Rough Around The Edges

Can't get any better than 4-0 with a third of the regular season in the books for the University of Miami. The Hurricanes are unscratched, unblemished and remain in line for a ticket to the Sugar Bowl in January as opposed to places like Athens, Georgia, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Manhattan, Kansas, where the resident college football outfit has already seen their respective national championship aspirations receive a left cross to the chin.

September has come and gone on the Hurricanes' football calendar and Coral Gables' favorite sons are still perfect where it really counts despite putting it in cruise control in Louisiana Tech, waking up just in time against the Gators, looking spotty against East Carolina and reigning in Chestnut Hill thanks to superior athleticism which the Eagles had no answers for.

So there's nothing to really be concerned about, you say?

Well, not really.

There are not too many instances when anybody can nitpick a team that has outscored their first four opponents 157-59 and been on the wrong side of the scoreboard in only two of the 16 quarters of football they have played this season. But as crazy as it may sound these Hurricanes will need to get better – in a few areas - if they have any intention of spending the Christmas holidays on Bourbon Street instead of hanging out in their own backyard.

(Memo to Canes fans: No to need to contact Ken Dorsey, Willis McGahee or Andre Johnson in a desperate attempt to get the ball rolling for the Hurricanes' offense).

But I'm sure head man Larry Coker and his crew would feel a lot better if quarterback Brock Berlin and his offensive pals would start showing some signs of life next Thursday night at home against West Virginia as the Hurricanes head towards a strenuous portion of their schedule, which includes visits to heavyweights Florida State Oct. 11 and Virginia Tech Nov. 1.

So far Miami's defense, with a sprinkle here and there from Roscoe Parrish and his special team mates, has carried much of the load during the Canes' perfect start to a season that appears to be headed right down to the final weekend with Oklahoma, Southern Cal., Virginia Tech, Ohio State (despite no Maurice), Florida State and Oregon showing signs of being true contenders and not pretenders. And if UM wants in among this current crop of big boys their offense will no doubt have to improve drastically or watch somebody else claim the sport's ultimate prize.

It may all rest on Berlin's shoulders to do so.

Despite turning a chorus of boos to cheers (ah, those short-minded UM revelers) in the out-of-nowhere come from behind victory over the Gators, Berlin has done little to match the hype that accompanied him in the winter of 2002 when he transferred from the University of Florida. With the departure of Dorsey and insertion of Berlin, many expected to quick-strike rate on offense to increase. It hasn't happened.

Although a lot of struggles can be viewed as a result of a banged up offensive line and an undeveloped receivers' unit, Berlin has been inconsistent in putting drives together and getting the Hurricanes into the end zone. For all the poise he showed against Florida, Berlin has been far from perfect.

In the first four games, Berlin has made a habit of under-throwing wide open receivers or missing his targets all together, while rarely keeping the Canes offense on the field for long periods of time. Might he be pressing?

Not a good sign considering the Hurricanes still have dates vs. the Seminoles, Hokies, Volunteers and Panthers, squads that are much more talented than any of the Canes have faced to this point. Berlin has to realize that he has guys named Winslow, Gore, Parrish and Hester around him so he doesn't have to do it all on his own.

Another problem the Hurricanes have had is turning the ball over. Again, putting the ball on the ground against Louisiana Tech and East Carolina is one thing. But turnovers in Tallahassee or Blacksburg will no doubt be tougher to overcome. Clearly he posses the arm-strength that Dorsey never had as a Hurricane, but he has a tendency of forcing the issue with the ball in his hands. Berlin obviously gives the Hurricanes the best chance to win (sorry, Derrick). But if he continues his string of average performances (five touchdowns, five interceptions) the Hurricanes will be forced to run the ball even more with Frank Gore. A host of penalties haven't helped their cause either.

Defense has been the order of the day for the Hurricanes to this point. But what are the chances they will carry the Hurricanes all way to New Orleans.

That said, Miami's offense needs to make an appearance soon. If not, they can forget about a sixth national championship - at least this season.

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