Tonight proved the Canes are going in the right direction and getting better. Remember, a year ago the Canes had a similar opportunity -- on the road against a top-five opponent. The result? The Canes hung around for about a half and the Oklahoma Sooners ran away with the game in the second half. Tonight, a year later? The Canes took the fifth-ranked Gators into the fourth quarter before the Gators pulled away. Bottom line, this is a better football team than one year ago and every indication is that it'll be even better this time next year.
* Robert Marve did a good job of managing the game. He didn't make any major mistakes. He didn't turn the ball over. Even though he had just six yards rushing because of a few late sacks, he showed a dimension of the game that we haven't seen at Miami in a long time -- the ability to make things happen with his feet. His ability to run the ball and make things happen is the reason why some of the drives, especially early in the game, were kept alive. Marve didn't get a ton of help, either. His first two passes were dropped. He had a couple other drops, including a third down play in the fourth quarter that would have kept a potential scoring drive alive.
Sure, Marve didn't light the world on fire but that wasn't expected in his first college game in such a tough environment. I thought he managed the game well, did a nice job of making things happen, did a good job of getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers, and things like that which give 21-point underdogs a chance to win games. Remember, Peyton Manning never won in Gainesville and he turned out OK. Remember Ken Dorsey's first real college experience on the road? Virginia Tech's ability to make him look like a true freshman didn't have anyone thinking that he'd end up being as good as he wants.
I'm not saying Marve will end up being like Manning or even Dorsey but those things are still worth mentioning here, coming from someone who is supportive of Marve after his performance tonight.
* I'm sure a lot of fans were questioning the decision to bring Jacory Harris into the game when they did. I was one of them. However, after I heard the explanation from Patrick Nix after halftime, it made sense. They wanted Marve to see some things from a different perspective. Harris has a chance to be a great quarterback here, too, so it was a good experience for him as well.
* Losing Javarris James early in the game really hurt. Sure, Derron Thomas ran hard and made a few plays but he doesn't have the size/speed/playmaking ability of James, who probably could have helped do some more damage on the ground for the Canes.
* As I mentioned earlier, dropped passes really hurt this team tonight.
* Randy Shannon and his coaching staff have done a tremendous job on the recruiting front since the day he landed the job last January. Last year's class looks like it has a chance to be really special. With players like Bryce Brown in this next class, it looks to be very good as well. Having said all that, I think one of the major priorities in this year's recruiting class is to find a real gamebreaker. Sure, they landed a player like Travis Benjamin but it just seems like the Canes could use a couple more of those types. It's pretty clear that Coach Shannon likes size -- bigger receivers, bigger backs, etc. You look back over the years and there were always guys like that -- Kevin Williams, Santana Moss, Devin Hester, the list goes on and on. Florida has them. USC has them. Now who is going to become that type of player for Miami?
A bottom line in this game was that Florida just had more playmakers. It shouldn't be like that.
* It seemed like the offensive line had an above average night. They did a pretty good job of protecting the quarterbacks. Two of the three sacks came very late in the game when everyone in the stadium knew the Canes were throwing. They came out and had close to 60 yards rushing in the first half, despite going up against a Florida front that often included eight players. And they played a lot of guys. In addition to Chris Rutledge coming off the bench, A.J. Trump played a lot early. Tyrone Byrd was playing left tackle at times in the first half.
* A lot of credit goes to the defense. They were the reason the Canes were down just six points with 16 minutes left in the game. For three quarters, they were excellent before giving up some big plays late in the game. Bill Young used a lot of different looks and even Tebow said after the game that they were doing a nice job of mixing it up and putting pressure on him, especially in the first half. The Gators averaged just over three yards per carry and Tebow was under pressure most of the time he dropped back to pass.
* Especially in the first half, it looked like the Gators were having a very hard time blocking Antonio Dixon.
* The linebackers were active. They made a lot of plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. They seem to be better tacklers and just seemed more active tonight than they did last year.
* Speaking of linebackers, I know it's early but doesn't 31 remind you of a young 51? He's just a natural out there.
* If UM wants to win the ACC this year, they have to get better play from their special teams units. Florida outplayed Miami across the board on special teams and could be considered the biggest difference in this game. Even if the Canes were average on special teams tonight, it could very well have been a 3-0 game, in favor of Miami, going into the fourth quarter.