1. DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH: NORTH CAROLINA 28, MIAMI 24
In this week’s Diamond in the Rough spotlight game, an ACC battle that was in doubt until the very final play, the North Carolina Tar Heels escaped with a 28-24 win in Miami on Saturday afternoon.
Making the most of his much-anticipated homecoming, UNC Coach Butch Davis pulled out his second straight victory over the Hurricanes, a squad he coached from 1995-2000.
The loss was Miami’s fourth straight ACC defeat at home, a staggering statistic for a program with so much past history, pride, and (the word I heard 17 million times on ESPN2 Saturday) swagger.
As if the home conference losing streak wasn’t hard enough to swallow, Miami was actually in control throughout much of Saturday’s game, and didn’t trail until the final 46 seconds.
Playing without injured starting quarterback T.J. Yates, the Tar Heels were in catchup mode all afternoon.
Freshman Mike Paulus (you may have heard of his brother: the Duke point guard that everyone loves to hate) started the game under center, but was ineffective (1-4 on the day), and Cameron Sexton relieved him late in the first quarter.
Sexton threw the game-winning touchdown pass to senior Brooks Foster in the final minute.
Down by four, Miami mounted one final desperation rally, and the last throw of the game tantalizingly hit receiver Kayne Farquharson in the end zone...but it was snatched away by North Carolina safety Trimane Goddard, crushing the hopes of the orange and green faithful.
(Note: this “faithful” I speak of is either invisible or must have been watching on television, because the stadium was amazingly deserted. Maybe the fans just miss the Orange Bowl? Whatever the reason, there has to be some “faithful” somewhere. Right? Right?)
North Carolina got a big game from both of its starting receivers, including the best player you might not have heard of, KR/WR Brandon Tate.
Tate and fellow wideout Hakeem Nicks combined for almost 200 yards worth of catches, and Tate added three kick returns for 22 yards a pop.
To prove he can really do it all, Tate even threw a pass on Saturday. Going 1-1 for 12 yards might make him the Heels’ leader in passing efficiency...who knows?
On the defensive side of the ball, Goddard had two interceptions for UNC in the final seven minutes of the contest.
In another stat line worth mentioning: Miami got 110 yards on the ground from Graig Cooper. The sophomore looks to be another in the long line of Hurricane star running backs (Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James, etc.)
Both of these squads look to be a year (or two) away from making some real noise on the national scene. The rosters and two-deeps are littered with underclassmen, and credit both Davis and Miami coach Randy Shannon with making an impact on the recruiting trail.
According to the ESPN crew, Miami actually has 23 freshmen from Florida alone this year; eight of those players are from the same Miami high school, state champion and national powerhouse Northwestern HS.
Nevertheless, it’s the Heels that survived Saturday’s thriller to improve their season record to 3-1, while strengthening their hopes of returning to the postseason for the first time since 2004.
Miami drops to 2-2 after the heartbreaking loss, and must regroup for a showdown with rival Florida State on Saturday...and another chance to snap a string of disappointing results in ACC home games.
Here’s my random thoughts on this week’s “Diamond in the Rough”:
- Miami’s opening drive was textbook; a coordinator couldn’t ask for anything more. The ‘Canes came out throwing, using the pass to set up the run.
RB Graig Cooper took advantage by gashing the UNC defense on back-to-back carries, and then a play-action pass from Robert Marve capped an 80-yard, eight-play march.
Pass to set up the run to set up the pass; it worked for Miami in the first quarter.
- Both of the Hurricane QBs who saw action in the game, redshirt Marve and true freshman Jacory Harris, were named Mr. Football in the state of Florida during their high school careers.
Harris was last year’s winner, Marve the 2006 honoree, and in 2005, it was some guy named Tebow.
- Speaking of Marve, he used a play-action fake that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before. He extended the football toward the running back with both arms (before pulling it away), and then faked again with his empty left hand.
It’s hard to describe exactly what it looked like, but he basically pretended to give the ball up two different times without ever letting it go...anyway, whatever it was, it worked: Marve completed a pass downfield after the “double fake.”
- A couple of ESPN2 complaints (this is what happens when I watch the game on TV). Number one...I don’t care that it’s "(Insert Charcoal Sponsor Here) Tailgate Week." I still don’t want to see as many highlights of tailgaters (complete with recipes) as actual football replays. I want to watch...oh, I don’t know...THE GAME!
Quit flipping back and forth from football field to parking lot. Also, I understand that North Carolina QB Yates is hurt and not playing...but there has to be some kind of limit on the number of times ESPN can show him cringe on the sideline every time his replacement makes a bad throw, a poor decision, or whatever.
It’s not like he can go in and fix things, so give it a rest already, camerapeople. Thank you...and thus ends my soapbox tangent of the week.
- North Carolina could use a little more variety in their offense. Let me sum it up this way: almost every time the Heels ran the ball, they faked an end-around. Almost every time they threw the ball, they used a play-action run fake.
Good concepts, these...but only in moderation. The idea of running a fake is that the other team should be surprised...which they definitely won’t be if they see the same play every drive. Just a humble suggestion from your friendly neighborhood Internet columnist.
-Miami’s Sam Shields made a perfect play to down a Hurricane punt at the Tar Heels’ one-yard line. Can’t play it any better than that.
