Miami is back (and that's a good thing)

BY foxsports • September 18, 2009

CFN's Instant Analysis of Thursday night's Miami-Georgia Tech game:

Talent overcomes a fancy scheme



(Note: Warning ... Warning ... Pretentious name-dropping alert ... Pretentious name-dropping alert ... )


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When doing a story a few years ago about how to stop the spread offense, I asked legendary college and pro head coach Jimmy Johnson how he'd stop it. I wanted his opinion because his Miami teams in the 1980s all but ended the era of triple-option offense by blowing it up in high-profile games. Johnson had a simple solution; have better players.

It all comes down to talent, and if that talent is fast, athletic, focused and disciplined, it can stop any sort of fancy running game. Miami has the talent and the athletes, and this year, unlike last season when it was ripped apart by the Yellow Jacket running game, it had the focus and the discipline with every player doing his job in a total defensive effort to limit the Yellow Jackets to 95 rushing yards. I'll add another element to the equation that helped the 'Canes: time.

The option offense that Paul Johnson runs requires a team that isn't beaten up, isn't tired, and isn't facing a defense that has had time to prepare. Contrary to popular opinion, Ohio State didn't have that many problems with Navy's ground game in the season-opening win. Allowing 186 yards and two scores isn't that bad, but it had issues with the passing game. The Buckeyes had all offseason to work on stopping the option, and did a decent job. LSU had a month to rest and prepare for the offense before the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and it shut it down cold. Clemson spent time practicing on stopping it this offseason, even though it had Middle Tennessee to deal with in the opener. As the game went on last Thursday night, the Tigers did a better and better job of keeping the Yellow Jackets under wraps. And then there was Miami and its performance Thursday night.

While Georgia Tech played three games in 12 days, Miami got 10 days to work on the Yellow Jacket attack, and by all accounts, was fully focused after what happened last year. Of course, Miami QB Jacory Harris and the offense had something to do with the win, and the Georgia Tech defense didn't do much of anything, but the signature of this game was the night-and-day improvement from the Miami D. Giving up 472 yards and four touchdowns in last year's season-killing loss provided the motivation, the Florida State win provided the confidence, and the 'Canes came up with a gem on defense to make the game more of a blowout than the final score indicates.

The Yellow Jacket offense will work, and it will dominate at times this year against tired teams in the dog days of early November. And it's important to note that no one else the rest of the way will have two weeks off to prepare to stop it ... until the bowls.

— Pete Fiutak

'Canes spread it around



Please don't squeeze the Hurricanes.




Miami's Mr. Whipple, first-year offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, has been the unsung hero of the program's surprising 2-0 start. For the first time in about five years, the Hurricanes appear to be dangerous with the ball and capable of exploiting all of that speed and flash Randy Shannon is mining out of South Florida. Whipple deserves a ton of the credit. In Thursday's easy win over Georgia Tech, Miami used plenty of up-tempo, mixed in some misdirection and made good use of the screen. The 'Canes were crisp and mistake-free, getting the ball into the hands of 11 different skill-position players.

Most important, it's becoming obvious that QB Jacory Harris is benefiting from having Whipple on the staff. The sophomore has had as good a start as any quarterback in the country, making a quantum leap from his rookie season and beating two quality conference opponents. If he continues to grow and Whipple keeps defenses guessing, Miami could finally become the ACC flag-bearer everyone anticipated when it left the Big East after the 2003 season.

— Richard Cirminiello

Circle the date: Oct. 3 (Miami-Oklahoma)



1) When one realizes that Georgia Tech's offense began this game with a six-minute, 51-second scoring drive, it seems that the Yellow Jackets' defense sure got tired pretty quickly. Tech was gasping for breath midway through the second quarter, even though the visitors from Atlanta were hardly facing a particularly brawny opponent. Miami's offense is a pass-first attack that flipped footballs over, around and through Tech's porous secondary. Why was it, then, that white-shirted defenders looked absolutely spent before halftime, and then came out of the halftime locker room with no noticeable increase in energy? Tech's defensive staff must start from scratch; Tech's strength and conditioning coach needs to start earning his paycheck.

2) Oklahoma at Miami. No, it won't quite feel like the classic battles of the mid-1980s with outsized characters and abundant emotions. There won't be good ol' boys Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson working up a football feud, and there won't be Brian Bosworth or Michael Irvin around to provide bulletin-board material, but just the same, the Sooner-'Cane confrontation on Oct. 3 in South Florida will be a ballyhooed ballgame. For that fact alone, college football fans should rejoice.

— Matt Zemek

Mark it down: The 'Canes are back



Remember when we were all writing Randy Shannon's obituary because of Miami's four-game gauntlet to start the season? Well, the Hurricanes are 2-0, heading into next week's game with Virginia Tech. More importantly, they have that look about them that we haven't seen since a visually challenged ref was tossing a late flag to give Ohio State a national title. The 'Canes are fast. Really fast. They run the ball. Jacory Harris looks like a man in a barcalounger in the pocket; that's how comfortable he is when dropping back to pass. The O-line is much improved, and there are fast, angry people on the defensive side. It's a year early to consider Miami a national title threat, but look around the ACC and try to find a team that can beat them. Get past the Hokies next week, and the 'Canes have just a Nov. 14 visit from North Carolina standing in the way of a BCS berth. We were impressed on Labor Day by the comeback win over Florida State and blown away by the blowout of Georgia Tech. Miami is on its way back, and that's a good thing for college football.

— Michael Bradley


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