Duke Game -- Offensive Analysis

The Hurricanes defeated Duke today by the score of 52-45. Read on to see what CanesTime's Mike Bakas is saying about the team's offensive performance.

* Good win. It was exciting at times and it was ugly at times. However, often times teams that forgo a bowl game tank it at the end of the season. Last year's team did when it lost to Boston College at the end of the season. This team was a different story. They seemed well prepared and excited to be there. I think a big part of that is the difference in culture between this year's team compared to the one from last year. The 2011 team was loaded with upperclassmen who could hardly wait to get out of here. The 2012 team is loaded with underclassmen who really want to help put this program back on the national map.

* I've been critical at times of Jedd Fisch and his playcalling methods but well coached teams get better as the season wears on. They should be much better at the end of the season than they were at the beginning. Well, this offense was. Since losing to Florida State at home (in a game where the offense didn't play poorly), the offense averaged 41 points per game.

* A big reason for Miami's offensive success down the stretch is because of how well Stephen Morris played. He quietly put together one of the best Novembers of any quarterback in college football. Over the last four games, he's completed 60-percent of his passes for 1,131 yards, 11 touchdowns, and no interceptions. And the last three games were played without the team's leading receiver after 9 games (Rashawn Scott). He's tearing up middle of the pack defenses, which is what good college quarterbacks do. He's a much different player than he was back in September. With another offseason in Fisch's system, Morris really has a chance to put together a huge senior season. His two most efficient games of the season came over the final two weeks, and three of his four best came over the final three weeks. He finished the season with a 21-7 TD/INT ratio, and so expecting him to be in the 32/8 range in 2013 isn't unrealistic.

* Duke Johnson was Miami's best player against Boston College. And he was still their best player at the end of the season. That is a testament not only to his ability but his toughness and conditioning. A lot of freshman running backs (or rookies in the NFL) wear down as the season winds down -- especially ones who are 5-foot-8 and under 190 pounds like Duke. He's a flat out difference maker. His numbers are better than any freshman in school history, and I think he's as talented as any of the great ones who came through here.

* Mike James was never flashy. He was never considered a big time player. However, he was always rock solid in all three phases. He was solid running it between the tackles, solid in pass pro, and solid as a pass-catcher. It's rare to get someone who does all three things as well as he does. He'll play on Sundays because of that. He's going to be missed. UM doesn't have a proven running back on the roster who can be viewed as a legitimate replacement. Hopefully Eduardo Clements can provide some of that. Hopefully Dallas Crawford can. Hopefully a true freshman (like perhaps 5-star Alex Collins, who is considering the Canes) can. Time will tell but that will be a big priority over the next nine months.

* The fact that UM's offense exploded over the final three games of the season without its leading receiver up to that point shows how all these receivers are very similar in ability. If Rashawn Scott doesn't play for UM in 2013 (and I'm not suggesting that, just using an example), I don't think anyone would even notice. UM got very banged up at receiver this year, and I think George McDonald deserves a lot of credit for getting all of his guys ready to play. Herb Waters turned in another big play today, and I think he's going to be a major weapon in 2013. He's still learning, mainly because he wasn't asked to be a true receiver in high school, and the next nine months under McDonald will be huge for his development. He has a chance to be a real difference maker next season -- and he might not even be as far along as classmates Malcolm Lewis and Robert Lockhart.

* Clive Walford has been a different player down the stretch. Let me start out by saying that I was wrong on him coming out of high school. For those who can't remember, he quit football at one point in high school and was fairly lightly recruited out of one of the state's premier prep programs (Glades Central). Just like when Jimmy Graham wasn't very good when he first started playing (remember his key drops and soft play @ Va Tech that year?), Walford just needed time. You can't coach the size/speed/athleticism that they bring to the table. Walford will play on Sundays one day. He was the third string tight end earlier this season. Now he's as big a pass-catching weapon at that position that there is in the conference. He's a better pass-catching option than Nick O Leary at FSU, a former five-star kid who everyone wanted. I can see him having a monster 2013 season for the Canes, despite the fact that UM will likely be signing three quality pass-catching tight ends in this upcoming recruiting class. He'll be MUCH better (like Waters because of his lack of experience and like Graham improved) next season.

* The offensive line played a good game, but a few penalties and sacks allowed hurt the overall performance. I noticed Ereck Flowers was playing both left and right tackle and I think that's a good sign for the future. He can be a swing guy next year as the team's third tackle. He got beat for two sacks today but he's still very good for a true freshman. Most freshmen offensive tackles aren't playing.

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