Kyle Wright played as good a game on Thursday night as he's played since becoming a Hurricane. If the Canes can get that type of production from him each time out then big things are in store. He had just five incompletions among his 26 pass attempts. His 275 yards will get the job done every time. He didn't throw any interceptions. His job is to get the ball into the hands of his talented teammates and he did an excellent job of that on Thursday. His grade comes down just a hair because of his lost fumble and the fact that he underthrew both Sam Shields and Lance Leggett on both of his long throws. He only took one sack really since there wasn't much he could do on the sack when they faked the end around. Bottom line is that Kyle played a very good football game and the Canes are going to have an excellent season if he continues to play the way he did last night, especially if he fixes some of the little things I mentioned.
Running Backs: C
Texas A&M's front seven hasn't had a whole lot of success stopping the run so far this season so it's no surprise the Canes had some success running the ball. The holes were there. However, the threesome (Javarris James, Graig Cooper, and Shawnbrey McNeal) only gained 116 yards on 34 carries (a 3.4 ypc average). That's OK but nothing to get too excited about. Cooper averaged 7.1 yards per carry, thanks to the only long run of the night for the Canes (30 yards). Still, you'd like to see the three of them break more tackles and get more yards between the tackles.
Wide Receivers: B
Darnell Jenkins showed some good toughness in making some catches over the middle and in traffic. He's clearly Miami's best guy in those situations. He had four catches for 35 yards. He doesn't have the speed of some of the other receivers but he's the toughest and most physical one of the group. Lance Leggett had another drop but also had the 40-yard reception. With his speed and ability to run by defenders on deep stuff, it's hard to believe the Canes don't try using him that way more often. That's two straight games where he had just one catch (and they averaged 60 yards). While those plays are good, he needs to become much more dependable on the underneath stuff and in the running game. Sam Shields had a breakout performance. After having just two catches coming in, he had six for 117. He showed what he's capable of doing. It's hard to tell how they were doing with their blocks but with only one long run, it could be a decent indication. Only three players caught balls and there were some drops. Having said that, it was the best performance they've turned in this season.
Tight Ends: B
After being a total non-factor through the first three games of the season, the tight ends showed some life on Thursday night. Chris Zellner had a couple catches, including a touchdown. Dedrick Epps showed excellent athletic ability and determination on his two catches. I really hope the coaches can get these guys more involved because they can be serious weapons, especially Epps, as pass-catchers.
Offensive Line: B
The offensive line continues to improve each week. The team only averaged 3.2 yards per carry last night. With the talent in the backfield, that number probably needs to come up. They did a good job in pass pro, as Texas A&M had just two sacks on 26 passes and only a few quarterback hurries.
Defensive Line: A
This unit was excellent all night. Eric Moncur had a big night and Calais Campbell did his typical stuff. They rotated plenty of guys and everyone seemed to be having fun and making plays. They gave Texas A&M fits all night, shutting down the running game and pressuring the quarterback on passing downs. This unit ended up with four tackles for loss, two sacks, five hurries, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. A&M averaged just three yards per carry but most of their rushing yards came in the fourth quarter when the game was out of hand.
Colin McCarthy had a big night as he was out there making a lot of plays. Spencer Adkins made a few big plays. One of the biggest challenges was to slow down tight end Martellus Bennett and he was a total non-factor until very late in the game when Texas A&M's backup quarterback threw a jump ball to him in the endzone with just a few minutes left in the game. The only concern is that the middle linebackers had just two solo tackles on the night (Gooden zero and Sharpton two). After a very good start to the season, Gooden was very quiet on Thursday night.
Defensive Backs: A+
Texas A&M's wide receivers, and therefore their entire passing game, had no chance against the Miami secondary on Thursday. A&M's receivers caught just three passes for 29 yards. The corners had things on lockdown while the safeties allowed nothing over the top, helped contain Bennett, and helped snuff out the Aggie running game. It was a very good performance for the entire secondary.
Special Teams: D
They were average, at best. While Francesco Zampogna made a 45 yard field goal, he also missed one of his three tries. Two punters averaged just 24 a punt. Three punt returns were returned for an average of just 4.33 yards. Kickoff returns averaged just 18.5 yards. Richard Gordon had a late hit on one of the kickoff return coverage plays. A&M's first return of the game set them up with excellent field position. Bottom line, it wasn't a good night for the special teams unit and they must improve if the Hurricanes are to have any hope of winning the ACC this season.
The Canes played one of their best games over the last couple years on Thursday night. The coaches were well prepared. They did an excellent job of putting the players in position on both sides of the ball. The quarterback play was very good. The defense was very good. Special teams needs to improve a lot. Still, it was the type of performance the Hurricanes are capable of. There's still a lot of room for improvement and hopefully that'll happen as the Hurricanes begin preparing for conference play.