Clemson Football: The 'U' Comes To Tigertown

Kevin ThomasContributor IIFebruary 15, 2017

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Last season, Clemson and Miami matched up in Coral Gables for what turned out to be a thrilling victory as the Tigers prevailed over the No. 8 Hurricanes 40-37 in OT. The last three meetings between the teams have all been decided in overtime, with Clemson winning in 2004 but losing a heartbreaker during the 2005 campaign.

This will be the ninth meeting between Clemson and Miami on the gridiron. Miami holds the all-time lead 5-3 in the series that dates back to 1945.

The Hurricanes, under the direction of Randy Shannon, are 2-1 on the season with their only blemish being a 36-24 defeat on the road at No. 2 Ohio State. The No. 16 ‘Canes are coming off a dismantling of Pittsburgh last Thursday 31-3.

Miami has a dark horse Heisman candidate with Jacory Harris. The Hurricanes’ quarterback has all the tools to be a star. He also has a tendency to negate his athleticism by making poor decisions on the field. This is evident by the fact that Harris has six touchdowns and six interceptions at this point in the season.

Senior Damien Berry, who is averaging 5.3 yards per carry with 43 rushes this season, leads the Hurricanes on the ground. A future superstar to watch out for in the Miami backfield is freshman Lamar Miller. The 210-pound freshman is a big-time talent who has two rushing touchdowns and kickoff return for a touchdown through three games.

Miami has a three-headed monster at receiver, led by senior Leonard Hankerson. The 6’3”, 205-pound Hankerson has 16 receptions and three touchdowns this season. Another part of the trio is speedster Travis Benjamin. The Hurricanes try to get Benjamin the ball in a variety of ways, and he is a big contributor on special teams. The 6’4” Laron Byrd is another formidable target at receiver for Miami, and he has tallied 12 catches this season.

The defense for the Hurricanes is one of the best they have had in the last few years. They have playmakers and speed all over the field. The leader of the Hurricane defense is linebacker Sean Spence. Spence has 24 tackles this season with 6.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Andrew Smith, Marcus Fortson and Allen Bailey are forces on the d-line that will also be hard to deal with Saturday.

Clemson has a record of 2-1 on the season and is coming off a bye week. The bye came at a good time for the Tigers, who lost a hard-hitting matchup against then No. 15 Auburn Tigers 27-24 in OT two weeks ago.

Kyle Parker will be ready to go at quarterback for the Tigers after getting shaken up in the second half of the Auburn game. Parker has six touchdowns with only one interception on the season. He will need to keep up that efficiency this week against the ‘Canes for the Tigers to win.

“The New Storm” is off to a strong start on the ground for Clemson, with Andre Ellington averaging 7.4 yards per carry for a total of 273 yards and four touchdowns on the season. Jamie Harper is also doing his part, carrying the ball for five yards per carry and a touchdown. Harper has been helping out in the passing game as well, tallying five receptions and three touchdowns.

The Tigers’ most viable option through the air has been tight end Dwayne Allen, who has eight receptions through three games. Several other receivers have shown flashes, such as Brandon Clear, Jaron Brown and Xavier Dye, but none have become a go-to guy. Clemson needs someone to step up and become the number one receiving target for this team to realize their full potential, and many feel it will be Dye or Brown.

The Clemson defense has been playing well this season with the exception of a few bad plays. The Tiger defense is starting to play with a certain swagger like the Miami teams of old, or as Snoop Dogg would say, “Like ‘The U’ in the ‘80s.” They are expecting to dominate whatever offense they are going up against. Clemson’s defense has big time players across the field.

Da’Quan Bowers, Jarvis Jenkins, Brandon Thompson and Andre Branch lead the d-line. This group has accounted for 14 tackles for loss and seven sacks. The linebacking corps is somewhat unproven but will need to gain more consistency this game. Brandon Maye will be back for his second game and hopefully can provide some stability for a frustrated group of linebackers. Corico Hawkins, Quandon Christian and Tig Willard will also play big parts in helping stop the ‘Canes.

The Clemson secondary is one of the best, if not the best, in the country. They are led by All-American safety DeAndre McDaniel, who had a pick in the game against Auburn and leads the team with 20 tackles.

Another integral part of the defensive backfield is Rashard Hall, who was a freshman All-American last season. Hall has yet to get his first interception of the season but is second on the team with 18 tackles.

Byron Maxwell and Marcus Gilchrist have done well so far this season at cornerback, but they will have to be on top of their game against the Miami offense.

A big key to Clemson winning this game will be winning the turnover battle. The secondary will need to do a good job disguising coverage and picking off Jacory Harris at least twice to win this game, which isn’t impossible when considering Harris’ tendency to make mistakes.

A win over Miami would be huge for Clemson football while helping everyone forget about the loss at Auburn. A Tiger victory would likely propel Clemson into the Top-25 in next week’s polls while making a big statement to the rest of the ACC.

The Tigers need to come out strong and show everyone they can keep up the intensity they displayed for most of the game against Auburn for four quarters.

Like D’wayne Allen said after the Auburn game, “There’s no one in that locker room patting their backs because we lost by three points in overtime to Auburn. No one. We don’t take moral victories. We don’t accept them. Our objective is to go out and win every game. We lose one here, but we have 11 more games to go — hopefully — to go out and do what Clemson football does. And that’s win.”

Come out to Death Valley and support the Clemson Tigers against the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday at noon. If you cannot make it to Memorial Stadium, the game will be aired on ESPN2.