Noon Sunday: ACC says UM TD shouldn't have counted; Sharp criticism of Suh, Dolphins' approach with him; Anatomy of UM's incredible winning TD and reaction from officiating expert; Dolphins, Heat, Marlins, Canes nuggets
THE SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN IS BELOW. FIRST, A NOON SUNDAY UPDATE:
The ACC suspended the UM-Duke officiating crew for two games as discipline for a series of errors on the final play and said Miami's game-winning score should not have been a touchdown because Mark Walton's knee was down and there was an illegal block in back penalty.
Here's what the ACC said:
"The errors that occurred during the last play of the game are:
- The replay official erred in not overturning the ruling on the field that the Miami player had released the ball prior to his knee being down. If called, this would have ended the game.
- The on-field officials erred by failing to penalize Miami for an illegal block in the back at the Miami 16-yard line. If called, the ball would have been placed at the Miami 8-yard line and the game would have been extended for an untimed down.
- A block in the back foul was called at the Duke 26-yard line. After the officials conferred, which is appropriate, they correctly determined that the block was from the side, which resulted in the flag being picked up. The replay official was not involved in the decision to pick up the flag; however, the referee did not effectively manage communication and properly explain why the flag was picked up.
- In addition, the on-field crew failed to penalize a Miami player for leaving the bench area and entering the field prior to the end of the play. This foul would not have negated the touchdown because it would have been enforced as a dead ball foul."
“The quality of our officiating program is of the highest importance to the league and its schools, and the last play of the game was not handled appropriately,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “Officiating is an extraordinarily difficult job but our players, coaches, programs and fans deserve the best that can be offered. We will continue to strive to meet that standard.”
SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Months after signing a six-year, $114 million contract, the richest ever for a non-quarterback, Ndamukong Suh is on pace to produce the second-fewest sacks of his career, 23 fewer tackles than his rookie year and far fewer tackles for loss than last season.
Defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, Suh’s teammate in Miami and Detroit, says the Dolphins are using a defensive system nothing like the one Suh thrived in as a Lion. And some are questioning that.
“That Suh was an absolute non-factor [against New England] as an individual play-maker would have me all kinds of worried if I am Dolphins management,” ESPN’s Louis Riddick, the former Redskins and Eagles pro personnel director, said. “Neutralized vast majority of the game both run and pass by rookie draft picks, rookie free agents, vet nearing the end of his career.
“No way they ever get [the return on investment] on that signing. No. Way. Not with this scheme or this staff. You don’t pay $60 million guaranteed so you can say a defensive tackle drew double teams and that is what makes it worth it. That is dumb. You make that kind of investment, you better have replicated near every part of the environment he came from to the best of your ability. Otherwise, don’t pay the money.
“For $60 million guaranteed, I would have tried to hire his position coach, run his defensive line scheme, allowed him the same rush game freedom/responsibilities. You don’t fit [market-setting] UFAs into your scheme. You run the scheme that fits them or don’t take the risk.”
Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo made one change in how Suh is used: He’s wisely moving him around a bit more.
“Once you have a guy like that who can impact the game as well as he can, you want to put him in the right position; you’ve got to put your king in the right place,” said Mosley, who also played with Suh the past two years in Detroit. “He floats around a little bit [now] to get the matchup you want.”
But overall, Miami’s defense is “totally different than Detroit’s,” Mosley said. “The only thing that may be similar, maybe, is the way he rushes on third down. But we do things totally different than Detroit. Nothing the same.”
So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Suh is on pace for 4.5 sacks --- well below his 8.5 last season; 14 tackles for loss (well below his 21 last year) and 43 tackles (compared with 53 last year).
Suh, who had more sacks than any defensive tackle the past five seasons, is tied for ninth among d-tackles with two sacks this season and ranks 14th in tackles. In Suh’s defense, he’s drawing double teams which should, theoretically, free others to make plays. But some network voices aren’t impressed.
