A season-changing tackle? Just maybe…

Oh to have been a fly on the wall in the Miami locker room at halftime Saturday night when Oklahoma held a 10-7 lead.

After two quarters the Canes turned the ball over twice, punted twice, found the end zone once and gave up more big plays than they made. The fact it was a three-point game was promising, but it didn’t mean Randy Shannon didn’t need to light a fire under his team. Especially on the heels of a 31-7 loss at Virginia Tech a week prior.

Shannon delivered what players referred to as a “passionate speech” – much to the chagrin of the anti-Shannon contingent who believes the head coach is too stoic. Before taking the field for the second half, Shannon vowed that Miami would get a big hit on the ensuing kickoff.

Nelms, the aspiring track standout from New Jersey, heard the message loud and clear and his bonejarring hit on Mossis Madu set the tone for the rest of the game.

After Nelms leveled Madu on the 15-yard line, the Canes defense pinned their ears back and came to play. Running back DeMarco Murray was stopped for a one-yard gain on 1st and 10 and on 2nd and 9, defensive coordinator John Lovett dialed up a game-changing play.

Brandon Harris sped in on a corner blitz, attacking Landry Jones from his blind side, swatting the ball loose and giving Miami possession on the 11-yard line. A play later Jacory Harris found Dedrick Epps for the go ahead score. The Canes never looked back.

Miami held strong defensively on the next possession and on the ensuing drive moved the ball 73 yards with Harris finding Travis Benjamin for a 38-yard touchdown and a 21-10 lead.

The Sooners chipped away at the stone, but only brought it to within one. The Canes weathered the storm and pulled the upset.

Did Nelms’ hit set the tone for the season? Can one play really mean so much?

Back in 2006, Miami took a 1-1 record into Louisville and looked to right the season with a win over the No. 12 Cardinals. After taking an early 7-0 lead, the Canes looked to punch it in again, until Charlie Jones fumbled on the 8-yard line. Louisville put together an 87-yard drive, ending in a field goal. 7-3 instead of 14-0, Miami withered from that moment on.

A 51-yard strike from Kyle Wright to Darnell Jenkins set the Canes up at the 29-yard line. After a conservative run, run, pass progression, Jon Peattle pushed a 40-yard field goal attempt wide and Miami never regained its footing. All of this after the Canes started the game with some false bravado and a pre-game logo stomp.

Louisville rolled to a 31-7 victory and Miami struggled against any formidable competition the remainder of the season.

Did the logo stomp cause a four-game skid late in the season? Maybe. Maybe not. (A mid-game brawl with FIU and the murder of Bryan Pata certainly didn’t help Miami’s cause.) Still, it’s plausible to believe that the Canes wheels started falling off during the loss to Louisville; a game where everything seemed to unravel.

Regarding Nelms’ hit, time will tell if it proves to be a season-changing play. Without the big hit at the 15-yard line, does Miami get aggressive and blitz Oklahoma two plays later? Maybe. Maybe not. Still, Shannon’s halftime rant combined with the first four plays of the second half put the Canes up for good, leading to an unexpected win over the Sooners.

Next up, FAMU and some much-needed special teams play with the Rattlers and LeRoy Vann headed to town.



7 thoughts on “A season-changing tackle? Just maybe…

  1. Yo AllCanes. Don't know what your policy is on posting links, but I've got one that your readers will certainly want to see. I know this isn't the place to post this since it's an unrelated topic, but I don't know where else to go with this.

    I'm sure most of you are familiar with the Great Gator Flop of 1971. I know a lot of Gator fans and Cane fans who have wanted to see video footage of the Flop. I have looked and looked for the longest time for the video but only found those two god-awful newspaper scans that everyone has seen until this just recently surfaced. It gave me a good laugh.

    Enjoy! Hopefully this works.

  2. FAMU can have a record setting day on special teams and they are still going to fall at least 30 points short. Hope FAMU is ready to be a whipping post because that's as much as they are gonna be able to muster come kickoff.

  3. Absolutely agree on the hit, but I would add that the plays afterward were just as important. Big turnover forced by B. Harris, plus the quick strike to Epps. THAT is how you start the second half after a shaky first two quarters.

    Remember when fans griped about this team not making 2nd half adjustments? It's just another reason this season feels different. Guys aren't waiting for things to happen.

  4. If someone doesn't like Shannon by now, they never will and obviously just have a bias against him for whatever reason. They can suck it up because he will be the leader here for a while. He deserves it after having to pretty much rebuild the roster and mentality from the ground up. I for one, appreciate what he's done and his willingness to change. He has two good coordinators and hopefully he can keep them for a few years, and focus on finishing the rest of the season strong. It's far from over.
    -Columbus Cane

  5. BZCanes here-

    Great point AllCanes and something I hadn't really thought about in terms of the overall picture.

    Everyone knew the hit was energizing, and it was a great play.
    But what happens if that hit doesn't happen and the ball get returned to the 25 or 30?
    Thankfully we will never know!

    As a former college and pro player I can reiterate your observation.

    One play can completely change a game–and all it takes is one game to change a season.

    The Louisville fiasco is something I have tried to forget. Listening to Merriweather talk about Miami swagger b4 the game…coming out with a huge sack and having all of that inital momentum eventually go to waste. Not just for that game–that loss was a season killer.

    Thinking back through all of Miami's great seasons there are a few plays that come to mind. They stick out more; like Horace Copelands catch on 4th down versus FSU in wide right I. Kevin Williams punt return versus Penn St. Shockey's TD versus FSU. etc.

    Those are premiere plays that altered or were a part of a sequence of events that defined seasons.

    You can put Harris's forced fumble in that same category.

    Something that may have never happened without a fired up halftime speech or a great play by a walk-on.

    It's a game of inches–and that play may have been the difference between 14-10 and a fired up crowd…and at best forcing a punt and having to march down the field to take the lead.

    Huge difference!

    Good stuff AllCanes-
    Lets take care of UCF on Saturday!

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