Mike's Analysis: Nebraska Game

Read on for a full game analysis of Miami's 36-33 win over Nebraska Saturday from CanesTime's Mike Bakas.

* You have to give Al Golden and his staff for being well prepared heading into this game. Miami's plan on both sides of the ball was very strong in the first half, which led to a 17-point lead. However, as has been the case far too often during the Golden era, the opposing coaching staff made better adjustments and came out and dominated the second half (primarily the 4th quarter). For whatever reason, Golden's teams have never been able to effectively put away good opponents -- and this year's team looks to be the same. The Huskers were no match, from a talent and athletic standpoint, and yet they were able to take this game into overtime. Not one of Nebraska's skill position players on offense would likely start if they were at Miami so it's discouraging to see how they were able to take this game into overtime.

* Brad Kaaya was tremendous. He's making good reads, getting the ball out quickly, taking good care of the football, and throwing darts all over the field. While there are still areas for improvement, when you look around college football it's not hard to see that he's clearly one of the top quarterbacks in all of college football. This was yet another tremendous performance for him. It's night and day compared to how he looked against Nebraska last year -- even though that game was on the road.

* For the second straight week I'll admit I was wrong about the running back situation. I said all summer how I expected Mark Walton to emerge as the top back here by mid-season. Over the last two weeks Joe Yearby is just on a different level. He's running very hard, breaking tackles, and doing a great job finishing his runs. He may not have elite speed but he continues breaking off big runs and making a big difference. You're starting to see why he was a five-star recruit. He may not be at Duke Johnson's level yet but it's not hard to imagine Yearby having that type of success the rest of this season and into his junior season.

* With Stacy Coley not yet 100-percent - or simply not trusted by Kaaya in the passing game - I said a few times last week that UM desperately needed a third receiver aside from the two starters (Rashawn Scott and Herb Waters) to emerge as a dependable threat. In this game Tyre Brady was that guy. He created nice separation and made a few big plays in the passing game. If he's able to continue making plays like that all season it'll be a huge boost to the passing game. I think it's pretty clear after three games that Lawrence Cager and especially Darrell Langham aren't going to be impact players and see many targets this season. Getting Berrios and Coley back healthy will be a big boost but UM really needs to continue feeding the ball to Brady. Speaking of receivers, Scott continues playing on another level. I made a comparison to Leonard Hankerson over the summer and thought he could have the type of season Hankerson did in Golden's first year here. Nothing's changed. He's on his way to having a tremendous senior season.

* Standish Dobard is the starter at tight end but I've been saying for weeks that UM's offense really needs to get the backup tight ends more involved in the passing game. They showed signs of it against FAU and continued making it a priority in this game. David Njoku can make plays -- perhaps as well as Dobard -- in the passing game. It's Chris Herndon, however, that needs to continue seeing 5+ targets a game. He was the top pass-catching tight end in this game and I'd be surprised if it didn't continue staying that way. He's a serious weapon, and could end up having a big season.

* Miami's offensive line played a good game Saturday. They helped the backs average over five yards per carry and they gave up just one sack on 42 Kaaya pass attempts. They also had just one holding penalty. There was some concern whether Trevor Darling could hold up as a sophomore left tackle and effectively replace Ereck Flowers -- especially early in the season. He's done a fine job of it. The part here that surprises me a bit is how little playing time K.C. McDermott is getting. I thought he'd end up being in a near 50/50 split in terms of playing time with Sunny Odogwu but it hasn't happened. Odogwu has started all three games at right tackle and was on the field all the way down the stretch. Art Kehoe deserves some credit for getting this young group ready to play so well early in the season.

* UM's third down woes continued in this game. They were just 3-of-14 on money downs. Strangely, James Coley defended the low percentage in an interview last week by saying he now has a lot more freedom to go for it on 4th down. Again, I thought that was a very strange way of answering that question and I wasn't surprised when UM did not attempt a single fourth down play in this game. Nebraska likely won't end up being one of the best defenses the Canes face this season - and it was a home game - but they're solid and the Canes had over 500 yards and 36 points. Having said that, the 3rd down efficiency problems absolutely need cleaned up for this offense to reach its full potential. Even if the Canes were average on third downs here they likely would have scored 50+ points and won the game going away.

* Nebraska's running backs aren't explosive, and they really only have one primary guy there. They were still able to average over five yards a carry and control the line of scrimmage pretty well -- especially down the stretch. If they had a player the caliber of Ameer Abdullah - the kid who went for over 200 in this game last year and is now playing a big role on the Detroit Lions offense - they likely would have gashed the Canes for well over 200 on the ground again, controlled the clock, and won the game. From that standpoint, it certainly was not an encouraging performance against the run.

* As I hinted at earlier, I didn't feel like Nebraska had the weapons on the perimeter to really challenge the Hurricanes in the secondary. However, despite not having a single pass play for over 30 yards in their first two games the Huskers had three in this game. The lack of pass rush played a big role in that but the Canes had a very difficult time - especially in the second half - containing Nebraska's passing game. Fortunately, the Canes are loaded with playmakers in the secondary and picked off three JR Armstrong passes. Had that not happened, the Canes likely would have lost the game and given up 40+.

* Even though he didn't show up big in the box score with two just tackles, Quan Muhammad's presence was definitely felt. He was consistently getting off blocks and causing problems with his ability to get after the quarterback. Having him back this season will likely make a huge difference.

* We're in year five of the Golden/Mark D'Onofrio era. We heard all summer about how much depth and experience this defense finally has. And yet a very average Nebraska offense came into Miami and went for 33 points and over 400 yards. Like I said, had it not been for Miami's playmakers in the secondary picking off three passes, those numbers likely would have been 500+ and 40+. Because of that, it's extremely disappointing this defense continues getting gashed and why I don't believe they'll be able to effectively prevent some teams from scoring in bunches down the stretch this season.

* Again, punter Justin Vogel was outstanding. Michael Badgley connecting on all five field goals was huge and people will talk about that. Heck, he was even one of the few players interviewed after the game. Vogel, however, is one of the most underrated players on the team right now. He averaged 52 yards on five punts and put two of them inside the 20. He's a serious weapon, forces opposing offenses to have to drive long distances, and continues playing at a very high level for the Canes.

* I said it during the summer and especially after the Bethune Cookman game, Corn Elder - not Braxton Berrios (who was the first guy doing it to start the season) is Miami's best punt return specialist. Sure, Berrios may have a better understanding of what the coaches are trying to execute back there but he's not a game-changer there. Elder - like Santana Moss and Devin Hester and Kevin Williams - is. Lets hope he continues getting those chances even after Berrios returns.

* Bring on Cincinnati!


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