Offensive mistakes hurt UM ... again

The way the Miami offense started Saturday's game against North Carolina, it looked like it was on its way to another big time performance we like saw the week before. Unfortunately, mistakes were the difference -- again.

Miami looked outstanding on its opening drive on Saturday. Graig Cooper looked explosive running through huge holes that the offensive line was opening up. Robert Marve was getting time to find his open receivers. The Canes marched up and down the field like it practiced that 1,000 times. The result? A quick 7-0 lead, giving everyone hope that the offense would have no problems putting up points against a solid North Carolina defense.

Offensive coordinator Patrick Nix wasn't came out firing in the first quarter. He was being aggressive -- throwing on first downs, using the backs and tight ends out of the backfield, getting the ball into the hands of his best playmakers (see Travis Benjamin) any way possible. It looked like things were going so well.

Then the mistakes started happening. One mistake after another seemed like they couldn't get avoided by Miami's offense.

After the Hurricane offense dropped several passes against Florida a few weeks ago, it was real encouraging to see the team hold onto every ball thrown to them at Texas A&M last week. That changed back again this past Saturday, as there were three legitimate drops and two other players, including the final play of the game, where the ball hit a Miami receiver in the hands (even though that play and an earlier 2nd and 14 pass to Dedrick Epps over the middle that was well behind him).

Then there were the bad snaps coming from senior center Xavier Shannon, who is playing very well for the Hurricanes this season. He's played every single offensive snap at the center position for the Canes this season and this is surely a problem that will get corrected in practice this week. We hadn't seen anything like that in previous weeks from Shannon.

Then there were the holding penalties, which seemed to have taken place at the worst possible times. Three of those really hurt UM's chances of getting things going in the second half. The Canes didn't have a single offensive penalty in the first half and it's one of the reasons why the team had over 200 yards of offense and 17 points.

Then there were the sacks -- two of them -- that can be real drive killers. Two sacks isn't terrible but Marve was pressured several other times from North Carolina's front four.

Then there were the turnovers -- two of them in key situations. UM quarterbacks had thrown just one interception in the previous two games and they were doing an excellent job of protecting the football. That wasn't quite the case on Saturday, as Marve threw two picks and even fumbled one of the shotgun snaps.

The Hurricanes ran 66 official plays in the game on Saturday and if you count the three penalty plays, that was a total of 69 offensive snaps. All of the mistakes mentioned earlier took place on 15 (or 22-percent) of those 69 plays. That's not going to get it done.

Sure, it's easy to point fingers at Nix and the play-calling but he did a nice job of keeping things balanced for the Hurricanes. He threw the ball more than he ran on first downs and there were more pass plays called than run plays during the game.

The bottom line, however, is Miami needs to clean up its mistakes. There are too many of them on the offensive side of the football. The turnovers, the sacks, the penalties, the drops, all of those begin to add up. You can hide those types of mistakes when you're playing against the Charleston Southerns of the world but the Hurricanes are going to have to play crisp in every remaining game.

This team's good enough to win the ACC this year. Marve is good enough to take them there. Especially when they get Baby J back into the mix, the group of running backs will be about as good as anyone in the conference (save Clemson, perhaps). The receivers can all make plays. Dedrick Epps can be as good a pass-catching tight end as there is in this conference.

There's not much time to get these things fixed, either, as Florida State brings in one of the nation's best defenses this week. If Wake Forest can go into Tallahassee and win by nine, I can promise you Miami is plenty good to beat the Noles on Saturday.

However, the offensive mistakes have to be cut down tremendously and if they are, the Canes have an excellent chance of winning every game left on their schedule.


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