Mike's Thoughts: NC ST Game (defense)

The Hurricanes (4-1) defeated N.C. State by the score of 44-37 today. Read on to get CanesTime's Mike Bakas' take on Miami's defensive performance in the game.

* Wow. They continue getting absolutely shredded. The last 2 Div 1 opponents did most of their damage on the ground. Today NC State did it both ways. The Canes came into the game 98th nationally so they'll probably be in the 110 range after this one. Despite so much youth, that's bad.

* While the defense is bad right now, you just wonder how much different it would be if Ray Ray Armstrong was the starting free safety, Denzel Perryman the starting mike linebacker, Ramon Buchanan the starting will 'backer, and Curtis Porter one of the two starting tackles (or if Olivier Vernon was the starter opposite Chick instead of playing as a backup for the Dolphins right now). It would probably look a whole lot different. However, that's football. It's the nature of the beast. But also know that 7 of today's 11 defensive starters weren't recruited by very many BCS schools coming out of high school. With the guys mentioned above not playing, it's not the most talented group in the world.

* The defense deserves a tremendous amount of credit for creating turnovers. It's one thing to give up big chunks of yards without taking balls away. This unit does a nice job of that. They had six today and 4 of them were caused. And Thomas Finnie still had to make the catch on the pick that set up the final score and he did. Without even half of those takeaways the Canes probably lose this game.

* The lack of pass rush continues hurting the defense and mostly the secondary. They've gotta be near perfect in coverage to have success without much of a pass rush. NC State threw it 42 times today and was sacked just two times. They even started mixing in some blitz packages and they're still not getting to him.

* Unless he was injured, Olsen Pierre didn't play much of a role down the stretch when the defense really needed a stop and that surprised me. Earl Moore and Corey King were on the field to start NC State's last long touchdown drive and then Luther Robinson and Darius Smith also played. Pierre started again but I'm not sure what happened.

* Eddie Johnson is the man. He's a playmaker. He was playing through pain late in the game. He's the team's most explosive tackler and even caused a couple more fumbles today. For those who don't follow recruiting too closely, he was offered very late in the process (about a week before NSD) and flipped his commitment from Louisville to Miami. He's clearly the team's best linebacker right now, especially with Denzel Perryman out.

* Gionni Paul is starting to turn the corner a bit. He earned the start over Jimmy Gaines this week and finished the game with 11 tackles and caused a fumble. Your mike linebacker should lead the team in tackles against a pro style offense and he did that today. He's a quality backup caliber LB right now, who should be playing behind Perryman right now.

* What a pleasant surprise Fentress, the walkon LB (57) has been this season. With all the injuries at LB, he earned some playing time early in the season. He's now to the point of playing a lot and was one of the LB's on the field late in this game. He even made a key 3rd down stop in the open field. The kid tackles well, he seems smart, and he hustles.

* The DB's are getting abused and clearly the weak point right now. And without a pass rush, it's really showing how much they're struggling. The safeties seem lost. Maybe that's what happens when you have one starter as someone who spent his first 2 years on campus being the 3rd string QB and a 5th year senior who can't even beat out an average player like Rodgers.

* Antonio Crawford seems to have surpassed Tracy Howard as the team's fourth corner right now, which is a bit surprising. Howard's not playing as much but it's encouraging for the future because we know Howard can play and now it seems like Crawford has a bright future here as well.

* Jake Wieclaw's struggles indicate how important the mental makeup of a kicker truly is. After missing three more this week, he's been terrible since last week and will likely not have much confidence going into Notre Dame next week. Hopefully he shakes it off and bounces back because a team that plays a lot of close games really needs a solid kicker. If the struggles continue, at some point, you've gotta wonder when Matt Goudis may get a chance in a game situation.

* Here are the offensive rankings of Miami's first four opponents going into this weekend -- BC (60), K-State (44), GT (19), and NC ST (76). Notre Dame's offense ranked 99th heading into this weekend. As bad as the Irish have been on offense this season, they've played a fairly tough schedule so far and could still put up 500+ more yards on Miami next Saturday. They will, however, have the worst offense (statistically) the Canes will have faced so far this season.

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