As potent as the Hurricanes offense has been this season (UM ranks ninth in scoring with 45.3 points per game), coaches would like to see improvement in short yardage and goal line situations.
Aside from Duke Johnson’s two fumbles inside the five last week at USF, freshman running back Gus Edwards was stuffed four times inside the five against FAU and then was stuffed three times by USF before Dallas Crawford came in and scored on fourth and goal. The 12 times Miami has had a third down and three yards or less to go this season they’ve only converted five of those for first downs.
What needs to improve? “Pad level and they’ve got to make a commitment trying to get to the next level -- the linebacker level -- before they raise up,” offensive line coach Art Kehoe said.
“Everybody wants to peek and get to that linebacker. I don't care about them. I want to block down the linemen. We've got to take care of them -- especially in those critical situations. In short yardage and goal line it’s all about playing low. You can talk about it, but you've got to be about it.”
Kehoe and UM coach Al Golden both said this week the blocking for Edwards wasn’t very good on his three attempts inside the five against USF. But the blocking wasn’t very good for Crawford either. Crawford just did a better job finding the pylon.
“That last one he scored on USF it was just all him,” Kehoe said. “He just got the ball and said ‘I'm getting in.’ Sometimes you got to have BYOB -- Bring Your Own blocker. He did that. He said 'Well, it looks kind of bad here and just put his head down and rammed it in. He's a pretty tough guy.'”
Crawford (5-11, 195) is obviously nowhere near as big as Edwards (6-2, 225) and has been given less chances (2) in short-yardage situations than any of Miami’s other running backs.
On Miami’s 12 third down and three yards or less plays this season, quarterback Stephen Morris has thrown the ball five times, converting just once – a 33-yard completion to Herb Waters against FAU. The other seven times Miami has run it in those situations, Johnson has picked up three first downs (12-yard, 16-, and 7-yard dashes against FAU) in addition to his fumble at USF. Crawford and Clements were stopped short on their lone carries, and Edwards converted a 3rd-and-3 with a six-yard run.
In goal-to-go situations from inside the five, Miami has handed the ball off 16 times. Edwards has gotten the ball nine times (he scored twice against Savannah State). Duke Johnson has gotten it five times (he scored twice) and Crawford has handled the ball twice (he scored once).
“Gus is a big guy so he thinks he can run over everybody. He's just got to follow his path, trust his reads,” offensive coordinator James Coley said. “He did a great job in the game when he did that, broke out with some explosive runs for 15 yards here and there.
“Don't get me wrong, I love the fact he tries to run over guys. He just has to follow his keys, know the run’s design and the blocking scheme behind it.”
Crawford said his mentality near the goal line is: “Just hold onto the ball and don't be stopped. When you're that close you have to mentality that nobody in front of you can stop you. The biggest thing is to hold onto the ball and keep your legs moving."
Said Coley: “[Dallas] trusts his reads. He understands the mentality of playing in the red zone. You have to be a torpedo. If there's a crease, you got to take that crease. If you got to make a guy miss, you make a guy miss. Everybody is going to go for the football because they don't have to worry about you scrambling and going 80 yards. So people are going to lower their pads and try to get the ball out. Dallas has played with the understanding of knowing where he is on the field and the situation.”
MORE NEWS AND NOTES
> Coley said the Hurricanes’ blockers did a good job against USF getting to the second level and blocking downfield.
“There were a lot of guys dodging offensive linemen on Saturday,” Coley said. “Now our younger guys need to contribute. It's time for them to grow up and step up and contribute and help the veteran guys. I'm very pleased with how they took the challenge of last week. Every week is that challenge. We got to step up this week and take the challenge this week and the problems the Georgia Tech defense brings up when we're down in the goal line.”
> What does Coley like most about what freshman receiver Stacy Coley has been doing lately?
“Being exact, focusing in on the moment,” Coley said. “I think you saw that on that touchdown catch in the back of the end zone. He was exact with that route. If you watch that route that's exactly how we teach it. That's exactly how it's drawn up. And then finishing the play. I think that's the biggest thing he's done. A lot of guys can't finish the way he finished. And he has to dial that up every time he has an opportunity with the football.”
> Despite the fact Johnson was wearing a second team jersey this week in practice and Crawford was running with the first team, Dallas said he didn’t think anything was going to change on game day against Georgia Tech.
“I'm expecting the same thing,” he said. “We haven't talked about any particular person starting. Everything is the same right now. Duke's not dwelling and the coaches are not dwelling on the fumbles. We've already moved past that.”