Miami Defense On a Roll; Canes Down USF on Last Second Field Goal


After struggling much of the season, the Miami defense has not allowed a touchdown in six quarters and counting. Not since E.J. Manuel found Rodney Smith for the 21-yard touchdown with 4:42 remaining in the second quarter of last week’s loss to Florida State has a team reached the end zone against the Canes.

Not only has Miami kept teams out of the end zone, they’ve been much better against the run. Florida State rushed for 63 yards, and USF rushed for 116 yards in Saturday afternoon’s 6-3 win over the Bulls in Tampa. Even Duke, not much of a running team at 98.2 yards per game (113th in the country), ran for 148 yards a few weeks ago as Miami focused on stopping the Blue Devils passing game.

Brandon McGee came up with the Hurricanes first interception by a cornerback, answering a USF fumble recovery the previous play. Last weekend against Florida State, the defense held the Seminoles to a field goal after Travis Benjamin muffed a punt in Miami territory. They held for field goals most of the game, which allowed the Hurricanes to keep it close enough to get back in it at the end. Unfortunately, they couldn’t pull it off last weekend.

But this weekend, with the offense still a bit off its game, the Canes found a way to win it. Miami ended a 7-minute drive with a game-winning field goal to down USF and avoid overtime where they fell last season in Sun Life Stadium. The Hurricanes crowded around kicker Jake Wieclaw as the Bulls tried to ice him twice, yelling and shouting at him to replicate a ‘pressure kick’ ritual they hold every Thursday at practice. Wieclaw seemed to enjoy it more than anybody, and went out and kicked the 36-yard field goal to give Miami the 6-3 win. Brilliant.

Miami’s other kicker, punter Dalton Botts, was lauded by head coach Al Golden. He punted eight times with only one really returned. Victor Marc returned a third quarter punt 11 yards, and a fourth quarter punt one yard.

At 5-5, it’s extremely encouraging to see the Hurricanes get better defensively as the season progresses. With the ACC Coastal hopes essentially dashed three weeks ago against Virginia, the Canes D could have easily folded. But they’ve seemed to play with more of an edge these last two weeks in putting together two of the three best efforts of the year.

But the offense, which was clicking much of the season, has struggled to get on track lately. They had three drives of five minutes or more, and all three ended in field goal attempts–two were made and one was blocked. Miami rushed for only 57 yards, and the Bulls got good penetration along the line of scrimmage. They came up with six sacks in total.

Quarterback Jacory Harris played efficiently, though, completing 27 of 35 passes for 259 yards with no interceptions. He found eleven different receivers; Tommy Streeter led the team with five catches, and Travis Benjamin led all receivers with 45 yards. Benjamin now has 2,072 yards in his career, positioning him 88 yards behind Leonard Hankerson for fifth in school history. Lamar Miller rushed 20 times for 50 yards, giving him 1,158 yards for the season.

The  Hurricanes became bowl eligible with the win, although some have pondered whether they give up eligibility with NCAA sanctions looming. Such a move may be seen as one in good faith, with the idea that they’d perhaps reduce the potential hurt even just a little bit. Golden told reporters that he had not heard the notion of skipping the bowl game until this past week when it was brought up in an interview.

Miami moves to 6-5 on the season with one game remaining in the regular season. They’ll play Boston College on Friday at 3:30 at Sun Life Stadium.