Miami-Oklahoma: Will An Angry Storm Await the Sooners?
I was so nervous for this game, I didn't watch it live.
Well, there was that and prior commitments that required me to be elsewhere. I was, however, recording it so I could watch the game later that night sans commercial. It would be a feast of glorious 'Canes football at its best.
I deleted that recording without ever watching it. See, despite my best efforts to remain ignorant of the score that day, I still accidentally found out the third quarter score. That ruined my day and night.
It's been a few days now and I've finally watched the events I've tried to avoid. This was everything I feared in the last article I wrote. Beamer Ball embodied in a group of determined Virginia Tech players.
I fretted over this game more than the upcoming Oklahoma game because VT knows Miami well. They field a defense unlike any the Hurricanes had seen up to this point. I'm not completely discounting Bob Stoops' squad; I'm merely emphasizing the giant trap game I foresaw the cocky Hurricanes strolling into.
The Hokies forced the 'Canes into costly mistakes: Jacory's two turnovers, a blocked punt returned for a TD, a muffed punt, dropped passes (Oh Jimmy!), etc. In addition, they ran all over the UM defense for over 200 yards.
Still, this was a good thing for Miami. All week long I heard fans and sports journalists parroting one another about how "the swagger is back" and all that kind of nonsense. The absolute worse thing a young team can do is get too high on itself. Confidence is one thing; arrogance is something else entirely.
This week, a humbled Miami faces No. 8 Oklahoma at home in Dolphins Stadium. Coach Stoops and the Sooners' trainers are still determining if QB Sam Bradford will return this weekend. He's throwing again and, although he's still experiencing some shoulder soreness, otherwise seems much healthier.
Of course, whether it's Bradford or his backup, Landry Jones, who's performed admirably filling in, the Oklahoma offensive gameplan remains the same. Both are drop-back passers who will orchestrate a balanced attack through the air or on the ground with their talented backs.
***Update: QB Sam Bradford will NOT play. Head coach Bob Stoops has made his decision to start Landry Jones for a third straight game.
The much-maligned UM defense (and for good reason) needs to show up if the 'Canes want to win this game. Through three games, the 'Canes have one interception, one fumble recovery, and four sacks (plus a plethora of missed tackles.)
These are supremely subpar numbers for a defense sporting such talented players. One of those players, LB Sean Spence, the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2008, has been a focal point of critics.
His defensive coordinator, John Lovett, came to Spence's defense:
"You can talk about turnovers, you can talk about missed tackles, you can talk about Sean Spence. As a unit we have to play well. Sean is not just going to make plays by himself."
"What happens is he takes advantage of other people around him playing well. If he's doing his job, somebody else might make a play. And if they're doing their job, he'll have an opportunity to make plays. It's a team game. There are 10 other guys out there with him, that's how we coach."
Point being, if it comes down to a shootout, the Sooners most likely take it. Miami has to establish a run game early and often if they want to wear down Oklahoma's speedy pass rush. Meanwhile, Miami must resuscitate its own pass rush and make whomever is throwing the ball for Oklahoma sweat harder than the South Florida humidity will.
My favorite quote of the week came from UM defensive line coach Clint Hurtt, addressing his own players (awesome name, by the way, for a defensive line coach):
"The next person that comes and pats you on the back and says, 'Man, you guys are good,' you need to kick them right in the (behind) and run away."
"Talk with your pads. That's all that matters."
From all accounts coming out of Coral Gables, the Hurricanes have had a good week of practice, Jacory Harris is focused on not repeating his dismal performance in Blacksburg, and key players, including safety Randy Phillips, are on the mend but eyeing to start.
Ultimately, as with most football games, this one will start from the lines out. For Miami to beat Oklahoma, they have to hit them in the teeth. The O-line must give Jacory time to throw and RBs James and Cooper holes to run through.
I loved offensive coordinator Mark Whipple's game plan through the first two games, but its weakness was exposed against VT. They need to balance their play-calling and mix it up for a smart Sooner defense.
Overall, Miami has been tremendous. They've made strides and need to make even more, just like any team. They're 2-1 after a brutal opening month and this Saturday they trudge into yet another tough battle against a top-ranked team.
After being beat up by VT, this week's Oklahoma game will illustrate exactly what sort of team Hurricanes fans have.
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