10/17- Miami at Central Florida
11/21- Florida International at Florida
11/28- Florida State at Florida
11/28- Miami at South Florida
12/5- Florida Atlantic at Florida International
Miami 38, Florida State 34
The good news was that both teams showed a ton of offense in this one. The bad news is that there was some very suspect defense, particularly in the secondaries of both teams. The game boiled down to FSU having 5 shots at a TD inside the 15 with under a minute to play. Poor clock management by FSU and a few solid defensive plays (particularly Brandon Harris's play one on one with Jarmon Fortson) sealed the deal for the Canes.
Miami sophomore QB Jacory Harris was brilliant, he finished 21-34 for 386 yards with 2 TD's and 2 INT's (scored one on the ground). Harris displayed the attributes that has had Hurricane nation excited since he signed. He is calm, cool, and collected at all times while being a big time 'gamer'. He made a few mistakes, he had a few bad throws, but overall his performance can only be described as stunning. He will only get better as he develops physically. Back when he was being recruited one BCS OC said to me, "that is the smartest QB I have seen at the high school level." Lofty praise from an opposing coach and that attribute is what made him win the QB battle of 2008 with Robert Marve.
Another thing is for certain. WR Travis Benjamin likes to play in the Miami-FSU game. After torching FSU as a true frosh last year, he exploded again with 4 catches for 128 yards. He scored the first TD when he abused Korey Mangum and had the play of the game when he hooked up with Harris late to the 2 yard line. Benjamin's speed separates him from the pack.
Big things have been expected of former St. Thomas WR Leonard Hankerson since he arrived on campus. After an inconsistent first two years, he appears to be coming into his own. Hank had 4 catches for 72 yards, none bigger than a crucial 3rd down grab where he slipped past talented CB Patrick Robinson.
The Canes rushing attack was 'ok'. Both Graig Cooper and Javarris James had their moments. The slim downed James seem to have a little more juice and he ran hard. Cooper made a huge impact on special teams.
The defense needs a lot of work. Give Miami credit however, they were depleted at DE (lost both starters before kickoff) and are missing a starting calibur S (Vaughn Telemaque). Still, this unit needs to get to the QB and tighten up the coverage.
FSU can take a lot of positives out of this game. One fairly simple catch by Jarmon Fortson changes the perception of this one....alas, he dropped it.
QB Christian Ponder gives FSU fans a lot of reason for hope. He went 24-41 for 294 yards with 2 TD's (1 pick). He added 28 yards on the ground. Ponder is an amazing athlete, that much was known, but he has improved immensely as a passer. He was throwing darts all over the field early in the game and you can see the confidence beginning to build in this young man. We expect big things the rest of the way.
Like Miami, the running game struggled at times, they were starting to get it going late in the game and no doubt missed a healthy Jermaine Thomas (nicked up early in the game). With no timeouts they could not punch it in on the ground late in the game. The highly touted OL was very solid and still young.
WR's Richard Goodman(5-82), Bert Reed(5-63), Jarmon Fortson(3-53), Rod Owens(3-31), and Taiwan Easterling(2-21) give the Noles an extremely talented WR core. Fortson has the look of a star down the road, he needs to get more consistent however. Was that FSU throwing to the TE? We could not believe our eyes, but after 25 years of losing that match-up, they held their own last night vs. Miami.
A star was born on defense. CB Greg Reid made plays all over the field, had an interception, and made his presence felt on special teams. Reid will be a special player. LB Nigel Bradham also had some flashed of greatness. The young LB is a prototype and as he continues to develop, watch out. Overall, however, it was not a very good defensive performance. Like Miami, the Noles need an infusion of talent in the secondary and some DE's to step up.
EFFECT ON RECRUITING
It was a HUGE win for Miami and Randy Shannon. Shannon's first two years were very average and while the talent cupboard was bare when he took over, Miami fans are not known for their patience. With a brutal first four game stretch, the Canes are now in position to start 2-2 or perhaps 3-1/4-0. With OU's QB (Sam Bradford) status in doubt, that game does not look nearly as daunting.
New OC Mark Whipple called a brilliant game. It was a DRASTIC improvement from the Patrick Nix era and if you are an offensive recruit, you must really like the direction and potentail of this program. Defensively, you should see immediate playing time.
FSU has to feel good about themselves here as well. Jimbo's offense is a proven winner. He is still trying to assemble his parts, but it is an open offense that throws the ball down the field. With Ponder, E.J. Manual, and new commit Clint Trickett in the fold, the QB position is secure for years to come.
They are in a similar position to Miami on the defensive side of the ball. Jobs will be open all over the place, particularly at S, CB, and DE. Recruits have to like the attacking style.
While no one is confusing these teams with National Title contenders, it was great to watch another epic battle between these heated rivals. Across the country both teams should have gained respect and clearly both are headed one direction.....up. Miami got the win and thus a crucial conference victory.
FSU can look forward to a showdown with new top 10 BYU in a few weeks. A win there will be huge.
Miami still has the daunting task of facing GT, going to VT, and then seeing OU at home. We will know a lot more at the end of that stretch.