Postscripts from UM’s 41-31 loss Saturday night at Nebraska:
### Gouged. Gutted. Gashed.
Pick whatever word you like. All of them will do to describe a UM defense that was dissected for 458 yards, including 345 on the ground. Of course, we’ve seen this nauseating story before, time and again, over the past three years.
As colleague Manny Navarro noted, UM has relinquished at least 200 yards rushing 15 --- 15! --- times since 2011. And four times since then, Miami has allowed 300-plus yards on the ground. Unacceptable.
Freshman Brad Kaaya’s splendid work again offered real hope for the future. But if you’re about the bottom line, these are the numbing numbers:
Of the last 10 games UM has played, the Hurricanes have lost six of them --- all by double figures. Braxton Berrios’ four-yard TD reception cut the margin to 10 with 18 seconds left, thus avoiding a sixth loss of 17 points or more since last November.
UM is now 1-16 in its last 17 road games against ranked teams.
Against schools from major conferences (even including the Big East), UM is 18-17 under Al Golden.
UM entered eighth in total defense, fourth in yards allowed per rush (2.0) and 35th in scoring defense, at 19.3 per game. But those stats --- built up against Louisville, Florida A&M and Arkansas State --- were obviously not reflective of this defense’s quality.
Yes, 24th-ranked Nebraska entered averaging the second-most yards per rushing attempt in the nation, behind Arkansas. But UM was simply overwhelmed by a physical offensive line, an elite running back (Ameer Abdullah) and a nimble quarterback (Tommy Armstrong).
Abdullah buffaloed for 229 yards on 35 carries and scored three touchdowns. Armstrong ran for 96 yards on 13 carries. He threw just 13 times, completing nine for 113 yards.
Defensive issues? Where do we start?
Calvin Heurtelou couldn’t shed blocks on at least a half dozen sizable gains and committed an offsides penalty on a third and five. Olsen Pierre and Courtel Jenkins were pushed aside on a number of plays. On several plays, the defensive ends couldn’t set the edge on runs to the perimeter. The linebackers and safeties weren’t helpful enough in run support.
Though Nebraska threw for only 113 yards, there was confusion between Ladarius Gunter and Jamal Carter on Kenny Bell’s 40-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. Artie Burns was later beaten by Bell on a key 3rd and 11.
UM badly needed a stop when Nebraska got the ball with 13:30 left and the Cornhuskers leading by seven. Instead, this happened:
Armstrong faked out Darrion Owens for a 13-yard gain on an option play. Owens and Pierre, among others, were obliterated on a 26-yard run by Abdullah, and according to WQAM, Denzel Perryman wasn’t in the game on that play. Anthony Chickillo then chased Armstrong fruitlessly on a 15-yard gain, setting up a 39-yard Drew Brown field goal that padded the lead to 10.
### Nebraska averaged 6.4 yards per rush and was 7 of 10 on third down. There were only a few high-impact defensive plays by Miami, most notably Tracy Howard’s interception and a Deon Bush-forced fumble against Armstrong, with Chickillo recovering.
### Interesting that McNeese State allowed fewer points (31), fewer yards (437) and fewer rushing yards (195) against Nebraska than UM did.
### It’s regrettable that defensive tackle Michael Wyche, who this staff privately hoped would be an immediate starter, isn’t even playing because of conditioning issues.
### Al Golden's thoughts, on WQAM: "We turned it over too many times. [We allowed] too many yards on the ground. We gave up four big plays to Bell. The first one was an unforced error. No excuse. We didn't tackle well enough, didn't get off the field well enough on third down. We needed to play better on defense.
"[But] I didn't think it was too big for them. We are growing up. There are a lot of teams not playing these games. We played it and we came out of it healthy and have a chance to learn a lot and ignore everything else."
### The best news of the night? Kaaya again showed why UM made the right move in starting him, why he has the potential to be UM’s best quarterback in a decade. Yes, he threw two interceptions (a third was negated by a late hit), but he was generally very good: 28 for 42 for 359 yards and three touchdowns.
"I thought we could attack the linebackers, attack the secondary," Kaaya told WQAM. "I thought we did that pretty well. Duke helped on play action, being a good decoy."
"Tough kid," Duke Johnson said. "He makes all the right reads."
Said Golden: "I thought Brad grew up a lot. There's no question Brad is going to be a heck of a football player. The environment is not too big for him. We did a really good job protecting him, giving him time. I can only imagine what kind of night he would have had if we didn't turn it over three times."
Kaaya stares down receivers at times (that should change as he gets more experience) and shoulders at least part of the blame for two delay of game penalties. But for a freshman, Kaaya has been everything UM could have hoped for and more. For the second week in a row, Kaaya set a UM record for passing yards by a true freshman.
James Coley smartly called a lot of screen passes, seized on a matchup advantage with Clive Walford (seven catches for 80 yards) and capitalized on Johnson’s athleticism in the passing game.
Johnson, who caught four passes all of last year, caught five for 84 yards on Saturday. He ran for 93 yards on 18 carries but assuredly will bemoan his third quarter fumble that was returned 47 yards by Josh Mitchell for a touchdown, pushing Nebraska’s lead to 31-21.
"We have to work on ball security," Johnson told WQAM. "The main thing was the turnover that went for a touchdown. That was a game changer."
### Phillip Dorsett, off a 202-yard receiving game against Arkansas State, was targeted only once in the first three quarters but made an extraordinary 32-yard catch in the fourth quarter, snatching a ball out of the air despite very tight coverage.
### UM was outgained only narrowly, 458-435 but ran for just 76 yards... Other numbers: Gus Edwards ran for eight yards on three carries. Joe Yearby didn’t get a carry… Receiving numbers, besides Johnson and Walford: Dorsett 2 for 38; Berrios 4 for 43; Malcolm Lewis 5 for 40; Stacy Coley 3 for 22; Yearby 1 for 22; Standish Dobard 1 for 20.
### UM fell to 13-1 in games in which Duke Johnson has rushed for a touchdown…. Freshman defensive end Chad Thomas didn’t make the trip because of muscle spasms on Friday.... Raphael Kirby led UM with seven tackles.
### UM's game against Duke next Saturday at Sun Life Stadium will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and be televised by ESPN2.
### The Dolphins’ depth at receiver has caused some unhappiness. A team source said Rishard Matthews asked for a trade before the regular season started, but the Dolphins declined. Matthews has now accepted his situation and is no longer asking for a trade.
The Dolphins’ desire to play Matthews some, and rookie Jarvis Landry a lot, has resulted in Brandon Gibson’s snaps sliding from 41 per game last season to 31, and he has been targeted only five times. Gibson acknowledged he would get more playing time elsewhere but said he won’t complain.
Landry, who said his fumbled punt last Sunday was the first fumble of his life on a return, played more than Gibson last week, surprising some.
### The Dolphins need to give Chris McCain some defensive snaps Sunday and at some point need to figure out the best longterm position for the promising rookie. He had a sack in the opener, missed two practices after getting sick and didn't play any defensive snaps last Sunday, which surprised him. McCain believes he would be best long-term as an outside linebacker, but the Dolphins are using him as a defensive end half the time.
### The Dolphins promoted defensive back Brandian Ross from their practice squad today and released defensive lineman Bruce Gaston.
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