Miami Beat: ‘Canes Show Heart, Fight

Before diving in, I just want to thank the Miami defense for making my bold prediction last week of a breakout season from Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig look like a prophecy.

All kidding aside, that’s one of only two real negatives I have to offer coming off of a solid victory in Chestnut Hill. The other being dropped passes; as Al Golden says there were “at least seven.” But the ‘Canes are 1-0, and while the victory itself may not be a total surprise, how it evolved was. Falling down 14-0 after two possessions, I’m curious how many fans panicked. Shockingly, I didn’t. My Hokie friends and family can attest to my state of mind when things got off to a rocky start. My five year old son came in, saw the score, and said “Great, this is over already.” Sadly, that’s what he’s used to as a fan of daddy’s team. But I reminded him it was early, and there was no reason for panic. Our hosts had to be proud of me — because back in my college days, walls were being punched at this point.

Offensively — I’m not sure Miami could have done much more, other than catch passes. Stephen Morris showed tremendous poise and leadership. The no-huddle, hurry up attack is something I haven’t seen from Miami in a long time, if ever. Lots of shotgun, and three and four wide receiver sets were a welcomed surprise. Morris was in clear command of the huddle, and his leadership was evident. Intangibles aside, Morris showed the nation his arm strength. Canes’ fans had seen it previously on deep balls, but Morris usually lacked touch. He didn’t go deep often, but when he did, you could see he could go longer. And the quick hitting slant and hitch routes were thrown on a rope.

There isn’t much that I can add with regards to Duke Johnson. The current ACC Freshman of the Week is just what the doctor ordered for a team that, Lamar Miller aside, has missed a consistent game breaking option for years. As impressive as his two long touchdown runs were, I’ll contend his rush on a fourth-and-one was his most impressive of the night. Johnson lowered his shoulder, fought for the yardage needed, and scored a facemask penalty while doing so. That toughness isn’t going to disappear, and I’m looking forward to seeing Johnson run more between the tackles.

Allen Hurns was steady, Malcolm Lewis flashed, and the offensive line graded out well. Miami threw for 207 yards, and rushed for 208. There’s reason to be confident with possession of the ball.

Defensively, I’m torn. On one hand, the entire unit looked like a sieve.  The aforementioned Rettig threw for 442 yards, the most I can remember since UCLA’s Cade McNown gashed the scholarship laden Hurricanes in a December matchup while I was in college. There was little pass rush, and there were wide open receivers, everywhere.  But maybe, just maybe, there’s a silver lining here.

After falling behind 14-0, Miami outscored Boston College 41-9 before the Eagles mounted a late surge. In that midst, the ‘Canes forced three turnovers, a number that seems enormous by recent standards. In Miami’s six losses last season, all of which were by eight points or less, they forced a total of three turnovers.

Taking that a step further — look at the results of the turnovers. The first, a Rettig pass, was picked off by Denzel Perryman, and returned for a score that tied the game at 14-14 as the first quarter concluded. The second came early in the fourth quarter, and saw BC’s Andre Williams fumble on the eight yard line, and resulted in a field goal for the ‘Canes. The subsequent Eagles’ possession saw running back Tahj Kimble fumble on the ‘Canes 25 yard line, which was returned 28 yards. The subsequent Miami drive resulted in a touchdown.

To summarize, the ‘Canes scored 17 points off of these three turnovers. And you can easily argue Kimble’s fumble was in “scoring position.”

For as much unknown as Miami had coming into Week One, we’ve arguably exited with just as many questions as we have answers. Can freshmen continue to step up? Can the defense tighten up? Can it develop a pass rush? Can the secondary develop leadership? One answer I did receive last weekend was that this team has heart, and isn’t going away. There will still be bumps along the way, but I suddenly, and finally, feel confident that when you play Miami, you’re in for a battle.

I won’t allow one week’s comeback win to lend itself to overreaction. There’s still plenty of work to do in Coral Gables. But there is no reason to believe Miami can’t win whenever they take the field. The next step is doing so.

Finally, a few quick tidbits as the Canes head to Manhattan to take on K-State:

Seantrel Henderson will travel, and is listed as a backup to Ereck Flowers. Personally, I’d love to see the behemoth see some time at defensive tackle. Anyone ever seen a 6-foot-7 guy in the middle of the line? Seems like a solid idea!

Malcolm Lewis has leaped Kendal Thompkins and will make his first career start in his second career game.

I’m having a (third) baby Monday. Well, my wife is. Send your best wishes or condolences my way — and don’t expect much insight next week!

Chris Bennett currently covers the ACC for Rotowire, and previously for College Fantasy Football Insider. Though a graduate of South Carolina, he had his allegiances well formed, and didn’t deviate despite spending four years in Columbia. Though completely against social media, he has signed up for Twitter, where you can find him at @ChrisBennettACC.

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