Grading the Canes: Emerald Bowl

The Canes finished out their 2008 season with a loss to Cal on Saturday night by the score of 24-17. Lets take a closer look at how each position unit performed in that game.

Quarterbacks: C
This was a good opportunity for Jacory Harris, who had a few weeks to prepare for this game knowing that he'd be the only quarterback. He had an average game, completing 24-of-41 passes for 194 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and one costly fumble. Harris started slow but settled down late in the first quarter. He did a nice job spreading the ball around, hitting 10 different receivers on the night. He didn't get a ton of help, either, as two potential touchdown passes were dropped by Javarris James and LaRon Byrd. His young receivers are still learning how to fight for the ball. On the otherhand, Harris got away with a couple bad throws that could have been intercepted. While Harris wasn't bad, he wasn't spectacular either.

Running Backs: C
Graig Cooper, the team's leading rusher, all season led the game in rushing yards for Miami. He carried the ball 12 times for 63 yards and also added 11 yards on five receptions. While it was a decent night for the talented sophomore, it wasn't his best performance. The best runner in this game for Miami was Lee Chambers, who saw his most significant action of the season. He carried the ball nine times for 60 yards and just seemed to give Miami's ground game a spark in the second half. Javarris James had a rough night, getting just three yards on six carries and dropping a touchdown. Shannon said he left the game early after getting dinged up and never returned. While fullback Patrick Hill had a couple catches out of the backfield, his presence in the running game wasn't a big difference.

Wide Receivers: C-
Five different wide receivers caught passes for the Hurricanes in this game, four of them being true freshman. The leader of the group was Byrd, who despite dropping a possible touchdown in the second half, finished with three catches for 44 yards and a score. Travis Benjamin had a couple catches for 17 yards but seemed to still be missing the explosiveness he showed early in the season. Leonard Hankerson caught the biggest play of the night on a 41-yarder. Aldarius Johnson had just one catch for 11 yards, while Thearon Collier had a six-yard touchdown grab. The blocking by the receivers was just OK and they just weren't able to make a huge difference in the passing game. Whenever your whole receiving group catches just eight of 41 pass attempts, it indicates they weren't a major factor.

Tight Ends: B
Starter Dedrick Epps was injured on Wednesday during practice and was unable to play. Richard Gordon was suspended and didn't make the trip. That meant the Hurricanes went into the game with just one tight end who had played all season. And fortunately, Chris Zellner had a career day, catching eight passes for 48 yards and doing a solid job in the running game. Third-string offensive tackle Tyrone Byrd was also used at tight end and was even thrown to at one point when he dropped the ball into the hands of James. Anytime you can get this type of production from the tight end spot, however, you're doing pretty well.

Offensive Line: D
This unit struggled all night -- from the first series when the Canes went three-and-out -- to the end of the game when Harris fumbled on a sack to set up Cal's winning touchdown. On 32 runs, the team averaged just 3.7 per carry. Cal defenders finished the game with two sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Throw in the personal foul penalty by Chris Rutledge that stalled a drive and a key holding penalty by Xavier Shannon and it wasn't a real productive night for the big guys up front.

Defensive Line: D
This unit was ineffective for most of the night. Cal ran 51 offensive plays and UM's defensive linemen were credited with a total of just seven tackles. Of those 51 plays, the defensive line was only able to make one play behind the line of scrimmage when Adewale Ojomo had a nice stop. There were no sacks, little pressure from the front-four, and Cal's offensive line opened up big holes for its running backs all night.

Linebackers: C
This group played well at times and not so well at others. They did come up with several nice plays. Sean Spence had two huge hits on Cal receivers coming over the middle. Romeo Davis caused a fumble. Glenn Cook caused a couple bad throws on blitzes. Cal's tight end, who had over 30 catches and eight touchdowns this season, had just one catch for two yards. Their running backs totaled just two catches for seven yards. While the linebackers still missed too many tackles, especially on Jahvid Best, they had a decent game as a unit. Cook led the way with four tackles, including one behind the line, while Spence and Spencer Adkins each had three. Darryl Sharpton added a couple stops. While they did some things well, Best still had a huge night and the linebackers are partially responsible for that.

Defensive Backs: B-
The biggest play of the night was a blown coverage when a Cal receiver got between two UM defensive backs and took a pass 74 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring in this game. Aside from that play, the Cal receivers didn't get much done. Cal receivers, including their talented tight end, caught just seven passes for 40 aside from that one long pass play. Ryan Hill led the way with six tackles. There were some missed tackles, however, and some bad angles taken on Best that helped contribute to his big night.

Special Teams: D
Matt Bosher didn't have one of his better games of the season. The 2008 team MVP punted six times for an average of just 32 yards, with none going inside the 20. His average kickoff landed at just the 14 yard line. He was successful on his only field goal attempt, from 22 yards out. Benjamin had a punt return for eight yards and a kick return for 19, while Harris had one kickoff return for just 10 yards. The punt return defense was very good, like it's been all season, not allowing a single return yard. The kickoff return defense gave up just 46 yards on four returns. While the return defense teams were good, the return game for Miami wasn't and the kicking game didn't have one of its better nights. There were no key turnovers or blocks, however.


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