Miami Football: 5 Most Important Takeaways from September
The Miami Hurricanes were one of college football's surprise teams during the month of September, bursting into the rankings after an upset win over the Florida Gators.
Though the 'Canes competition overall was not that great, plenty was learned about Miami over the first four games.
Head coach Al Golden preached how the Hurricanes defense improved physically over the offseason, and the unit certainly is backing up those words. Quarterback Stephen Morris and the offense started slowly, and new offensive coordinator James Coley needed a few games to find his own rhythm.
Most importantly, though, Miami appears to be coming together as a team at the perfect time since the month of October holds three conference games and two key intra-division matchups.
Players Are Fresh for the ACC Season
When a team scores 45.3 points per game, said team's starters tend to be well-rested.
Excluding end-of-half drives, the 'Canes have had 53 possessions. Senior quarterback Stephen Morris has been under center for just 31 of the 53, and he left two early due to ankle tweaks.
Duke Johnson averages 17.8 touches per game, easily under what was expected from the sophomore running back.
Miami's veteran offensive line is also getting plenty of rest. For example, Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post notes true freshman Alex Gall led the team, playing 50 snaps against Savannah State.
Those trends will definitely not continue as the 'Canes' competition increases, but the rest will prove invaluable during late-game situations. Additionally, Miami is clearly better conditioned than previous years, so the Hurricanes are more prepared for grinds to the finish.
When Miami Scores, It Scores Quickly
The Hurricanes have scored 23 offensive touchdowns and kicked two field goals so far this season.
Points are getting put on the board, and that's the most important part.
But the rate at which Miami is doing it is outstanding; only five of the 23 scoring drives have taken over three minutes.
The 'Canes have also notched 23 20-plus yard offensive plays, so when Miami moves the ball, the team is really working it down the field.
True Freshmen Are Making Noticeable Impacts
Golden signed a great recruiting class, and some of the players were expected to contribute soon.
How soon was soon? Well, a handful of true freshmen decided it meant immediately.
Stacy Coley has hauled in nine passes for 131 yards, leads the team with three receiving touchdowns and also returned a kickoff for a score. Gus Edwards has tallied the second-most rushing yards (185) and scored three touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, Alex Figueroa has started two games and racked up 11 tackles, including one sack. Al-Quadin Muhammad has managed two sacks, Jermaine Grace has seven tackles and Artie Burns has a 0.5 tackle for loss and one pass breakup.
Depth is one key to success, and the 'Canes have plenty of young players stepping up.
The Defense Has Remarkably Improved
Historically bad to surprisingly fantastic. What a difference one year makes.
Through four games, Miami's defense ranks 10th in total defense (283.5 yards per game), seventh in scoring (12.5 points) and has forced the sixth-most turnovers (13).
Considering the 'Canes ranked 116th, 82nd and 57th, respectively, last season, the 2013 campaign has been a fantastic sign for Miami.
Currently, opponents have gained just 123.3 rushing yards per game, nearly a 100-yard difference since 2012. The Hurricanes had just 13 sacks all of last season, but the defense has racked up 16 sacks through just four games.
In the eyes of many Miami fans, defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio's seat was quickly warming, but Golden's continued trust in his friend has payed off in 2013.
The No. 14 Hurricanes Are 4-0
Miami was expected to beat Florida Atlantic, Savannah State and South Florida, and Golden's team did not suffer major setbacks.
The Hurricanes were not intimidated by the University of Florida and defeated the Gators 21-16, forcing six turnovers (two interceptions, three fumbles, downs).
Heading into ACC play, Miami stands at an unblemished 4-0 record for the first time since Larry Coker's squad started 6-0 in 2004. Plus, the last appearance by the 'Canes this high in the polls (No. 14) was Week 15 of the 2009 season.
The most obvious facts may not be fascinating, but they certainly are of the utmost importance.