Miami Hurricanes Further Rebuilding Efforts Despite Loss at Florida

Matthew SchiffmanAnalyst ISeptember 9, 2008

After writing an article about how much fun I had at the Florida-Miami game last Saturday, I figured I should throw in my two cents about how the Hurricanes looked. After all, I am a huge UM fan, so that, at least, makes me qualified.

Let's move on to the analysis. First of all, Miami may have lost by 23 points, but its coaches and players have to feel encouraged after putting a real scare into the now No. 4-ranked Florida Gators.

At halftime, the 'Canes trailed by only six, not even allowing the Gators’ offense to reach double digits. That’s because the Miami defense was swarming the Florida players. 

Up front, the defensive line was pressuring Tim Tebow, and defensive coordinator Bill Young wasn’t afraid to send players blitzing in order to get in the backfield and force Tebow to scramble. Sure, Tebow was able to gain yards with his feet, but the Miami defense did a solid job containing him and forcing him to throw off-balance passes.

Probably the most impressive 'Cane of the night on either side of the ball was outside linebacker Sean Spence. A freshman from last year’s No. 1 high school team in the nation, Miami Northwestern, Spence instantly made his presence known at the collegiate level.

He was flying around the field making plays and getting in the Florida backfield. After Tebow had managed to escape sack after sack for two quarters, Spence came in on a blitz, grabbed Tebow’s jersey as he tried to scramble, and flung him around as he threw him to the ground.

In the second half, Spence used his monstrous 6', 202-pound frame to level a Florida receiver, causing every spectator in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to let out an “Ouch” as if they had all felt the impact themselves.

On the offensive side of the ball, things didn’t look too bad, despite only managing to put up three points.

Red-shirt freshman quarterback Robert Marve started the game, with true freshman Jacory Harris also seeing a fair amount of playing time. Both quarterbacks looked a little uncomfortable with the system, but both showed tremendous poise, hanging in the pocket as long as possible before evading the rush.

One thing that was evident with Marve, and something that Brock Berlin and Kyle Wright seemed to lack, was that he always kept his eyes downfield. Even when Marve was flushed out of the pocket by the oncoming pass rush, he moved while keeping his eyes downfield as long as possible before deciding to take off and run.

The fact that the Hurricanes were able to put together a few drives and move the ball sufficiently should be encouraging considering how respected Florida’s defense is this year.

The 'Canes just need to worry about finishing off drives after they start moving the ball. They often built up a lot of momentum, only to see the drive suddenly come to a halt with a sack, dropped pass, or a run that went for negative yards.

Another area that appears to need some work is the play calling. It would have been nice to see offensive coordinator Patrick Nix be a little more adventurous and creative on Saturday.

Just think about it: Miami is unranked, playing the No. 4 team in the country on the road in Gainesville. Why not go out and call some crazy plays? Go throw the ball downfield and try to bust the game open.

Sadly, Nix appeared content to be conservative, trying to run the ball straight up the Florida defense and settle for five- to seven-yard passes. I just wish he would have taken some shots downfield and given those young receivers a chance to make something happen against a veteran Florida defense.

But, I guess, the thing to keep in mind, especially for all the 'Canes fans out there, is that this is still a rebuilding year for Miami. And despite Saturday’s loss, it appears that the program is moving closer and closer to regaining its national prominence as “The U.”