Upon giving up 590 rushing yards in the first three games of the season the Miami Hurricanes rushing defense is off to its worst start since 1995 when it surrendered a combined 682 yards to UCLA, Florida A&M and Virginia Tech. (Full list of rushing yards surrendered since 1995 included at the end of the article.)
This year the ‘Canes have allowed 151 rushing yards to Maryland, 174 rushing yards to Ohio State and 265 rushing yards to Kansas State. They’re ranked 99th in the country in rushing defense.
Granted they’ve played a few early season games against Florida A&M, Charleston Southern, and East Tennessee State in the past, this is hardly the first time they’ve played three FBS opponents to open the year.
But these are just statistics. After all, doesn’t the saying go, ‘lies, damn lies, and statistics’? This is not to say this is the worst Miami front in years. Not by any means. There’s enough talent along the line of scrimmage to expect an imposing defensive front capable of stifling the opposing rushing attack.
Still, there’s no question that the defense has struggled to stop the run. Maryland saw tremendous success through the air in the opener, but also ripped five rushes of 10 yards or more and picked up nine first downs on the ground. Ohio State couldn’t pass to save its life a couple of weeks ago in Sun Life Stadium, but they managed five rushes of double-digit yards and picked up 11 first downs on the ground. Kansas State, ranked 24th nationally in rushing offense after last weekend, had little trouble moving the ball on the ground, and their passing offense was working to boot.
It’s not all doom and gloom on the defensive front. Tackle Marcus Forston has the talent of a first round pick, and Anthony Chickillo has played well enough to earn a starting job in the upcoming game against Bethune-Cookman—his fourth collegiate game in his true freshman season. Adewale Ojomo returned from suspension against Ohio State, along with Forston, and Olivier Vernon will return in a few weeks once his six-game suspension is over.
Sean Spence is the leader not only at the second level, but of the entire defense. “We pride ourselves on stopping the run,” Spence told reporters on Tuesday at the team’s facilities. “If we don’t stop it, teams are going to continue to try to run on us. I think the guys understand it’s a team sport and we have to just fill our gaps and just play ball.”
In the wake of Kansas State’s success with the zone read, Spence noted that Bethune-Cookman has some zone reads as well and expects to see a lot of it this season. But Spence isn’t worried about seeing the option more this year, noting that they’ve made the proper adjustments.
Bethune-Cookman comes to town this Saturday, and the Wildcats might actually give the ‘Canes an opportunity to make some improvements to the run defense. “They have a lot of great athletes,” Spence said. “They use multiple running backs. Their quarterback, he’s a dual threat guy. They have a receiver in Eddie Poole from Belle Glade who was at Rutgers and transferred, so we know they have some guys who can make some big plays.”
Miami will face Bethune-Cookman this Saturday at 3:30 PM ET.
2011: 590 total yards–Maryland, 151 yards; Ohio State, 174 yards; Kansas state, 265 yards
2010: 361–Florida A&M, 52; Ohio State, 181; Pittsburgh, 128
2009: 477–Florida State, 110; Georgia Tech, 95; Virginia Tech, 272
2008: 225–Charleston Southern, 49; Florida, 89; Texas A&M, 87
2007: 326–Marshall, 51; Oklahoma, 116; FIU, 159
2006: 178–Florida State, 1; Florida A&M, 82; Louisville, 95
2005: 296–Florida State, 96; Clemson, 90; Colorado, 105
2004: 241–Florida State, 57; Louisiana Tech, 52; Houston, 132
2003: 345–Louisiana Tech, 64; Florida, 178; East Carolina, 103
2002: 345–Florida A&M, 61; Florida, 163; Temple, 121
2001: 279–Penn State, 82; Rutgers, 64; Pittsburgh, 133
2000: 480–McNeese State, 197; Washington, 128; West Virginia, 155
1999: 209–Ohio State, 116; Florida A&M, -17; Penn State, 110
1998: 324–East Tennessee State, 49; Cincinnati, 156; Virginia Tech, 119
1997: 494–Baylor, 108; Arizona State, 232; Pittsburgh, 154
1996: 285–Memphis, 91; Citadel, 128; Rutgers, 66
1995: 682–UCLA, 256; Florida A&M, 126; Virginia Tech, 300
*Statistics acquired from USAToday.com. Statistics for Aug 31, 1996 game at Memphis acquired via 1997 Memphis Football Media Guide.