Defense looking much better for No. 16 Miami
At this time last year, the Miami Hurricanes were bad on defense
and the numbers would only get worse.
Things have changed considerably so far this season.
Two games is not enough of a sample size to conclude that
whatever plagued the 16th-ranked Hurricanes (2-0) on defense last
season is fixed, though season-opening wins over Florida Atlantic
and Florida provided encouraging signs. And even though a
lower-division team in Savannah State is visiting Miami this
weekend, the Hurricanes think it’s another chance to further show
”With demonstrated performance comes confidence,” defensive
coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said.
So far, so good on that front.
Miami had major issues last season in getting off the field on
third downs (opponents converted 42 percent of those tries against
the Hurricanes in 2012), stopping the run (218 yards allowed per
game ranked ninth-worst in the nation) and getting to quarterbacks
(the Hurricanes took away a mere 86 yards from teams via sacks all
Early returns suggest that the Hurricanes are better in all
those areas. FAU and Florida combined to convert 35 percent of
their third downs, managed an average of 127.5 yards per game on
the ground and the Hurricanes have already posted seven sacks to
take away 41 yards.
”What do I see?” said Savannah State coach Earnest Wilson,
repeating a question posed to him this week. ”Well, they’re
bigger, faster and stronger.”
That, of course, means Miami is better, not that improvement
wasn’t to be expected.
The 2012 Hurricanes gave up 366 points in just 12 games. Miami
also gave up a staggering 5,837 yards of offense, allowing at least
200 yards on the ground in eight straight games – a baffling number
for a school that yielded eight 200-yard rushing outings, total, in
a 107-game stretch between 1999 and 2008.
Nonetheless, after giving up 22 points in two games this season,
the Hurricanes aren’t taking victory laps quite yet.
”I think we’re still seeing what we need to work on, see our
flaws, and try to perfect them,” Miami defensive lineman Shayon
Green said. ”We know what we can get better at.”
To say D’Onofrio was embattled over the past two seasons would
be an understatement.
Hurricanes coach Al Golden – one of D’Onofrio’s longtime and
closest friends – was asked several times in his first two years at
Miami to gauge the level of satisfaction he had with his defensive
coordinator, and the answer rarely changed much.
Golden would say something to the effect of that he saw
D’Onofrio engineer a big turnaround at Temple, and that he believed
he would do the same at Miami. And the win over Florida might have
been the most significant for D’Onofrio’s defense at Miami.
”We stood toe to toe,” Golden said. ”We won on defense. We
took some punches and counter-punched, and we had a quiet
confidence and a very matter-of-fact preparation going into that
game. We didn’t really worry about the opponent. I think hopefully
our guys gleaned a lot from that.”
The way this season started makes it seem like Golden wasn’t
just displaying blind faith.
”I think it’s rewarding for all of us, to be honest with you,”
D’Onofrio said. ”At the end of the day, players have been through
a tough time as well so for the most part I’m really happy for
those guys and the staff. … You really don’t know until you get
out there and play, get a feel for where you’re at, but the first
two games are an indication that we’re improving. We’re executing