I was spoiled for more than a decade. All expenses travel for every game. The best seats in the house. Deluxe accommodations.
Things are a bit different these days.
My road trip travel partner and one of my best buds, ‘The Wizard’ and I hit the road 11am on Friday in my rented Nissan Versa. (I call him The Wizard because he’s a tech nerd that’s probably hacked into your computer, or at least contemplated it.)
Most everyone know that the best route from South Florida to Atlanta is rolling north on the Turnpike to the I-75. Not us, of course. In an effort to avoid a king’s ransom in tolls, we rolled I-95 to the I-10. Bad move.
Thirteen hours later we found our hotel, on the outskirts of the ATL. The team hunkered down at The Ritz while we were lucky to have a TV in our room.
I really dig Atlanta as a town and I’m the kind of guy that whenever I travel away from Miami, I feel like I should live in whatever city I’m currently visiting. Of course after a quick chat with the locals and hearing their envy for life in South Florida and I instantly feel better about my home base.
Before hitting the road, no less than a hundred Miami fans hit me up last week to ask about my thoughts on the game. Honestly, I had no idea a I’m a bit of a worry wort these days. Maybe it’s my Bostonian cynicism thanks to Bill Buckner, Bucky Dent, Aaron ‘F#&king’ Boone, Desmond Howard and numerous other sports figures who broke my and my teams’ hearts over the years.
I’ll tell you what I told them days back. I didn’t feel great about Miami’s defense stopping the triple option and I wasn’t sure how Stephen Morris would handle that unconventional 3-4 defense. Days later I’ve never been happier to be so wrong.
I won’t be the first or last to say it, but bar none this was the Canes best outing of the year. Miami showed up in all phases of the game. I was beyond impressed with Morris’ ability to not only read the defense, but even more so in his ability to throw crisp passes while keeping drives alive and not turning the ball over.
More than anything else, the decision making of No. 17 has been his most impressive quality. Scrambling out of harms way and throwing the ball out of bounds, as opposed to taking a negative plays; not something we’ve seen out often out of Miami quarterbacks the past few years.
All that said, the kid is two games in and we should definitely take this week-by-week before anointing him the second coming of Ken Dorsey. He’s still a green freshman and there will be mistakes and rough outings, though what we’ve seen the past few weeks has been impressive. Let’s enjoy his maturation process before we start talking Heisman.
A few other points before getting into what I’ve deemed a quarterback non-controversy.
The offensive line play in Atlanta was sensational. They did an amazing job run blocking against a pretty physical Yellow Jackets defense. Some of the holes they opened were big enough to drive a car through. Talking to Damien Berry after the game, he couldn’t say enough about his line, as well as fullback Pat Hill, who might be the unsung hero of this offense.
As big as the holes they created, even bigger was the fact that the line reduced their penalties and mistakes. We got some big time smiles in the media room from Orlando Franklin and Tyler Horn when mentioning how things had been cleaned up on that front.
Regarding why the offensive line is finally coming together now? I think it’s the influx of young talent that’s pushing everyone else. The same thing that’s always helped Miami stand out and that’s competition. Jermaine Johnson, Seantrel Henderson and Brandon Linder were thought to be the future when this season started, but ten games in they’re all getting significant playing time and when that happens, it motivates everyone else. Young and hungry new blood will do that.
On the defensive side, credit to John Lovett and staff as they had these guys ready. Miami’s D was prepared for the triple option and it had a tremendous impact on the outcome of this game. Especially at linebacker where Sean Spence and Colin McCarthy had monster outings.
I’m especially happy for No. 44 as he’s been dogged a lot this year and had a much-needed huge game on Saturday.
We’ve all given Randy Shannon his fair share of heat lately, but I really think game planning for the triple option got his defensive coaching juices flowing this week and it rubbed off on his coaches and players.
As for all the supposed quarterback controversy – there isn’t any. That’s not Coach saying it, that’s me saying it.
Randy continues to say that Harris is the starter “when he’s healthy” and I’m going to guess that he’s still not healthy yet. I don’t know for fact, but it’s an inkling.
Harris didn’t do anything more than lightly throw last week and from a medical standpoint, you don’t want to rush a kid back when he’s had a concussion. On the other hand, the media isn’t allowed to talk with the medical staff and Coach Shannon is very guarded regarding news about injuries, so there’s no way any of us really know how Jacory is recovering.
Without creating controversy, if Randy feels No. 17 gives Miami a better chance against Virginia Tech, isn’t the easy play to stay that No. 12 isn’t healthy yet? Seems like the easiest way out this predicament.
There’s no reason to argue this moot point but for the record, if both guys were healthy, I’m starting Morris. This team is playing and responding to him and you simply go with the hot hand.
On the other hand, if Harris is healthy and Morris has a mental melt down against the Hokies, I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger and go with J12 in a heartbeat.
Whatever the case, Shannon is definitely being too hypersensitive about out this. On yesterday’s teleconference he really took it to a few reporters, which was unnecessary.
LOVE THE OFFENSE
Mark Whipple finally seems to have become who we thought he would be. When Miami hired Whipple, I expected the offense to look like this. I knew he was aggressive, but knowing Harris’ limitations, I figured we’d throw it down field every so often off of play action, not every third down. This is the Miami pro style offense we’ve longed to have back and this is why players come here – because this offense gets you ready for the NFL.
Run Hard. Throw crisp. Be efficient. Move the chains.
I won’t go into the behind the scenes politics I think are going on, but I’ll say this; Whipple handpicked Morris and it’s no surprise the play calling has been spot on to fit the freshman’s game. Over 500 yards total offense in two straight games? That’s exactly what we’ve all been clamoring for.
RETURN OF BEAMER BALL
I’ll be honest, Virginia Tech scares me. Maybe it’s because of too many beat downs at the hands of Frank Beamer over the years. I don’t care if the Hokies are ranked or are having a stellar year, they always bring it against our Canes.
Tech started with two bad losses (James Madison, really??) but the job Beamer and staff have done getting them back on track has been tremendous.
Over the years Miami hasn’t been overly successful against running quarterbacks. Yes, they stopped Georgia Tech the last few years, but we’re taking about a completely different system where the running quarterback actually throws the ball more than every so often.
Defensively, I think Bud Foster gets tremendous pleasure out of shutting down Miami’s offense. Virginia Tech’s rush defense isn’t ranked that high (65th nationally) but last year they held the Canes to 59 net yards. If UM can’t do better this year, there’s no chance of winning.
Toss in the fact that Foster gets the chance to confuse and rattle a true freshman quarterback with only two starts and he’s licking his chops.
Beyond that, let’s not forget the true nature of Beamer Ball. I don’t care what the stats say, the Hokies will always bring the thunder on special teams. The lone area they have struggled is on kickoff coverage, allowing over 20 yards per return. This is an area Miami needs channel whatever mojo they had at Ohio State and take advantage on the return front. Get a leg up anywhere you can.
This really will be the ultimate test for this team and this one means as much, if not more than the Florida State showdown.
Can Miami show up for the big game? Will Shannon and staff have this team ready? Another ESPN nationally televised telecast this weekend from Sun Life. Will the Canes prove worthy of the exposure or will they wilt? We should know by about 7pm ET on Saturday night.
IN OTHER NEWS: We’re set for a big time edition of allCanes Radio this week. Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis will be on the show, a well as a few other special guests. Don’t miss it! 7pm ET on Wednesday night.
Oh yeah, and after a good 25 hours in the Nissan Versa over three days, I need a new spine. Anyone know of a good local chiropractor? Let me know!