* First thing's first -- that was the first time in a very long time that the University of Miami looked like it belonged on the biggest stage. Sure, Florida State has struggled some this season but the bottom line is they've won 25 straight and they're the defending champions. The stage wasn't too big for the Canes. I said all week that those kids woke up yesterday with a different feeling. This was a huge opportunity and they responded in a lot of ways.* Kudos to the coaching staff for having the team well prepared and ready to play at that level we saw in the first half. Remember how Randy Shannon's team came out in this game in his fourth year. They were flat, unprepared, and got it handed to them. Not this one. Having said that, UM's coaches got it handed to them from halftime on. FSU made the right adjustments and Miami did not. It seemed like they got way too conservative after getting the big lead early on. Why not keep the gas pedal down and keep on doing what got you in that position? Getting outscored 23-3 to finish the game is not a sign of a well coached football team, no matter who you're playing. * Brad Kaaya continues growing up in so many ways. I thought he looked very confident in the days leading up to the game when speaking to the media. The stage didn't seem too big for him, which wasn't the case earlier in the season when playing Louisville and Nebraska. He came out and responded in a big way. Sure, he missed some throws and made some poor decisions at times but the bottom line is that he played well and his solid freshman season continues. He's a big reason why a lot of top recruits will want to come here now. He's a big reason why there's a whole lot to look forward to over the next few years. It's all about development under James Coley because Kaaya has all the physical and mental tools to become a really special player here. * Duke was Duke. What a tremendous effort, again. He had over 160 yards of offense and often looked like the best player on the entire field. It's too bad he started catching cramps late in the game. I wonder how that would have changed had Gus Edwards been able to go and take some of the carries earlier in the game when UM had opened up a big lead. * Joseph Yearby is a very good running back prospect and has a bright future here but we saw last night why so many people wanted Dalvin Cook so badly. He was far and away their most explosive player last night and made a huge impact on the game. Cook reminds me so much of Chris Johnson and C.J. Spiller at that age. It's been talked a lot about how UM needs to keep players like that at home before truly returning to the elite. That's a good example of a great one that got away, and he made the hometown team pay last night. * I've been concerned all season about Miami's lack of depth at the wide receiver position and the consistency in terms of getting those kids the football. Phillip Dorsett is clearly the team's top wide receiver and after that all the others combined for just three catches for 29 yards. That might work against mid-level ACC teams but not when you're trying to beat the defending champs. Why isn't Herb Waters more involved in the game plan? Losing Rashawn Scott for the season has turned out to be a major blow to the group of receivers. * Clive Walford's excellent senior season continued last night. He likely won't get mentioned in the same breath as guys like Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow but like Bubba Franks, he's a big time player and will leave here very underrated. He has a bright future playing on Sundays. * Art Kehoe has drawn lots of praise in recent weeks and last night was another example of why it's well deserved. Kaaya dropped back to throw 34 times and FSU didn't sack him once. UM averaged 4.4 yards per carry on the ground. That was while their lineman (Ereck Flowers) wasn't 100-percent, the kid who played right tackle the last several weeks was back at left guard, and while using a true freshman at right tackle for his second career start. No matter what combination UM sends out, they continue performing well. It'll be a huge challenge for Kehoe next season while having to replace Shane McDermott, Jon Feliciano, and probably Flowers. The job he's done this season is a reason why UM fans should not worry too much about that though. * UM came ready to play defensively but, like with everything that happened, I thought they got too conservative after getting the big lead early on. As a whole, they needed one more third down stop. They needed to force one more turnover. They were literally a play here or there short of helping UM win the game.
* Another week, another standout performance by Denzel Perryman. He continues playing at a high level. Raphael Kirby had a solid performance but the missed tackle on Cook's 44-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was huge and really hurt. He continues making good progress, however, and is enjoying a fine season.* The late injuries to Anthony Chickillo and Deon Bush were very unfortunate. Bush, especially, was playing extremely well in this game. He'd caused a fumble, he'd picked off a pass, and was playing lights out at the safety spot. Losing him late really hurt. * For the first time this season, Matt Goudis not being available really hurt. Michael Badgley has filled in admirably so far this season but the missed field goal really hurt in the end. The blocked extra point is something that also needs addressed. That should never happen. If both of those attempts are made, it's a whole different ball game. * Despite losing the game, it's encouraging to me that the reasons for the loss were due to turnovers and missed opportunities instead of the team coming out flat, unprepared, and playing uninspired football. Sure, those things typically go together but I really like a lot of what we saw last night. Things need cleaned up but they showed a lot of fight. I predicted an 8-5 season back in August and it's looking very possible right now. * Bring on Virginia!