the kid. He's going to have a really good year for us."

> Sophomore Allen Hurns had another nice game (six catches, 54 yards, 2 TDs) and has clearly become the go-to receiver. But outside of Hurns and a couple Streeter catches, UM got very little from its other receivers. Did anybody see LaRon Byrd after he was underthrown on Harris' first INT? The tight ends were also nearly invisible again, finishing with two receptions for five yards. Although it must be noted Clive Walford would have scored on a pretty 15-yard catch and run before the half had it not been for an illegal formation penalty.

> Lastly, UM's revamped offensive line looked very good. The Canes didn't allow a sack and helped produce 240 rushing yards. To steal a line from Golden, the moment didn't look too big for new left tackle Brandon Washington or freshman right tackle Jonathan Feliciano. Outside of two false starts and that one illegal formation penalty, UM cleaned up its penalty problems on the line.

DEFENSE

> Ohio State’s quarterbacks looked really bad, but the Hurricanes played a big part in making them look that bad. Darius Smith and Anthony Chickillo each had sacks and there was enough pressure throughout that it didn't allow Braxton Miller or Joe Bauserman time to find open receivers. The Buckeyes offensive line hadn’t allowed any sacks in its last 90 pass attempts, the third-longest active FBS streak entering the game. The Canes also produced two turnovers -- an interception by JoJo Nicolas and a Marcus Robinson forced fumble in the 4th quarter that was recovered by Mike Williams. FYI, UM gave credit to Micanor Regis for the forced fumble in the final game starts. Replays showed otherwise.

> As for the pass defense, the Hurricanes allowed only 35 yards passing and four completionss -- 22 of those yards came on the Buckeyes’ final two plays of the game. That's a huge improvement over the way UM looked at Maryland when Danny O'Brien had four completions and 35 yards before the opening drive was over. How much credit the defensive backs deserve is iffy. But there were only a couple times when Ohio State receivers were open and the pass simply didn't get there.

> Golden was right -- linebacker Sean Spence was a huge difference maker back in the lineup. He deflected a pass that was intercepted, made a key third down stop on the third possession of the game and led the team in tackles along with Jimmy Gaines. Spence had six tackles in all. You want to talk about a guy UM can't afford to lose. Sean Spence is that guy. How did the other returnees from suspension do? Marcus Forston had two tackles. Adewale Ojomo had three tackles and a quarterback hurry.

> UM's red zone defense -- albeit with a few breaks -- has been a pretty big story so far this season. Between Maryland and Ohio State, opponents have been the Canes' red zone nine times. But they've only scored one touchdown -- the opening drive at Maryland. UM allowed 19 touchdowns in 50 drives into the red zone all of last year, the 7th best red zone defense in the country.

SPECIAL TEAMS

> Dalton Botts averaged 47.8 yards on four punts, but got a mega assist from receiver Kendal Thompkins in coverage. Thompkins fought off a blocker and made the speedy Jordan Hall go airborne before tumbling to the ground on a huge play in the third quarter. If Thompkins doesn't make the tackle, maybe last night's game goes a different way.

> Travis Benjamin’s 27-yard punt return in the first quarter was nice to see. It was his longest return since last year's touchdown at Ohio State. But Benjamin never got a chance again, calling for fair catches on five other punts.

> Jake Wieclaw is beginning to look like a pretty good replacement for Matt Bosher. He had four kickoffs Saturday for an average of 58.2 yards. Ohio State started only one drive beyond the 30-yard line -- it's last when the game was already decided.

COACHING

> The only head scratcher came when Golden opted to choose to kick a field goal late in the first half instead of calling a time out earlier and taking at least one shot at the end zone. Golden later said because Harris had already thrown two interceptions he simply wanted to avoid a pick in the end zone. It makes sense when you consider the Canes got the opening kickoff of the second half anyway.

> Other than that, credit defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch for coming up with better game plans this week. Fisch called for a lot of toss sweeps on offense -- avoiding the middle of that solid Ohio State defensive line. And he didn't ask Harris to throw deep very often.

> D'Onofrio got burned a little by Jordan Hall, but quickly figured a way to slow OSU's running game down after a big first half. The Buckeyes had 134 yards at halftime. They had 13 carries for just 40 yards in the second half.

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