After winning a surprisingly close 27-23 game over the University of North Carolina on Thursday night there were a number of things that could, and should, worry Miami fans. In fact, after a thorough look at the game the case could be made that fans should be pulling their hair out in angst over how a team ranked No. 10 could play so poorly on offense and defense.
On the offensive side of the ball the troubles surrounded the play of Stephen Morris, who had by far his worst game of the 2013 season. During the game Morris completed a mere 54.3 percent of his passes, threw four interceptions, and no touchdowns, a far cry from the nine touchdowns and four interceptions he contributed during the team’s first five games. These statistics make it painfully obvious that his accuracy was erratic at best, which was partially the result of an effective UNC pass rush.
Defensively the woes of the team may not have looked as worrying as the play of Morris, but in hindsight the unit’s play may have been more troubling. They allowed 500 yards to a UNC offense that ranked 95th in college football in points per game and 75th in yards per game prior to Thursday night’s game. To say that they got worked by a passing game led by Bryn Renner would be a vast understatement, and some at home were surely wondering if this was the same defense that had previously been dominant.
But despite this gruesome performance that had Miami a mere 16 seconds away from a debilitating loss, the end result of the game was a victory which takes their record in 2013 up to 6-0. And while this may not console some fans at home, the fact that the offensive and defensive unit can not conceivably be this bad again surely will.
In the five games prior to Thursday night, Miami’s offense had scored 45.2 points per game, which ranked ninth in college football. This game will serve as a lesson to Morris that he must keep the ball out of the opposition’s hands, as even with the poor play the team combined to rush for 234 yards. This shows that the offense was not as bad as it seems, and relying on the running unit seems likely to be a recipe for success going forward.
Meanwhile, on the defensive end, Miami should take consolation from the fact that they held 23 points despite letting up 500 total yards, largely due to holding UNC to three field goals. Along with this they were able to force two turnovers, courtesy of Tracy Howard interceptions, continuing to show a ball hawking ability that ranks with any unit in the nation. Holding top teams to field goals and forcing turnovers is a recipe for success later on in the season and also shows that Miami has the ability to keep teams from racking up huge yards when they want to. While it is never fun to get lit up for huge yards in any game, learning from it and getting the defensive unit going for 60 minutes will result in Miami being a shut down group when it really counts.
At the end of the day many people will look at Miami’s narrow win against UNC on Thursday night and simply shake their heads out of frustration. After all a team ranked tenth in the country should beat a team with a 1-5 record, and even the players on Miami would surely admit this.
An ability to admit this and come back to practice working hard will ultimately benefit the team as it brings them back to earth a bit and reminds everyone that much must be worked on prior to facing Florida State and Virginia Tech in the coming weeks.