Matchup of the Week: UM Red Zone Offense vs. Duke Red Zone Defense

Matchup of the Week: UM Red Zone Offense vs. Duke Red Zone Defense

Cory Grimes
Matchup of the Week

The Canes have ended their two game road trip empty handed and seem to have mustered up more questions than answers. The overall energy around the program has changed dramatically in just two weeks’ time. The comeback led by Perry against FSU seems like an eternity ago. Sometimes the best remedy for a struggling team is a trip back home. The Canes have a much needed return to Hard Rock this Saturday to take on ACC foe Duke Blue Devils, who have dropped 3 of their last 4 games. The Miami offense has been stuck in park for the past several weeks. The Duke defense got 54 hung on them last week in Pittsburgh. Which unit will right the ship on Saturday night? Welcome to the Matchup of the Week: UM Red Zone Offense vs. Duke Red Zone Defense.

3 touchdowns, 5 turnovers and 2 L’s in the past couple weeks for the Canes. To say CMR’s offense has struggled would be the understatement of the year. Last week, I marked CMR and the offense against their own inconsistency as the Matchup of the Week. With only 305 total yards on offense and zero second half points, the inconsistency won the bout in a unanimous decision. They were outcoached, out physicaled and out classed in just about every way by Boston College. The good news is that they get a matchup against a Duke defense who has allowed almost 32 points per game in their last 4 outings. As I said last week, the hopes of this CMR offense lighting up the scoreboard are dead and gone. However, Miami should be able to find more success moving the ball this time out, but they must find a way to convert these drives into 6 points when the opportunities present themselves. While Duke’s defense has been underwhelming for the better part of this season, they actually rank 13th in Red Zone Defense. Miami’s offense is ranked 59th in Red Zone Offense.

Last week, Pittsburgh ball carriers had a field day when they got to the perimeter of the Duke defense. The likes of Ollison, Carter, Ffrench and company racked up 438 rushing yards against the Blue Devils, and the vast majority of that came from plays designed to get on the perimeter. Even QB Kenny Pickett, who isn’t the most mobile guy, racked up 75 yards on the ground and got loose on a QB zone read keeper for a TD. They were horrendous with their tackling in the open field, and they just couldn’t keep up with the skill guys from Pittsburgh. I know Richt hasn’t been much of a user of jet sweeps in the past, but those are the type plays that the Panthers used to exploit the Duke defense. Whether it is toss sweeps, bubble screens, designed QB runs or whatever it may be, the Hurricanes will need to find ways to stretch the Duke defense horizontally to improve their success rate in the red zone this week.

I mentioned Pickett’s success last week, and UVA’s Bryce Perkins had similar success running around against this Duke defense. A lot of Perkins success came during improvisation, off-script type plays. He didn’t always take off and run. He would break the pocket, keep his eyes down field and find receivers at the last second. This is something Rosier hasn’t done well in the past. When his initial reads aren’t there, he has the tendency to immediately tuck the ball and take his eyes away from the receivers. Rosier may pick up the first down on occasion, but often times, there are bigger plays to be made with his arm if he can keep his eyes downfield. From what I have noticed, Duke doesn’t bring pressure often, especially on third down and in the red zone. They like to drop 7, sometimes 8 defenders into coverage and force the QB to fit the ball in tight windows. Duke has only allowed 2 passing TD’s in the red zone all year. It is likely that when, Malik or whoever the QB happens to be, drops back to pass in the red zone this week, the designed reads may be covered. Instead of forcing a throw that isn’t there, using the legs to create new passing lanes and find receivers late in the play could help UM get some points on the board.

Another thing I have noticed is that Duke’s secondary has had trouble stopping the offense from coming down with 50/50 balls in the past few weeks. If CMR can set up some 1 on 1 matchups for guys like Cager, Langham and Jordan, they should be able to use their larger frames and athleticism to win those matchups with Duke’s defensive backs. Freshman safety Leonard Johnson is a particular matchup I feel Miami could take advantage of. He has certainly shown promise but has revealed his immaturity at times. He has struggled with those said 50/50 balls and has the propensity to get his eyes caught in the wrong places which has allowed receivers to get behind him. CMR would be smart to test the young guy and see how he responds in Hard Rock.

The Miami defense came back down to earth with their most pedestrian performance of the year last week, but they responded with adjustments in the second half. They’ll be eager to continue to right their wrongs from last week and get back to form. Duke certainly has some formidable weapons on offense. QB Daniel Jones has begun to receive praise from NFL scouts. I don’t necessarily see him in that light, but he’s probably the most complete QB the Hurricanes will have seen all year. Wide receiver TJ Rahming is one of the pesky guys who always seems to find a way to get open. Duke has some pieces on offense, and it is going to take more than 14 points to beat this team. I believe Manny Diaz and the defense will once again set the UM offense up with more than enough chances to be successful. How will they take advantage of those chances? With all due respect to Bubba Baxa, the less he is seen on Saturday night the better. Points are at a premium right now for the Hurricanes, and field goals aren’t going to cut it. Many people have also started calling the red zone the green zone because that’s where the money is made. Mark Richt needs to earn his money as a play caller and help this offense manufacture some points in the green zone. If they can get the ball on the edge, QB’s can use their legs to create plays through the air and capitalize on potential mismatches on the outside, CMR’s group will get the car out of the parking lot on Saturday night at The Rock.

Miami 27 Duke 20

Comments (5)

I don’t know. We should win. But Blowsier finds new ways to suck every game he starts. And Richt finds ways to bungle up easy playcalls.
I didn't read OP's treatise. I do know that we're analyzing key matchups against a crappy Duke team in year 3. Absolutely pathetic.
I didn't read OP's treatise. I do know that we're analyzing key matchups against a crappy Duke team in year 3. Absolutely pathetic.

That’s the bigger picture
Year 3 and duke is a toss up
No better than golden
"...racked up 438 rushing yards against the Blue Devils, and the vast majority of that came from plays designed to get on the perimeter."

Richt is either allergic to the edge or he thinks it's morally reprehensible to try running where the defense isn't. Either way, it's safe to say he won't be asking his offense to get to the edge.'