Grading the Canes: Defense

The Miami defense is coming off a poor performance against Florida State last Saturday. Lets take a closer look at how each unit performed.

Defensive Line: D-
The Hurricanes had the seventh best run defense in college football going into this game and they played nothing like it against Florida State. The Noles finished with 281 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, gashing the Canes anyway it could. Joe Joseph, Dwayne Hendricks, and Steven Wesley all made plays behind the line of scrimmage but it's hard to say that any of the down lineman played well against the run. They were a little better against the pass. FSU's Christian Ponder threw the ball 31 times, many which were quick passes into the flats that didn't give Miami's lineman a chance to generate a pass rush. The defensive line still came up with more than a dozen pressures and they knocked him down on several throws. Wesley and Ojomo (four pressures each) applied the most pressure, followed by Bailey (three). Hendricks and Antonio Dixon also had one each, while Joseph had the team's only sack. From an overall standpoint, they failed to stop the run -- especially when it mattered most -- and while they put a lot of pressure on Ponder, they only got to him one time in 31 pass attempts.

Linebackers: B-
The Hurricanes were a banged up unit coming into this game, as four of the 10 scholarship linebackers didn't even dress because of injuries. Sean Spence, getting the start in place of injured Colin McCarthy, turned in an excellent performance. He led Miami's defense with 10 tackles and he also made a play behind the line of scrimmage, didn't give up anything in the passing game, didn't have any missed tackles, and he even scored a touchdown after his fourth quarter interception. Darryl Sharpton finished the game with eight tackles (none missed), put a little heat on the quarterback, and helped limit FSU's tight ends to one catch for 10 yards. Glenn Cook wasn't nearly as effective in the middle. He was credited with just three tackles, missed a tackle on Antone Smith's second touchdown run, and was part of the reason why FSU had so much success running up the middle. Spencer Adkins had three tackles but wasn't able to apply pressure like he has in the past. He did a decent job of covering FSU's slot receivers as well, at times. The linebackers combined for 24 tackles, including five behind the line of scrimmage. The biggest one, perhaps, was Cook's stop behind the line on FSU's third-and-one late in the game when the Canes needed to get the ball back for its offense. When you factor in they missed just one tackle as a group, scored a touchdown, and held FSU's backs and tight ends to just one catch for 10 yards, you have to feel pretty good about their performance. Still, they could have been better in defending the run.

Defensive Backs: D
Florida State's passing game had just 159 yards in this game and about 20 of those can be contributed to the play of the linebackers. So considering the Noles threw the ball 31 times, the secondary did a pretty solid job in holding them to about 140 yards, or holding them to 4.5 yards per attempt. Bruce Johnson played pretty well in this game, even though he had a 15-yard penalty in the second half. He had an interception, caused the Spence INT for a score when he hit Ponder in the endzone, and the Noles completed just two passes on him for 27 yards. Unfortunately, one of those went for a touchdown to Greg Carr. Chavez Grant gave up a couple completions for about 23 yards as well. The three safeties (Lovon Ponder, Anthony Reddick, and JoJo Nicolas) combined for 16 tackles and didn't really give up any big plays in the passing game but they were responsible for some very key missed tackles. Ponder had a couple misses, while Reddick and Nicolas both missed tackles on the game's most important play (Smith's 22-yard touchdown on third-and-goal). Brandon Harris had a very tough night as well. The Noles picked on him more than anyone else and it paid off. FSU completed three passes on him for about 47 yards but he was responsible for three defensive penalties that gave FSU three first downs. He also missed a couple tackles. While the secondary did a decent job yardage wise, they had way too many (important) missed tackles and penalties in this game to give the team a good chance of winning.


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