Canes Looking For Offensive Balance

The Hurricanes have gained more than 400 yards of offense in each of the last three games -- something that hasn't happened since the 2004 season.

Balance. It's what everyone offense wants. And for the Miami Hurricanes, it's something they could really use.

Make no mistake about it -- the Hurricanes have been very average on the offensive side of the ball over the last few years. Probably below average. This year hasn't been much different, as the Hurricanes are currently ranked 85th in the nation in total offense.

The Hurricanes are currrently averaging 165 yards rushing per game and 182 yards passing. Those numbers will have to improve if the Hurricanes have any hope of winning the conference title, despite having a very good defense again this season.

The quarterback play has been watched closely. Kirby Freeman started the season and after struggling badly in his first two games was benched in favor of Kyle Wright, who has looked very good over the last two weeks.

Wright is completing 70-percent of his passes this season with 794 yards, six touchdowns, and four interceptions. Freeman is completing 41-percent with 113 yards, one touchdown, and one pick. Head coach Randy Shannon knows the quarterback position gets watched more closely than any other and as a result, the quarterback takes most of the blame -- whether it belongs to him or not.

"It's (unfair) because I don't think it's always the quarterback," Shannon said. "I'll tell you upfront -- that interception (by Wright against Duke) in the endzone was bad. He had one earlier in the season where he threw a slant to Leggett and Lance should have had it. It can't always be on the quarterback. Sometimes receivers aren't running the right routes."

Wright has led his team to a 3-0 record this season and Shannon was asked to evaluate his quarterback's performance.

"Kyle is doing fine," he said. "He ain't taking sacks. He's gotta protect the ball well this week."

After losing the starting job, any quarterback will likely have a tough time dealing with it. Freeman, however, seems like he took it well. He kept competing.

"I gotta give Kirby credit -- for him to go in and move us downfield and get a touchdown, that's a tribute to him staying focused," he said.

The ground game has been led by the talented one-two punch of Javarris James and Graig Cooper. James has carried the ball 77 times for 322 yards (4.1 per carry) and three touchdowns. Cooper's carried it 60 times for 341 yards (5.8 per carry) and three touchdowns. Those guys have to continue playing well if the Hurricanes hope to have a balanced offense heading into the meat of their ACC schedule.

"I always look at the team aspect of it," Shannon said. "If we can throw 500 yards but can't run the ball, we're in trouble. We gotta be able to run the football. If you can run it, it takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback and your passing game. At one point around here, the offensive line was getting scrutinized. It just depends on who's playing good at that time."

At the end of the day, a more balanced offense generally gives your team a better chance of winning the game. The Canes really struggled getting anything going on the ground (and through the air, for that matter) in its only loss of the season. Shannon knows balance translates to more wins.

"(I look at) wins and losses," he said. "Look at West Virginia (against Miami back in 2002). They had about 300 yards rushing that day and about 50 passing and we won by like 21 points. We didn't play good run defense but all that matters to me is winning and we won that time."

If the offensive line continues to protect well and Wright doesn't make too many mistakes, the passing game should naturally come around. And it seems like the running backs -- especially Cooper -- are getting better and better each week.

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