Duke Game -- Defensive 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 defensive performance.

* I thought Mark D'Onofrio made some good points this past week when he was talking to the media about his defense over the last few weeks. They were solid against Va Tech and USF and did a solid job after halftime against Virginia. All of that was moot today, as his unit was shredded for nearly 600 yards, and FIVE second half touchdowns. He talks about all the injuries this season (and there were plenty). However, Denzel Perryman was on the field. Deon Bush was. Curtis Porter was. I don't think those three have played together yet. Duke made much better halftime adjustments and it's discouraging to see UM play so poorly on defense in the final game of the season. Sure, this unit's young but this was game number 12.

* Two of the biggest problems I saw today were that the defense accounted for SEVEN penalties in this game -- SEVEN! That's a really high number, even for a young group. And the second thing is that Duke was 4-for-4 on redzone chances, with four touchdowns. Whenever UM's backs were against the wall, they simply couldn't stop an average Duke offense. No matter who you have playing on your team, if you commit seven defensive penalties and go 0-for-4 on redzone stops (for touchdowns), you're going to have a long day.

* Despite the defensive collapse today, the future seems pretty bright based on the personnel. Of the 20+ players who played today, only Brandon McGee and Vaughn Telemaque won't be around next season. The top DE, the top DT (today), the top LB, and the top S will be around for a couple more seasons. They have to be put in position to be successful. I remember the 98 unit being very young, but talented, under Bill Miller. They got shredded, even at the end of the season. Within a year and a half, UM was the best team in college football. The difference, I'm afraid, is that unit was getting picked apart by Syracuse (Donovan McNabb) and top-ranked UCLA -- not below average teams like Duke and Virginia.

* The lack of a pass rush continued today. Duke threw it 60-some times and UM's defense recorded one sack. One. That's been a major weakness all season. I understand the personnel isn't designed to produce a lot of sacks but at some point you have to wonder why D'Onofrio hasn't been able to get creative enough to generate more pressure. Maybe he's worried about his back seven being so young? Well, when you rank near the very bottom and give up nearly 600 yards to Duke, at what point does that matter?

* Olsen Pierre was very active today. He and Curtis Porter form a nice combo at defensive tackle. I have a hard time believing there are many teams in the ACC with a better starting DT combo. Porter is a wall at the nose and Pierre is very active beside him. He had a sack, caused a fumble, broke up a pass, and hurried Duke's QB on a few plays. He continues getting better and better and has a chance to be a special player by the time he's done. He's starting to remind me of a young William Joseph.

* Eddie Johnson was probably Miami's 2nd best linebacker this season. It was really unfortunate that he got dinged up this week and was unable to play. He wasn't on Thursday's injury report but the announcers said he was injured. It may have been due to another suspension. Either way, if you look at UM's defense over the final 4 games, they were two different teams. Against VT and USF, they turned in solid performances (both games had Johnson on the field). Against UVA and Duke, they were terrible (Johnson wasn't on the field). Even though Perryman was UM's best LB today, and probably the team's best on the season, it makes you wonder how valuable Johnson truly is to this defense. He was missed today.

* It's hard watching UM have no answer for Conner Vernon in this game. Whether it was against McGee (senior) or Tracy Howard (freshman), he was giving UM fits all afternoon. For those who don't know, Vernon is from Miami (Gulliver Prep) High and was never recruited by Randy Shannon and his staff. He became the all-time leading receiver in the ACC today, and will play on Sundays.

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