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After the Storm: Pitt

After the Storm: Pitt

Stefan Adams
The Miami Hurricanes took down the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday, 24-3. Here were my takeaways and grades after the game.


Revenge achieved. The talk the whole week leading up the game was about how Pitt had ruined Miami’s perfect season last year with an upset in the regular season finale and many players on the team admitted that they still thought about that game often. The team looked like they wanted to come out and make a statement on Saturday, and that’s exactly what they did against Pitt. The Panthers’ never threatened the outcome from the opening kick and the Canes always felt to be in full control, even when the game was 10-3 in the third quarter. Right after Pitt’s first points of the game, Travis Homer broke off a 64 yard TD to answer. In a bad, bad season, the revenge on Pitt was one small, sweet morsel to take away.


UM’s defense took over this game. The Canes’ stop-unit made their presence known early and often against Pitt, smothering the Panthers to the tune of 200 total yards and 3 points. Miami’s defensive line especially overwhelmed the Panthers’, and it stood out just how much bigger, stronger, and faster, guys like Gerald Willis, Jon Garvin, and Joe Jackson were. Pitt’s offensive line was one of 10 nominated for the Joe Moore Award for best O-Line unit in the country and had been averaging over 350 yards rushing per game in their 4 game winning streak prior to this game. Against the Canes, though, they had no answer for what Manny Diaz was throwing at them, getting absolutely dominated in the trenches. Pitt QB Kenny Pickett was under siege the entire game and Pitt’s backs had no room to operate. The numbers for Miami: 6 sacks, 14 TFL, and just 69 yards rushing allowed.


The new base offense was a disaster. With all four of the scholarship tight ends out with injury, Miami went to a base formation of 4 wideouts the majority of the game against Pitt and it looked as unorganized and mishmashed as you’d expect. In the passing game, Miami looked as if they’ve never played football before, with N’Kosi Perry completely out of rhythm with his receivers and pass-catchers dropping more balls than were actually completed. Perry finished an atrocious 6/24 for 52 yards as Mark Richt’s offense really bottomed out and hit a new low. Without some big chunk runs from the backs, this offense wouldn’t have moved the ball all day. I’ve been saying it publicly since Virginia, but nothing has changed my mind since then: Miami absolutely needs an offensive coordinator.


Travis Homer reminded everyone why he is still the lead back of this team. Homer was unleashed against Pitt, breaking off numerous chunk runs to total a whopping 168 yards (a season-high) and a 64 yard TD on just 8 carries (21.0 ypc). He also added a crack-back block on special teams to help spring DeeJay Dallas’ punt return TD. Over the past two seasons, Homer has probably been one of the more underappreciated backs in America, and that was even true in Miami circles. After a slow start to the season for Homer, many wanted to see Dallas get the bulk of the carries and the past 2 weeks, Cam Davis has been the hot-name. All the while, Homer keeps chugging along and he finishes the regular season leading Miami in rushing at 969 yards. When you add in the value he brings on special teams, Homer will truly be missed if this is his last season in the orange and green.


The passing game clearly missed Jeff Thomas. The drops by the wideouts were really out of control; at one point, Richt and Ron Dugans were so fed up with the starters, they went to the little-used Marquez Ezzard and Evidence Njoku in the second quarter. After making his first career catch, Njoku promptly dropped his next target. Sigh… you just can’t buy a break with this group. It wasn’t just the drops though; without Thomas, there was nobody that was really standing out as getting consistent separation that could be relied on as a #1 guy. Maybe UM needs another off-season to develop their young guys and there’s plenty of raw talent there, but right now, the WR spot will be a huge question mark heading into 2019.


For the first time this season, Miami controlled the field position battle. One of UM’s main issues this season has been flipping the field in the punting game, consistently giving their opponent great field position while simultaneously usually starting deep in their own territory. For at least one game this season, Miami turned the tables on the opposition here, with UM owning an average field position of their own 33 and giving Pitt an average field position of their own 25. For all the rightful criticism he’s received this year, Zach Feagles may have had his best game of the season, pinning a season-high 3 punts inside the Panthers’ 20 yard line and averaging nearly 43 yards per kick.


The regular season is now over. The Canes ended the regular season on a 2 game winning streak with the win over the Panthers to finish 7-5. No doubt about it, 2018 went as badly as it could aside from Miami qualifying for a bowl. In addition to a 4 game losing streak against sub-par competition, UM’s top 2 wide receivers to start the year and potential first round picks are no longer with the team, the QB situation was managed just about as poorly as you can imagine, and the offensive line made no real strides from last season’s disappointment. Still, as Miami awaits their bowl opponent to be announced next weekend, they have a unique shot at finishing the season on a high note, potentially carrying a 3 game winning streak and some momentum into 2019. Here are some of the latest bowl projections involving the Canes: UAB/Houston/Cincinnati in the Independence Bowl and Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl.