“Warren Sapp was the first one to [say], 'Just watch this. This guy is a very limited player. He gets a lot of hype for a lot of other things he shouldn't get hype for. Watch his tape,’” NFL Network’s Heath Evans told WQAM’s Marc Hochman last month.
“So two years ago, I started doing it. Playoff teams, the guy doesn't show up.... No awareness, no understanding of the scheme he's facing. Why do you think no legitimate, true Lombardi contender was after him in free agency? The Lions, who knew him better than anybody, weren't going to pay him what the Dolphins were. There was no one in that race for Suh except for the Dolphins.”
### A backup running back decision looms for the Dolphins this week, with Jay Ajayi eligible to come off the injured list for the Buffalo game. “I’m pretty sure I’ll be active --- I [bring] a downhill runner, a playmaker,” he said.
Activating him could mean parting ways with Jonas Gray or Damien Williams (who has value as a kick returner but couldn’t do that after sustaining a hand injury Thursday).
### Offensive tackle Ulrick John was plucked off the Colts' practice squad to fill Cam Wake's roster spot.
### How did one of the most improbable, incredible plays in South Florida sports history unfold? Here's the anatomy of Corn Elder's 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown --- which followed eight laterals and gave Miami a stunning 30-27 win at Duke on the game's final play: (The play, by the way, is officially called a 75-yard TD, even though Elder ran 92 after catching the final lateral.)
1) Dallas Crawford, considered one of the smartest players on the team, fielded the kickoff, ran five yards and made a prudent decision to lateral to Elder on the opposite side of the field.
2) Elder then did a great job eluding four defenders (he ran to the 33, then back to the 27) and underhanded the ball to freshman Jaquan Johnson, who picked it up on a bounce.
3) Johnson ran around for three seconds and tossed it to Mark Walton, who was nearly tackled twice; on the second tackle, he was milliseconds and centimeters from having his knee unquestionably down at the 25--- before having the presence of mind to pitch it back to Johnson. (One still shot circulating on Twitter shows that Walton's knee was, in fact, down, before his lateral, but that view apparently wasn't available to the game referees during the replay review.)
4) Johnson, for the second time, picked up a ball from the ground.
If Johnson hadn't cleanly fielded both balls off hops, this play would never have culminated in UM ecstasy. Kudos to the freshman.
4) Johnson promptly lateraled to Tyre Brady, who quickly tossed it back to Elder at the 9.
5) Elder eluded a defender and made a difficult throw, lateraling to Crawford at the 3.
6) Crawford ran to the 14, then made a brilliant cross-field toss to Elder at the 8, knowing Elder had blockers and an open field.
7) Elder took off from there. Along the way, David Njoku annihilated a Duke player at the Miami 21. Walton made two outstanding blocks and Charles Perry had another big block at the Duke 47.
The refs wisely changed their mind about a block-in-the-back penalty against Walton at the 28 yard line, which knocked over Breon Borders. It was a block from the side, not the back.
8) Rashawn Scott appeared to run on the field just before Elder scored a touchdown. UM was fortunate that wasn't called.
UPDATE: Here's Pereira's Twitter explanation for why this should not have been a touchdown:
"Wow. I have been here at Fox looking at the Duke game and Duke got tricked on Halloween. No way that is a touchdown. I will explain.
"First, it does appear then there was a knee down based on some pictures that I have seen. It was close but it looked down.
### Interim coach Larry Scott said UM practices the first two throws of that lateral.
"After the first and second throw, it became about the kids believing," Scott said. "They weren't going to be denied. It's been a long time coming for that.... They played inspired."
Art Kehoe, on WQAM: "I've never seen anything like that. It was a crazy sideline. To the very end, we kept fighting. I just found out we had 26 penalties [actually a school-record 23, for 194 yards]. They had to save their best for last. It will be a nice flight home."
At 5-3 and 2-2 in the ACC, UM remains very much alive in the Coastal, though it still needs help; Duke and Pittsburgh have only one conference loss and North Carolina doesn't have any. UM has home games left against Virginia and Georgia Tech and road games at North Carolina and Pittsburgh... By the way, excellent call of that final play by WQAM's Joe Zagacki, who identified nearly everyone involved as it was happening, which is quite difficult on a play with that many laterals....
