Mike's Take: USF Game

The Hurricanes won big again on Saturday but it wasn't the best of performances. Read on for a game analysis from CanesTime's Mike Bakas.

* The scoreboard looked good. Anytime you beat another BCS opponent on the road by four touchdowns you have to be happy about it. However, it was somewhat of an ugly win for the Hurricanes. Perhaps that was to be expected for a team going on the road for the first time since last season.

* Stephen Morris was excellent, as usual. Unfortunately, he got knocked out of the game yet again. This was the third time in four games this season that Morris left early with an injury. Dating back to last season, it's becoming somewhat of a trend. While he's one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC when healthy and on the field, it's becoming obvious that it's going to be unlikely that he'll be able to finish games on a regular basis. That puts a lot of emphasis on the play of Ryan Williams, who was solid today. He seems to make good decisions, spreads the ball around, and has a pretty good grip on the offense. It's good to see him getting such quality playing time since he'll likely be counted on at times down the stretch of the season. When he entered the game against North Carolina last year, he was a much different quarterback than he is today. His game experience is a big reason for that. With the exception of maybe Florida State on the road, Williams should be able to lead this offense to lots of points against anyone on the remaining schedule.

* Duke Johnson continues getting dinged a lot as well, which is becoming somewhat of a concern. One of the nice things about him is how physical he plays for someone his size. Unfortunately, he's taking a lot of hits that seem to be taking their toll on him. And for someone with his speed and explosiveness, it's a bit surprising that his longest run against two BCS opponents this season (35 total carries) has been 17 yards.

* Dallas Crawford continues running hard. They seem to be trusting him more and more in pass protection and he seems to be gaining more and more confidence every week. They didn't use him against Florida, but he's starting to look like a backup running back that will be able to be trusted down the stretch.

* No Eduardo Clements today, even when the game was out of hand, means he was likely either hurt or suspended. I'm sure we'll hear from Al Golden about it.

* Gus Edwards has a tremendous combination of size and speed and strength but he has to run with better pad level. Until he does, he'll struggle to run against good defenses and he'll struggle with ball control.

* The Hurricanes now have four total completions to running backs this season. That's with 69 total completions on the season, which means the running backs are catching just 5-percent of the footballs going around. That number seems very low. I'm not sure if that's a staple of a James Coley offense but I'd like to see that number increase, especially when you have gifted pass-catchers like Johnson and Crawford.

* The receivers did about what I expected them to do -- dominate the slower, less talented USF defensive backs. The top four guys continue making plays on a regular basis. Stacy Coley keeps getting better every week. They're about as good a top four that you'll find in college football. Unfortunately, there's a big drop off from there. It's been both surprising and disappointing that Malcolm Lewis hasn't gotten more involved. D'Mauri Jones, despite the lack of depth, still can't crack the rotation when the game still matters. Hurry back Rashawn Scott, who will give the Canes a fifth key target. This also helps explain why recruiting of wide receivers has been so important in the 2014 class.

* Just like I mentioned with the running backs not being real involved, it's been just as surprising that Clive Walford hasn't been more involved. For whatever reason, he's rarely being thrown to. Sure, he dropped a touchdown last week but he's a major weapon. I keep hearing about how such a high percentage of his catches go for first downs or touchdowns. Why isn't he catching more passes? Beau Sandland keeps getting better, and I think he'll be a huge weapon by November.

* The offensive line was up and down again today. Morris got hit a few times. They were called for a few more penalties. They were unable to punch the ball in from inside the five on a few occasions. Sure, USF had a solid front. But at what point is this massive offensive line going to start dominating the line of scrimmage? It seems like that should already be happening. Hopefully we see more of it against a lesser talented Georgia Tech front next week.

* Aside from the players who are on track to redshirt (QB Kevin Olsen, FB Walter Tucker, OL Sunny Odogwu, and OL Hunter Knighton) and those injured, the only offensive players who didn't see the field today were Clements (something had to be up with him, as I mentioned), Jake O'Donnell, and Hunter Wells.

* The defense continues getting better every week. They had a blown assignment on the long run to start the game but they really settled down after that. USF had over 150 yards on their first and last drive of the game (their two offensive touchdowns). In between those two drives, their offense really stalled and only had around 100 yards.

* The defensive front controlled the line of scrimmage for the most part. They limited the yards for Marcus Shaw after his long run on the opening drive, they created pressure, and they rotated a lot of players. Anthony Chickillo continues to be the MVP here. Not only is he rock solid on the edge on first and second downs, he continues dropping down to play inside on third downs. He's tough, smart, and has a motor that just never stops. Interestingly, Kelvin Cain (who had been playing middle linebacker) also played along the defensive front today.

* The linebackers were active. As I've been saying all season, they continue doing a nice job of making tackles that they're supposed to make. They aren't missing many, which limit some big plays on the ground. Denzel Perryman is all over the place, and Thurston Armbrister keeps getting better and better every week. I never expected him to be playing at this level when he first came here and then when he got on the field (and really struggled) early on.

* The secondary continues playing well, even without Deon Bush being 100-percent. His snap count seemed to increase today from last week but it's still not where you'd like it for the most talented safety on the roster. If you take away the 75+ yards (and one touchdown) the Bulls got through the air on their last drive of the game on Miami's backups, the DB's did a nice job in coverage. Interestingly, cornerback Nate Dortch didn't see the field today. He seems like a non-factor, which has been a big surprise to me since he was listed as a co-starter in the spring and early in fall camp.

* The coverage unit on kickoffs have been excellent. The Bulls returned several kicks that failed to make it back to the 20 yard line. That's good design, and good execution. Matt Goudis missing an easy field goal was disappointing, especially since it was just his third of the season. Aside from the two he made in non-pressure situations against FAU, we still don't know if he can kick field goals during game situations. I'm curious as to why the Canes didn't try a field goal late in the game when they had a 4th down on the USF 31. They had the wind, and instead Pat O'Donnell (who was outstanding again on punts) booted the ball deep into the endzone. I understand you don't want to run up the score right there but isn't that a golden opportunity to give Goudis another chance and a way for him to gain some of his confidence back?

* A 4-0 start is nice. Honestly, though, it's what I expected from this team this season. Now things get interesting. The ACC Coastal Division looks weak right now, especially after the way North Carolina lost to East Carolina today. The Hurricanes should be solid favorites in all of their remaining games, minus Florida State. However, this team still has a lot of improving to do. Hopefully we see a lot of that against Georgia Tech next Saturday.

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