Grades


Offense: C-

A pitiful performance in the passing game was balanced out by acquiring nearly 300 yards rushing on the ground. The health of the tight ends is a huge concern heading into the bowl game because playing 4 wide seemed to really disorient the passing attack. Only 2 of 12 (17%) on third downs is horrible. At the end of the day, the running game put points on the board when the team absolutely needed it.

Defense: A+

Aside from a complete game shutout, it really doesn’t get much better than this. Manny Diaz’s unit just held a team averaging over 350 yards per game rushing in their last 4 games to 69 yards rushing. Just an incredible effort from one of the nation’s best defenses that also saw them record 6 sacks, 14 TFL, and 1/15 (4%) on third downs given up.

Special Teams: A

Back-to-back ‘A’ rated efforts from this unit. While they’ll need to keep it up to convince me the issues have truly been ironed out, there’s no denying UM has looked much-improved here lately. A second straight game with a punt return TD, no big returns allowed by the coverage units, and Bubba Baxa making his only FG attempt. The punting game arguably had their best game of the season, with Feagles pinning a season-high 3 punts inside the Panthers’ 20 yard line and averaging nearly 43 yards per kick. I could get used to this.

Coaching: B

The coaches did a poor job preparing the offense for a switch in styles and it could have cost UM the game if the defense and special teams didn’t play so well. Only 3 penalties from a team that has been heavily flagged in recent weeks was an improvement. The defensive gameplan could not have been better.
 

Comments (54)

The new base offense was a disaster. With all four of the scholarship tight ends out with injury, Miami went to a base formation of 4 wideouts the majority of the game against Pitt and it looked as unorganized and mishmashed as you’d expect. In the passing game, Miami looked as if they’ve never played football before, with N’Kosi Perry completely out of rhythm with his receivers and pass-catchers dropping more balls than were actually completed. Perry finished an atrocious 6/24 for 52 yards as Mark Richt’s offense really bottomed out and hit a new low. Without some big chunk runs from the backs, this offense wouldn’t have moved the ball all day. I’ve been saying it publicly since Virginia, but nothing has changed my mind since then: Miami absolutely needs an offensive coordinator.

@KrazyCane @Earnest T. Bass
 
D
I wouldn't mind playing A&M. They just beat LSU, it would be a good measure of how we started (poorly) and how we finished, hopefully on an upswing after a disappointing season.
 
6 sacks 14 TFL and 69 rushing yards allowed... got dammit that defense could shut down the 2001 Hurricanes.
The new base offense was a disaster. With all four of the scholarship tight ends out with injury, Miami went to a base formation of 4 wideouts the majority of the game against Pitt and it looked as unorganized and mishmashed as you’d expect. In the passing game, Miami looked as if they’ve never played football before, with N’Kosi Perry completely out of rhythm with his receivers and pass-catchers dropping more balls than were actually completed. Perry finished an atrocious 6/24 for 52 yards as Mark Richt’s offense really bottomed out and hit a new low. Without some big chunk runs from the backs, this offense wouldn’t have moved the ball all day. I’ve been saying it publicly since Virginia, but nothing has changed my mind since then: Miami absolutely needs an offensive coordinator.
 
a lot of these are missleading... unleashed homer? he had 8 carries.... missed JT? there were 7 drops in the game... JT had 7 out of 31 dropped passes on the year before this game, 2nd behind cager's 9....
 
I disagree that the WR group will be a question mark in 2019. Too much talent among that group and Dugans will have them motivated to live up to expectations imo.

You can tell a lot of those players weren’t use to being counted on like that Jeff Thomas was a security blanket that allowed them to both play their roles quietly and also complain about playing time.

But now when ur number gets called you see why you barely played all season lol it’s a good learning lesson for them and I think this season will pay off.
 
A successful passing game means your quarterback gets into a rhythm. Perry looked tentative all night as if his major role was not to make a mistake. That’s important but at some point Richt needs to tell him or whoever to relax, trust his talent and score touchdowns. Malik was the same way last year but he compensated with good running which teams have shut down this year. I just wonder if we have a qb on our roster that Richt can trust enough to loosen the leach. This micromanaged system is not going to win games. Stefan, am I wrong?
 

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