Biggest Surprises for Miami Hurricanes Through Week 3

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2013

Biggest Surprises for Miami Hurricanes Through Week 3

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    The Miami Hurricanes have jumped out to a 2-0 record during the 2013 regular season, and Al Golden's team already earned a key win.

    After handling Florida Atlantic 34-6 in the opener, the 'Canes faced a fantastic nonconference opponent in the then-No. 12 ranked Florida Gators.

    Unexpectedly, Miami's defense stole the show and "The U" upset its in-state rival 21-16.

    And now, as the No. 16 Hurricanes prepare for what shouldn't be more than a scrimmage against Savannah State, it's time to take a look at how Miami has surprised this season.

The Defense Has Shown Up Immediately

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    I'll get right to the main attraction.

    The 'Canes defense had a record-bad 2012 campaign but returned 18 players from the two-deep depth chart.

    Experience and knowledge were preached over the summer, but plenty of skeptics—including me—wanted to see the improvement on the field before believing any of the talk.

    So far, Miami has forced six turnovers, tallied seven sacks, surrendered 11.0 points per game and allowed just 12-of-34 third-down conversions (plus 0-of-2 fourth-down attempts).

    Now, it admittedly is a small sample size, but the Hurricanes' defensive performance against Florida was a fantastic sign for Miami's season outlook.

Stephen Morris' Struggles

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    Stephen Morris has been gaining momentum in the NFL draft discussion, but the senior quarterback hasn't played phenomenally so far this season.

    During the first quarter of the matchup with Florida, Morris tossed absolute dimes to Herb Waters and Phillip Dorsett before struggling mightily for the remainder of the game. The ball occasionally sailed on the gunslinger and he made a couple strange decisions or miscommunicated with his receivers.

    Morris has completed 27-of-52 passes for 322 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions through two games.

    Though Morris has released some errant throws, Savannah State's awful defense should help him get back on track.

Wide Receiver Roller Coaster

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    Allen Hurns remains Morris' favorite target as the senior receiver leads the 'Canes with nine receptions and 94 yards.

    But behind Hurns, Miami receivers have been riding a roller coaster.

    Herb Waters has scored two touchdowns (63-yard reverse, seven-yard catch), but he hasn't been a huge factor in the slot.

    Phillip Dorsett burnt the Florida secondary and hauled in a great 52-yard touchdown, but the junior has only caught just two other passes.

    During the season opener, Stacy Coley ran some great routes but missed out on touchdowns because of great defense and a flat-out dropped ball.

    And finally, Rashawn Scott made a fantastic snag on the sideline before injuring his shoulder on the way down.

    As my mom always told me, "yeah, but" can only get you so far, and the 'Canes certainly are suffering from the yeah-buts. Miami must have more consistency from the wide receiver position, and it will help when Morris finds a rhythm, too.

Lack of Third-Down Conversions

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    Through two games, Miami's offense has converted five third downs out of 25 attempts.

    Long story short, a 20 percent conversion mark will not be beneficial to the 'Canes as they look to win a ton of games this season.

    Granted, Florida forced an average third-down distance of 12.5 yards, so Miami was not exactly in prime position to convert. And so, Morris and Co. had possession for just 21 minutes and 40 seconds of the game.

    Making third downs manageable will be a key to the Hurricanes' offense gaining some momentum for the rest of the year.

Huge Contributions from Pat O'Donnell

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    Pat O'Donnell has been an absolute steal for the Hurricanes.

    The Florida native transferred to Miami after graduating from Cincinnati and has taken on a handful of duties this season. O'Donnell punts, kicks off and is the holder for placekicker Matt Goudis.

    But more importantly than doing a lot, he has performed.

    O'Donnell is averaging 47.6 yards per punt, and his well-placed kickoffs—along with the coverage unit—have held the opposition to just 18.0 yards per return.

    Plus, it may not be a glamorous job but by not mishandling snaps, O'Donnell has not disrupted Goudis' rhythm, and the 'Canes have not missed an extra point or field goal.