Miami Football: 5 Corrections Hurricanes Must Make Against Florida A&M
The Miami Hurricanes have plenty to correct after the 2014 season opener, despite the sample size being admittedly small. Florida A&M enters Sun Life Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 6, so "The U" doesn't have much time to prepare.
Superior teams can sometimes win on talent alone, which is certainly the case for this coming Saturday. Miami is expected to rout the Rattlers, but the final box score may not be indicative of the way Al Golden's team truly performs.
While first-game nerves contributed to mistakes in Kentucky, Miami needs to correct its early problems before future ACC play.
Fortunately, the meeting with Florida A&M provides the 'Canes an excellent opportunity to recover from a disappointing performance at Louisville.
Offensive Line Improvement
Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald notes senior left guard Jon Feliciano said the offensive line put the Louisville loss on themselves.
If we're being brutally honest—and we are—the unit was a significant problem. A strong majority of the time, six yards per passing attempt and 2.6 per rush are losing numbers.
Louisville worked Danny Isidora and Taylor Gadbois, so much so that weak-side runs were disrupted behind the line of scrimmage by backside defenders. Yes, it was one game, and Louisville does have one of the better overall groups that will challenge Miami in 2014.
However, the 'Canes were dominated up front, and the offensive line must improve. If Duke Johnson is contained by his own blockers, it will be a long season for the Hurricanes.
Finish Tackles in the Backfield
This is not a gripe about the defense. In fact, the Hurricanes played rather well on that side of the ball throughout the 2014 opener.
Miami tallied eight tackles for loss, four of which were sacks. The numbers show marked improvement on abysmal previous seasons, so what gives?
Well, for example, Anthony Chickillo whiffed on a sack opportunity, and Will Gardner scrambled to move the chains. Some of the missed tackles can be attributed to the amount of time the defense spent on the field, since the Hurricanes offense registered only 12 total first downs.
"We had minimal mental errors on defense," Golden said, per Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post. "I thought we tackled really well. I did. ... We had two takeaways inside the 10 and we held them under 4.7 yards per play, so if you play a little bit better on offense and take care of the football, that should be winning football.
Despite a 9-of-17 third- and fourth-down combined conversion mark for Louisville, the defense was Miami's strength on Monday. Don't change much—clean up chances to get off the field and the 'Canes will be in a great position to win.
Use the Middle of the Field
Get ready for a broken record if this remains unchanged.
Stephen Morris rarely used the middle, and freshman Brad Kaaya followed suit in his debut. Part of the blame lies on offensive coordinator James Coley, whose play-calling was quite a few steps below stellar at Louisville.
According to Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Golden acknowledged, "We probably could have or should have opened it up a little bit more for him just based on where he is as a player in his mind."
Opening the playbook should result in an increase of intermediate throws over the middle, and that's something Miami needs to let Kaaya attempt this weekend.
Capitalize on Takeaways
The defense sack-fumbled Gardner twice, and both possessions started inside the Louisville 10-yard line. Ultimately, Miami's outstanding field position resulted in three total points. In the words of Sir Charles Barkley, "That's turrible!"
One possession lasted an entire play, beginning and ending on Kaaya's poorly thrown backward pass to Stacy Coley that was recovered by Keith Kelsey.
The other drive started eight yards from the end zone, when the 'Canes trailed by four points and had an excellent opportunity to steal the lead. Offensive coordinator Coley proceeded to call three straight running plays, even after the first went backward.
Had Miami scored touchdowns on those two gifted possessions, the final score is 31-24 at least. Plus, the Hurricanes would've had a late chance to send the important conference meeting to overtime.
But could've, would've and should've don't matter. Miami needs to make the most of scoring opportunities, especially after a momentum-building takeaway.
Convert on Third Down
When the offensive line opens running lanes and protects Kaaya, Miami encounters shorter third-down distances. When Miami converts, the defense stays on the sideline.
When defensive players are well-rested, they miss fewer tackles and typically force more turnovers. When the 'Canes receive great field position and capitalize on fantastic scoring opportunities, they win.
Miami accomplished exactly one of the four above-listed scenarios Monday, with that being the defense recovering two fumbles. The following is the complete list of late-down conversions for the Hurricanes against the Cardinals:
- 4th-and-5, 1Q: Kaaya to Braxton Berrios, DPI nullifies play.
- 3rd-and-5, 3Q: Kaaya to Clive Walford for five yards.
- 4th-and-2, 4Q: Kaaya to Herb Waters for four yards.
Additionally, Miami faced 3rd-and-4 or less just three times during the entire game and finished 1-of-13 on the pivotal down. Louisville exposed weaknesses throughout the Hurricanes, and most of the problems can be traced back to the lack of conversions.
If Golden, Coley and the offense correct one thing against Florida A&M, it needs to be third down. Extending drives has a positive effect on the entire team, which is what Miami needs the most.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.