Other Canes’ Grades From Week 2
Mark D’Onofrio. If I am going to rip him when the defense underperforms, and lord knows I have, then he gets credit when the defense wins a rivalry game. They played hard and battled.
While the Gators had some success moving the ball, the Canes repeatedly rose to the challenge, and with the outcome in the balance, forced another turnover to ice the game. In many respects, this was a vintage Miami defensive performance. Another sign of good coaching? Two of the five turnovers the Canes forced came directly after a timeout.
Well, I have to pick something, although with the way the defense played it is really hard to say something negative. But if I want to single something out, the Canes did give up over 400 yards and only forced two three-and-outs, which is something you would like to see improve going forward.
Notable Notes and Plays
On the Gators first drive of the game, they had a rhythm going when Florida receiver Clay Burton took a cheap shot on Canes cornerback Ladarius Gunter after the play was over. The subsequent 15-yard penalty stalled the Gator drive, and they fumbled two plays later.
- One area where Miami will need to tighten up defensively is on the read-option. In general, Florida struggled running between the tackles while they had more success running wide.
- Curtis Porter put in an incredible effort. In addition to clogging up the middle and forcing the Gators to employ more outside runs, he also chased down several plays from behind. One particular hustle play resulted in his first quarter fumble recovery. A man his size moving that well for an entire game in the South Florida humidity is a testament to the work he put in in the offseason.
- The Gators made a concerted effort to pick on Antonio Crawford, and were rewarded with a few big pass plays. Solomon Patton caught a 46-yard pass over the top towards the end of the first quarter. In the second, Trey Burton caught a 17-yard pass in front of Crawford on 3rd and 7. One of the reasons the Gators tried to pick on Crawford is that Gunter and Tracy Howard are locking down wideouts, forcing opponents to target the third cornerback.
- The 2012 recruiting class showed huge in this game. Tracy Howard, Rashawn Jenkins, and Tyriq McCord all forced huge turnovers. One of the preseason issues I raised with this defense was that if youth was causing problems last year, there should be a massive leap forward this season. So far, there has been, and the play of this trio shows how much a year of seasoning has helped.
- Tyrone Cornelius struggled against Florida Atlantic, but had two massive impact plays on consecutive series and actually forced both of Florida’s three-and-outs. With the Gators facing a 3rd and 2 on their own 44, Cornelius blew up an option play, first by forcing an early pitch by Driskel, and then by forcing the back inside where the help defense could clean the play up. He won’t even get credit for a tackle, but it was textbook. On the next drive, Cornelius batted down a would-be first-down pass.
- Six of Florida’s points came off a blocked punt inside the 10, making Miami’s defensive performance even more impressive.
This performance was the antithesis of what we saw last year. The Gators tried to overpower the Canes’ defense and could not. This was despite a completely ineffective Canes offense which did not help the defense at all.
At one point, Florida tried to employ the Notre Dame game plan from last year, running right at them on eight consecutive plays. They ended up failing on a fourth down. That summarized the defensive improvement. Mark D’Onofrio also did an excellent job mixing up man and zone coverages, and for the most part, the Miami defense looked to be in sync.
One thing that definitely jumps out at you when comparing this defense to last year’s is how the defenders are swarming to the point of attack. Because of this, we are seeing almost no missed tackles. In fact, I can’t remember a missed tackle from the Gator game.
The one negative is really the last Gators touchdown drive. Granted, it could be classified as a garbage-time score, but with the Canes up 12 with just over 3:29 left, the only thing the defense had to do is not give up a quick touchdown. And that’s exactly what they did. Even worse, the Gators went 53 yards in the final two plays. This actually allowed Florida to get the ball back.
It didn’t hurt Miami on Saturday, but in the future, they need to tighten up in that situation.
A+ would have been if they held Florida to less yardage and forced a few more three-and-outs, but this was very close to as good as it gets. Forcing five turnovers and a turnover on downs, and conceding six of the 16 points on a short field with another seven coming with the game all but decided. If the Canes can continue to put forth this sort of effort and execution, this team has the chance to be really special.
Vishnu Parasuraman (@vrp2003) is a consultant in the Washington, D.C., Metro Area and an editor of the Sebastian’s Pub blog. His work has also been seen on Grantland. He is a graduate of the University of Miami with an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.