Mike's Take: Pitt Game

The Hurricanes defeated Pittsburgh Friday by the score of 41-31 to keep its hopes of playing for a conference title alive. Read on for a game analysis by CanesTime's Mike Bakas.

* The first thing that must be stated is that Miami went into Pittsburgh and took care of business in a game that a lot of people thought would be negative effected by the weather (for the Canes). The weather was not an issue, and Miami did what it had to do in order to win the game.

* As bad as this season's been at times, and despite the fact the Canes played teams like FAU and Savannah State this season, this team now has a chance to win 10 games for the first time since 2003. That's hard to believe, yet today's win kept that alive.

* Stephen Morris played a very solid football game. He completed 17 of 28 passes for almost 300 yards. I counted three or dour drops so his numbers could have been outstanding -- in a road game and in weather conditions that this team isn't used to. He's been taking good care of the football lately, too. The two issues that continue to negatively impact his game, however, are his inability to spread the ball around (which may have a lot to do with James Coley's play-calling; no one on the outside really knows for sure) and the fact that his timing on deep routes is still off. Sure, he made one very impressive throw to Hurns for a long completion today but there were a few other receivers who got behind Pitt's secondary but had to wait and come back to the ball (which resulted in incomplete passes). We all know he has the arm strength to make the deep throws. He just waits too long on some of them, and it hurts this team's chances of connecting on some long pass plays.

* I've been critical of the carry distribution ever since Duke Johnson went down with an injury. I thought Eduardo Clements and especially Gus Edwards needed more touches, especially compared to Dallas Crawford. The three are too similar in ability to have one guy getting the majority of the touches, which had been taking place in recent weeks. 14 to 11 to 5 today was much better, and I think it's a big reason why the Canes were able to run for almost 200 yards on the ground. Guys were able to stay fresh, and Pitt's defense wasn't able to focus on just one type of running style.

* Speaking of Edwards, I think his primary role is starting to become more clear. Over the last four games (since Duke's been out), Edwards has 25 carries for 115 yards and one touchdown. About five or six of those 25 carries have been inside the redzone. That's almost 5 yards per carry but his longest run during that time is just 12 yards (today). He's developed into a solid short-yardage, redzone back who can help move the chains but he's not much of a threat to break into the secondary too often. Still, that will be a nice role for him as the team's No. 3 or No. 4 RB next season (behind Duke and Joseph Yearby).

* Allen Hurns quietly put up one of the best years ever by a Hurricane wide receiver. Talk about making it happen. Hurns wasn't real heavily recruited. He battled through some injuries the last few years. And yet he was the same guy every day for four years, and look how it's paid off. It's only fitting that one of his best games ever came on his final regular season game. I'm happy for a really good kid whose play on the field earned him a spot in next April's NFL Draft.

* Herb Waters and his lack of involvement in the offense over the last couple weeks has been a big mystery. We're talking about a player who had a decent season and then exploded against Duke. Now he has 0 catches and only two or three targets over the last two games. Either he's banged up and it's not being talked about, he simply hit a late season well and isn't creating any type of separation, or Morris simply isn't looking his way. It could be any of the three but it's definitely been strange.

* Stacy Coley has a chance to be special. With Duke Johnson out, he's probably the most talented player on Miami's team right now. Everyone knows that. The way things are in college football today, a team only needs a few of those guys to be absolutely explosive on offense. The Canes have two absolute game-changers on offense heading into 2014 -- Duke and Coley. There's a good chance Yearby will be another one. Coley has eight touchdowns right now, and I believe he's dropped two or three others (one in the opener, one today, and I believe he had one in the middle that would have gone for a score). He was close to having 10 or 11 scores. There's reason to believe he could be a 15-score guy next season. Expectations will be high, and for a reason. He changes games.

* It was another disappointing game in terms of getting the tight ends involved. Sure, Clive Walford had a drop but he also took a short pass and almost took it the distance. Sure, Asante Cleveland scored a short touchdown but that was the only target that he or Beau Sandland saw all day. I believe the three of them saw four total targets. I'm curious to see if another team has a tandem as talented as Walford and Sandland, and then how many targets those two are getting. It's one thing if you have a deep group of receivers hogging all the targets. That's simply not the case.

* Here is the pass distribution for Morris today: Hurns 15, Coley 5, Walford 3, Waters 1, Crawford 1, Clements 1, Hagens 1, and Cleveland 1.

* Miami's running backs averaged just 3.5 yards on 30 carries today. Against a below average defense, that's not really getting it done. Having said that, the interior line play and the scheme in place to slow down Pitt's # 97 were both excellent. He was a non-factor for the most part. They did, however, protect Morris very well. It was nice seeing Danny Isidora working into the rotation very early in the game. It's pretty clear the Canes have eight offensive linemen they trust to use when the game still matters. Some teams only have five. There were times the Canes only had five in the past. Five of those eight (Flowers, Feliciano, McDermott, Isidora, and Bunche) return next season, and should form a solid group.

* The defense got shredded again. Pitt went for over 500 yards and 31 points but most of us sort of expected those types of numbers so that wasn't a big surprise. Pitt was 42-percent on third down, which is well below average and they converted two of their three redzone trips into touchdowns. It wasn't a good day, defensively.

* The Panthers had 11 offensive drives. Three resulted in three-and-outs. One more resulted in a punt. One resulted in an interception (in Miami's endzone). One resulted in a missed field goal. The rest were scoring drives.

* Pitt gashed the Hurricanes right up the middle. Just for comparison's sake, lets take a quick look at their starting running back. In his first seven ACC games this season, he had 62 carries for 179 yards (2.9 per carry). Today, he went for 141 yards (6.7) on 21 carries. It was the best game he's ever had against a Division 1 opponent. His long touchdown was the longest of his career. Basically, he had a career day against the Canes today.

* Pitt's quarterback dropped back 43 times today. He was playing in an offense that had given up 40 sacks going into the game. The Hurricanes got to him one time. Typically when teams can't stop the run they can get after the quarterback. Or the other way around. Especially lately, Miami has been terrible at doing both stopping the run and rushing the passer.

* Tackling has been an issue all season, and it was no different today. I counted at least seven missed tackles. Most of them came from the secondary.

* Pat O'Donnell's outstanding season continued. He averaged over 44 yards per punt, and put three inside the 20 (two inside the 10). As bad as this defense has been this season, can you imagine if UM had just an average punter and didn't make teams go the length of the field on a regular basis? He's a defense's best friend, and they still get gashed. Not only was he rock solid punting it, he also caused a fumble that led to Miami's first touchdown. The special teams, overall, played well. Matt Goudis made both field goals. Garrett Kidd deserves some credit for making some quality plays on the coverage teams today. And Tyriq McCord blocking a punt helped change the field position at that point in the game.

* UM now becomes big North Carolina and Virginia fans tomorrow. Regardless of whether those teams win and give Miami a rematch with FSU or not, getting into a bowl game is huge for this program. Getting those extra practices in December is almost like another spring. It's huge, especially for young teams and that's really hurt this team the last couple years. That's a very underrated aspect of the program right now, and I think we'll see a lot of growth from the team over the next 30 days.


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