Miami Football: 5 Problems the Canes Must Fix During the Bye Week
The Miami Hurricanes may be unbeaten after two games, but Al Golden's team has been far from perfect on the field.
From superstars to starters to role players, the 'Canes will be trying to improve simple parts of their game over the next 11 days.
Every team across the nation certainly has some problems to address, and Miami has the luxury of a bye week to get some things settled before a not-suspected-to-be-close tilt against Savannah State.
Golden has prepared his team very well thus far, so it's time to see if he can make key adjustments as the first game of conference play is slowly approaching.
Making Third Downs More Manageable
Against Florida, the 'Canes faced an average of 12.5 yards on third down and converted just 1-of-11 such situations.
Twelve-and-a-half. That's insanity.
Yes, that is most definitely a testament to Florida's stout defense, but that huge number can certainly be avoided for the remainder of the season.
The easy response to the problem is "Duke Johnson is in the backfield! Use him on first down!" On Saturday, offensive coordinator James Coley repeatedly tried to give Duke the ball, but although the running game wasn't working, it wasn't due to a lack of trying.
What Coley didn't do vs. Florida, however, is call screens, slants, hitches or other quick passes. But in-game adjustments concerning Miami's offense will improve as Coley calls more games.
Remember, he's now been the play-caller for two contests throughout his coaching career, so the most improvements in this area will come from experience.
More Productive Time of Possession
Expanding on Miami's brutal third-down conversion percentage, Miami's offense was forced into seven three-and-outs, one four-play drive and one five-play possession. Otherwise, not including the kneel-down before halftime, Morris led three scoring drives (one that started at the UF 5-yard line) and threw an interception on another possession.
The 'Canes had just four drives with five plays or more, three that covered at least 50 yards and did not have a single possession take at least three minutes.
If Miami is going to score quickly, that's one thing, but the Hurricanes were absolutely slaughtered in the time of possession category while the score remained close. Thankfully, Golden had his defense ready for a game-long battle, because Florida held the ball for nearly 40 minutes.
With that being said, expecting a defensive unit to be fresh for that long every game is unreasonable. The Hurricanes need not be set on winning the T.O.P. battle, but unproductive short drives cannot continue at this rate.
Miami's offense needs to sustain a few drives against its upcoming ACC competition—even if it doesn't score every trip—because the defense simply cannot spend that much time on the field throughout multiple games.
The Hurricanes have done decently well avoiding penalties such as false starts, offsides and pass interferences, but holding was rather prevalent against the Gators.
Miami was flagged for four holds vs. Florida, including back-to-back plays during the second quarter.
Additionally, in just two games, Denzel Perryman (twice), Allen Hurns, Luther Robinson and Rayshawn Jenkins have each committed personal fouls.
For example, Jenkins' not-so-smart personal foul took place after Tracy Howard's interception return. Instead of starting the drive near the 50-yard line, Miami was forced to start at its own 33 and proceeded to punt after yet another three-and-out.
The 'Canes must stop committing bad personal foul penalties because 15-yarders and automatic first downs are absolute momentum-killers.
Wide Receivers Need to Be More Reliable
Miami has a ton of talent at the wide receiver position. Allen Hurns has the best hands, Phillip Dorsett is really, really fast and Herb Waters is becoming a big-play target.
But whether it is failing to create space or dropping passes, the Hurricanes' receivers have not really produced in the passing game. During the season opener, Stacy Coley dropped two potential touchdowns, and the only big play vs. FAU's lowly secondary came on a pick-route for Herb Waters.
Against the Gators, the 'Canes converted a few big plays. Hurns made a great catch-and-run, Dorsett left defensive backs in the dust on his way to a 52-yard touchdown and Waters toe-tapped a fantastic touchdown in the corner of the end zone.
But where were they the rest of the game?
Some of the blame falls on quarterback Stephen Morris not connecting with his targets—like when his interception vs. Florida was simply overthrown. But Miami's receiving corps have totaled just 254 yards in two games, and 121 have come on three completions combined.
The lack of production needs to change right about yesterday.
Special Teams Mishaps
Perfection is desired but rarely achieved.
If there is one unit that can be near-perfect during a game, however, it is special teams.
The kickoff coverage team has surrendered just 18 yards per return, and Matt Goudis has nailed all seven of extra points and both field goals attempted.
Pat O'Donnell has been absolutely outstanding punting the ball, but the 'Canes had two problems involving the senior transfer on Saturday.
Though not necessarily O'Donnell's fault, Florida blocked a punt, took over at Miami's 10-yard line and scored a touchdown two plays later. Plus, O'Donnell cornered a kickoff out-of-bounds, which allowed Florida to start its drive at their own 35.
Yes, the Hurricanes forced a turnover on that possession, but field position is often a key to scoring points, and Miami cannot repeatedly test its luck and expect to win every game.