Don't overlook a very good night from Malik Rosier, who completed 20 of 29 passes for 272 yards. He threw for the most yards by a UM quarterback in his first career start since Kenny Kelly threw for 245 in 1999.
"Coach [James] Coley did an outstanding job getting him in a room and teaching," Scott said. "It was awesome to watch him get confidence."
### Howard Schnellenberger, who won the first of UM’s five national titles, advises UM not to limit this coaching search to people with UM ties: “You have to have as broad a pool as you can get and take your time. This program is in a very delicate situation and has been for a long time. Whoever aspires to this position has to look into it closely and see if he can handle all the extra-curricular things which would include being a coach here."
He cited the modest crowds, the lack of an on-campus stadium and the fact Miami is a private school.
“It’s still a good job because it’s the promised land – it’s paradise,” he said. “The recruiting base is still there. You just have to know how to work it, outman your opponents. Most schools come down here to recruit with one arm. We've got nine coaches. Assign all nine to all three counties.”
### UM athletic director Blake James probably won’t find any ideal or available fits if he reviews the list of names predecessor Kirby Hocutt spoke with or strongly considered before hiring Al Golden: Randy Edsall (fired last month by Maryland), Marc Trestman (now Baltimore’s offensive coordinator), Mike Stoops (then Arizona coach, now Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator), Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville, and two who are happy and highly-paid where they are: Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.
### Two well-regarded coaches took a step closer to becoming available today when Mark Richt's Georgia team was soundly beaten by Florida and Charlie Strong's Texas team was shut out 24-0 by Iowa State.
We know Richt won't excite some UM fans, but he has the best record of any active coach with UM ties, having won between 10 and 13 games in 11 of his 14 seasons. And Strong's work at Louisville (37-15) was excellent; he seemingly isn't a good fit at Texas, where he's 9-12.
### Palmetto (Fla.) High's Jack Allison, the player UM hopes will be its next great quarterback after Brad Kaaya, “still wants to go to Miami” and “likely will be there,” despite the coaching change, his father, Sean Allison, said Friday. One thing that could change that is if the new coach “wants a dual-threat quarterback; he’s not that,” his father said. “But he is pretty mobile for 6-6.”
Allison, due to arrive at UM in January, is rated the fifth-best pro style quarterback by rivals.com and the 79th best player overall by ESPN. Offensive coordinator “James Coley is the reason he committed to Miami, and we’re hoping he stays there, but his commitment is not contingent on Coley,” Sean Allison said.
MARLINS, HEAT NOTES
### In the wake of Dan Jennings’ firing, a source aligned with Jennings said Jennings’ relationship with owner Jeffrey Loria deteriorated because they didn’t see eye-to-eye on some lineup decisions, especially involving Marcell Ozuna. Jennings was more eager than Loria to play Ozuna; Loria has been down on Ozuna for months, according to that source.
That person also said Loria wanted to play Ozuna in right field, not center, at times because he was out of shape, but Jennings ignored Loria and did as he pleased on at least one occasion (a game against Atlanta).
### One interesting thing to monitor will be how Heat coaches react to ace sixth man Gerald Green’s sometimes questionable shot selection. Goran Dragic, who played with Green in Phoenix, said “it was so funny” to watch Suns coach Jeff Hornacek react to that.
“Sometimes in the game, Jeff was like, ‘No! That’s a bad shot!’ Gerald would score and Jeff said, ‘Great job!’ With Gerald, with some bad shots, you need to just forget it. It’s really important for him to shoot it for his confidence. He jumps so high; nobody can challenge his shot.”
How will Heat coach Erik Spoelstra handle this?
“I haven't really told him many times yet so far, 'That's a bad shot.' More so, [I ask] could there have been a different look? Could it be a good shot that turns into a great shot? He also wants to be the recipient of an extra pass that leads to a great shot. Likewise, his teammates. But we want him playing with aggressiveness.”
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz