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Miami Football: 5 Things We Learned in the Hurricanes' Loss to Virginia

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2012

Miami Football: 5 Things We Learned in the Hurricanes' Loss to Virginia

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    After a rough outing against Virginia, the Miami Hurricanes slipped to a disappointing 5-5 on the season and 4-3 in the ACC. Heading into the game, Miami held a slim one-game advantage over the Duke Blue Devils for sole possession of the Coastal Division lead.

    The Cavaliers knew nothing of its 3-6 record and immediately attacked the Hurricanes scoring on the first three possessions.

    Miami was able to respond behind the star-studded effort of true freshman sensation Duke Johnson, but it wasn't enough to win. Virginia overcame a ten-point deficit in the fourth quarter and scored a touchdown with only six seconds remaining on a phenomenal touch pass by Michael Rocco to tight end Jake McGee.

    The final score showed Virginia with 41 to the Hurricanes' 40. Miami's home finale is a non-conference matchup next week against the South Florida Bulls.

    Here are five things we learned about the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday.

Duke Johnson Found His Stride

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    Duke Johnson was one of few Miami players who absolutely dominated on Saturday. The freshman phenom finished with 16 carries for 150 yards, a 95-yard kick return touchdown and an eight-yard pass touchdown on a trick play.

    He averaged 53.5 yards per return and compiled a staggering 376 all-purpose yards. Johnson also has a very legitimate chance at setting a single-season school record for all-purpose yards.

    Former Miami great and current Denver Broncos RB Willis McGahee holds the mark of 2,108 and Duke sits at 1,688 with two games remaining.

    Friendly reminder: He is a freshman. A true freshman. This kid is special.

Stephen Morris Continues to Improve

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    After coach Al Golden stressed that the junior QB needed to stop forcing the big play, Morris responded with a solid performance. Phillip Dorsett made two big plays happen—also a great sign—that were not on a spectacular play by the quarterback.

    Morris simply delivered the ball to his receivers and they made the plays. Dorsett had a 46-yard catch-and-run, Allen Hurns made a phenomenal catch for a touchdown, and Clive Walford earned his touchdown.

    The simple message was "get the ball to your weapons, and let them dominate."

    And they did.

    While his fumble inside the five hurt the 'Canes, Virginia didn't score on the following possession so the turnover was not as devastating as it's made out to be.

    Did it change the outcome? Maybe. But between late-game play-calling by OC Jedd Fisch and the defense allowing points all day, the blame cannot be placed on Morris.

The Defense Needs Help. Big Time.

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    Speaking of the defense...Missing three top defenders in Denzel Perryman, Eddie Johnson and Deon Bush hurt beyond words can explain.

    But really?

    Virginia moved the ball at-will all game long compiling 482 yards while converting on 10 of 15 third and fourth down plays. Rocco finished the game with 300 yards on 29/37 with four touchdowns. Phillip Sims added an 11/14 mark and a rushing touchdown.

    One bright spot of the night is the run defense finally came to play. The Cavaliers managed just 2.8 yards per carry on 33 attempts.

    This game could be one of the final straws for defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, but he is one of Golden's coaches so getting rid of him will be a tough decision for the school.

    Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post said, "The fact that he runs a defense that is as menacing as an elementary school safety patrol won’t appease many fans."

    Got that right.

Anthony Chickillo and Tracy Howard Are Alive

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    Anthony Chickillo was a true freshman who burst onto the NCAA scene in 2011.

    After 6.5 tackles for loss—five being sacks—there were high expectations from the sophomore.

    The third-generation Hurricane from Tampa hadn't quite lived up to the hype this year, but did manage two sacks against Virginia. He and the rest of the defensive line finally stopped the run yet were unable to produce any sort of pass rush beyond Chick's two sacks.

    In the defensive backfield, the nation's No. 1 cornerback recruit Tracy Howard hasn't been the immediate impact player he was heralded to be.

    He did, however, start flying to the ball yesterday and made his presence felt late in the game. Miami needed to stop the Cavaliers from getting into the endzone, and Howard made a fantastic play in one-on-one coverage to halt Virginia for at least one more play.

    If these two players can disrupt offenses like on Saturday, the Hurricanes' defense has a bright future.

Miami Is Not Close to Being "Back"

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    To be clear, I never thought they were.

    But man, it's so typical of bandwagon Miami fans to proclaim "The U is back!" After a comeback win against Boston College—who is 2-8—and a 4-1 start to the season, "We're back baby!"

    Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled about the future. There is no doubt about that. But I don't care if the Hurricanes beat Duke to win the Coastal, the fact doesn't change.

    The defense has given up the most points in single-season Miami history in 2012—through ten games. Offensively, countless drives have stalled once on the plus-side of the field.

    Ultimately, this team has five losses, guys.

    Five.

    I love the heart. I love the potential. I love Golden's style.

    But I don't love the results, and I'm sure you don't either.

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