Mentally Stronger

Akieem Jolla, a sophomore from New Orleans, played a big role in keeping the University of Miami football team alive in their 41-38 victory against Louisville last week. Jolla continues to work hard to show to everyone last game was a sign of things to come.

The potential that Jolla has is limitless. Jolla is tall at 6-4, and fast (he runs a 4.39 40). All Jolla needed was a chance to showcase his talent and show what he can do. Last week against Louisville, Jolla got his opportunity, and made the best of it.

In the middle of the 3rd quarter, the Canes were losing to Louisville 31-14. Though Jolla only made two catches in the game, they couldn't have been bigger receptions. On 3rd down and 6, Berlin threw a 10 yard pass to Jolla for a first down. Later on that same drive Berlin and Jolla connected on an 11 yard touchdown. The touchdown changed the momentum of the game, and Jolla could sense it.

"(The touchdown) felt good, it was a must catch situation. I dug down deep inside, I had to focus on my assignments, and did everything correctly," Jolla said. "When I caught that touchdown, the momentum went our way. The guys got pumped on the sideline, our whole attitude changed."

The momentum carried over the rest of the game as the Canes scored on the rest of their possessions and went on to win the game 41-38. Jolla attributes his contributions to the preparation the week before the Louisville game.

"I watched more film. I started focusing more. I'd come out to practice saying, ‘keep your head in the game'," Jolla said. "I try not to break down mentally, because football is a mind game. If I keep focusing on the mental part of the game, then everything else will take care of itself."

Not only has Jolla stepped up his play recently, the whole receiving unit has become more productive. For about three weeks now the receivers and quarterbacks have stayed after practice to work on their timing. The results have been noticeable.

"We work hard. We ain't going to stop working hard. Our hard work is paying off," Jolla says. "We are going out there and doing what we got to do. When game-time comes, we'll go out there and do our best. We've been trying to connect on deep balls. That is something we really need to do. Especially this week."

This week may prove to be a tough challenge for Jolla and the offense. Their opponent, N.C. State, is number one in the nation in total defense and pass defense. They give up 3.38 yards per play, also first in the nation. Three of the four starters in State's secondary are seniors.

Though N.C. State's stingy defense is a concern, the UM offense is getting more productive each week. During the Louisville game, it became quite noticeable that Berlin was more comfortable running the offense out of the shotgun. Jolla says it makes sense that Berlin is more comfortable in the shotgun, he's run it his whole life.

"I'm from New Orleans, I played against him (in high school), and all he did was run shotgun. When he went to Florida, he was in the shotgun. In the shotgun all he has to do is set his feet and make his read, he's more comfortable like that. The shotgun is second nature to him."

Will we see more shotgun formations this week? Jolla is not sure.

"That's our two minute offense. I'm sure we'll be put into situations where we'll be put in the no huddle and run the shotgun."

Jolla admits that even though he played well against Louisville, he still has a lot to work on. He has set goals for himself and he knows what to do to achieve it.

"You can expect me to be a consistent guy. That's my goal, to be consistent. I'm working on everything, running my routes better, getting my head around, my hands could be much better, my concentration could be better, I need to work on everything."

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