Everyone knew it wouldn't be easy. Robert Marve was playing in his first college game -- on the road, at night, against a top five opponent. However, he did pretty well. He managed the game very well for the most part. He didn't turn the ball over. He made some key plays with his feet. He had some success on rollouts. He did a nice job of getting rid of the ball for the most part. The only sack you could say was on him was the one by Carlos Dunlap at the end of the game when Marve was simply trying to make something happen for his offense. He did an excellent job of avoiding negative plays.
Marve didn't get much help, either. He had four passes dropped, including two by his receivers on the first drive of the game, which forced Miami into an immediate three-and-out situation. If you take away those four drops, Marve threw just four incompletions on the night and his passing numbers probably would have been a lot better because a couple drives would have been extended. Even though he finished with just six yards rushing in the official stats (because of a couple late sacks that count against a quarterback's rushing totals), he had three first down runs and just put a general display of good toughness that the team really needed at times.
Three of the four passes he missed were balls thrown down the field. That's where he'll need to improve. Leonard Hankerson had beaten freshman Janoris Jenkins on a deep route that could've gone for a touchdown if the ball was thrown well. Instead, it went out of bounds and the Canes came away with just three points, instead of tying the game early on.
Jacory Harris was only on the field for two series and he completed two-of-four but one of his incompletions was a drop. His best throw of the night was a 12-yard completion of Kayne Farquharson when the Canes were backed up against their own endzone on first down.
Running Backs: D
After getting just two carries for four yards, Javarris James left the game with an ankle injury and never returned. That was a tough blow for the Canes, as James is Miami's biggest and most physical runner. Graig Cooper carried the ball 15 times for just 31 yards, with his longest run going for just nine yards. Despite the Gators focusing on stopping Miami's ground game, Cooper could have been a lot better. He didn't break a single tackle on any of his 15 carries and it's not a great night when the number of dropped passes for your starting running back (two) is higher than the number of tackles he broke.
With James out, senior Derron Thomas was able to get some more action than expected and he carried the ball seven times for 21 yards. He had a couple broken tackles and first down runs, including a 10-yarder.
Shawnbrey McNeal came into the game a few plays and had just two yards on two carries and missed at least one blitz pickup that resulted in a hurried throw that went incomplete.
The Hurricanes used two fullbacks -- Patrick Hill and Eric Houston. Even though the offense averaged exactly half the yards per carry when the fullback was on the field compared to when he wasn't, Hill had a decent night. He made some nice blocks, had a couple blitz pickups, and while he's not Nick Williams (who paved the way for Edge back in the late 90's) yet, review of the film indicates that he did a better job that first thought when looking at the production numbers when the fullback was on the field.
If the Canes are going to make a run at the ACC championship this season, they must get more plays out of their backs. Even though the offensive line was average for the most part on Saturday night, four running backs carried the ball a total of 26 times and they combined for just a couple broken tackles and the longest of those 26 runs went for just 10 yards. They did, however, pick up a few blitzes nicely and they hung onto the football.
Wide Receivers: D-
You know it wasn't a great night for your receivers when one of the two starters didn't catch a single pass all night. In fact, not one of Miami's 22 throws even went in the direction of Khalil Jones. Leonard Hankerson dropped almost as many balls (two) as he caught and the drops were in key moments -- the first pass of the game and then a key third down opportunity in the second half when the Canes were trying to mount a comeback. Hankerson and Kayne Farquharson each finished with three catches for 22 yards. Farquharson also had a drop. Travis Benjamin caught two passes for 11 yards, Aldarius Johnson had a first down reception that went for 11 yards but could have gone longer had he not bobbled the ball, and Kendal Thompkins caught one but it went for negative yardage when he had to dive for the catch behind the line of scrimmage.
Considering the Canes ran about 30 plays from a three-receiver set and the receivers came up with just 10 catches for 64 yards on the night, it can't be considered a good night for this group. It's often difficult to evaluate their blocking on the TV broadcast review but I'm sure the coaches want it to improve as well, considering the Canes had just one carry that went for 10 yards. Others not already mentioned who also played in the game were Thearon Collier, Sam Shields, and LaRon Byrd, who had a ball thrown to him over the middle in the third quarter.
Tight Ends: D
The Canes used three tight ends in this game and they combined for just two catches for 15 yards. Chris Zellner had one reception for 12 yards and Dedrick Epps caught one for three yards. While they weren't much of a factor in the passing game, the tight ends seemed to be doing a decent job in the running game. They were blocking pretty well at times and the running game averaged more yards when two tight ends were in the game. They still caught just two passes and the longest run of the day was still 10 yards. There were no drops, however.
Offensive Line: C-
A lot of people, including myself, thought this was the strength of the offense entering the season. They have good size, a good amount of experience, and seemed ready to have a big night opening up holes for the running backs. For whatever reason, that simply didn't happen on Saturday night. Left tackle Jason Fox was, as usual, the best one on the night. Center Xavier Shannon played a pretty solid game as well. The other six who played really struggled at times. The 330-pound guards, Orlando Franklin and Joel Figueroa, simply weren't able to get a push in the middle like most thought they would. Franklin's personal foul penalty late in the first half forced Miami to punt from their own endzone. The punt was blocked and gave Florida two of its nine first half points. Chris Rutledge, who had a key false start penalty, and Reggie Youngblood, who gave up the only legitimate sack in the game, struggled at right tackle. Senior Tyrone Byrd entered the game earlier than many expected on the third series, and played a solid game. A.J. Trump played a lot at both guard spots but had his hands full all night trying to block Florida's big defensive tackles.
Shannon is the only one of the five who played every offensive snap. Fox played the second most. It was interesting that redshirt freshman Harland Gunn didn't enter the game at all.
The offensive line must get better if the Canes have any hope of winning the ACC this season. Sure, Florida had a talented front seven and the running backs didn't break many tackles but they must open bigger holes in the running game. Allowing just one legitimate sack in 22 pass attempts is a positive sign from a pass protection standpoint, even though Marve's legs are a big reason for that.