-Marve cooled off late for the Hurricanes, but his ability to buy time with his feet will win some games for Miami in the future. Marve doesn’t have Vince Young speed...more like a younger Jeff Garcia...keeping the play alive for a few seconds longer and letting his receivers make plays.
Anyway, at one point Saturday, Marve was 16-for-20 for a stellar 80 percent completion rate...with three touchdowns to boot.
-I mentioned earlier that North Carolina wide receiver Brandon Tate completed a pass in the game...the amazing part (to me) was that the guy running deep was covered, so Tate actually checked the ball down for a 12-yard completion on a crossing route.
Just like you, I’ve seen a bunch of halfback passes in my life...both the wide-open touchdowns and the awful decisions throwing into double coverage when the defense isn’t fooled...but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a non-quarterback calmly check down and “take what the defense gives him.” Impressive.
-Miami coach Randy Shannon’s son, Xavier Shannon, is the Canes’ starting center after transferring from Florida International. You thought the head coach got mad for a holding penalty on the offensive linemen last year?!? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
-Is it something in the air that causes players to lose their helmets more frequently? There had to be at least a half dozen plays during the game where headgear went flying...weird.
-One final thought on the game...when Trimane Goodard made the game-saving interception in the end zone and stepped out of bounds, there were still four seconds left on the clock (at least that’s what my television screen showed). Then they all magically disappeared as the clock continued to run.
Now, this didn’t really affect the outcome...UNC would have just kneeled the ball once to finish things...but doesn’t anyone else think that four seconds shouldn’t just run off after the play is over? ESPECIALLY in Miami?
On the road at North Carolina, maybe that happens...but how do the Canes lose a home game and the clock operator inflicts the final blow? Things like that keep me awake at night.
Or maybe it’s the caffeine. I’m not quite sure.
Think I should cover your team in “Diamond in the Rough”? Is your favorite school’s big game flying beneath the media radar? I can be convinced...e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to see an in-depth profile of your team’s game in a future edition of Carrying On About College Football.
2. MAYBE BROADCASTING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
Here are this week’s wacky and weird announcer quotes:
"Calling instant replay.
Calling instant replay.
We need you again.
Hello?" – Brent Musberger
Who talks to instant replay anyway?
"I'm one of the guys that's been drinking the Kool-Aid for years." – Mike Patrick
Any comment I inserted here would simply be too easy.
“He hits the extra point and that makes it a one-possession game” – Dave Pasch (as the kicker cuts the lead from eight to seven).
Isn’t eight points already a one-possession game? Hmm...
“Another night in the life of Jesse Palmer, chased by screaming women.” – Chris Fowler
The Bachelor strikes again...
In the postgame celebration: “I’m down here with the coach who just grabbed his wife...I’m assuming...I hope.” – Erin Andrews
And our reader submission from Ohio: “Lewis just had a little too much mustard on that throw. A little less mustard on that dog and it woulda been a good one...but Fortener comes up and takes a big ol' bite out of it.” – Ray Bentley
Hot dogs on your mind, Ray? Don’t they feed you in the press box?
Remember, if you hear an announcer quote that you just can’t believe, send it to email@example.com before the weekly deadline (Sunday nights at 7): you might make it into next week’s article!
3. THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT
Each week, we list the scores and stats that make you double-take as they scroll across the screen...and today’s magic number is 2:
2...as in the number of famous Michaels I counted on the Wolverine sideline in Ann Arbor...one running back named Hart...and some swimmer dude that set off the metal detector eight times on the way in.
or 2...as in the number of points a safety is worth...
or 2...as in the number of times a bad North Carolina State snap led to a safety for South Florida. Not one, but two bad snaps for safeties? That’s a bad season, not a bad game.
One extra note in the stat category: congratulations to Penn State’s Derrick Williams, who posted the trifecta on Saturday against Illinois: one rushing TD, one receiving TD, and one return TD.
4. THANK GOODNESS FOR MY DVR
This week’s “top plays” category actually includes a pair of highlights from the DITR game profiled above.
The No. 1 play...on a first-quarter Miami punt return, two different Hurricane blockers (Chavez Grant and Colin McCarthy, I believe) absolutely obliterate their assigned players, one after the other.
The first block knocked a UNC player’s helmet off (which was par for the course on Saturday), and the combination of both blocks so close together electrified the sideline...and the announcers.
The play didn’t even go for a touchdown, but it was still showing on ESPN game breaks because of the violent back-to-back hits.
Other highlights from the weekend that were worth rewinding:
North Carolina’s Greg Little getting stopped six yards away from the goal line (whatever happened to the good old days where they blew a play dead and awarded forward progress?) and dragging the whole pile yard-by-yard into the end zone. A touchdown like that should be worth more than six points!
Great diving touchdown catches around the pylon by two different wide receivers in orange and blue: Arrelious Benn (Illinois) and Van Chew (Syracuse).
And last, but not least: Oregon State’s James Rodgers grabbing a tipped pass late in the first half to help the Beavers shock USC...and the rest of the world.
5. SINCE I DO LIVE IN OHIO...(news from around the Big Ten)
Michigan State defeated Indiana 42-29 Saturday in the battle for the Old Brass Spittoon.
Who really wants an old brass spittoon?
That’s what I figured.
6. MAYBE OFFICIATING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
Disclaimer: I saw this on TV while I was flipping around…lots of games simultaneously…so it’s possible I missed a detail somehow…but it sure looked like this:
Horned Frogs have the ball, third-and-10, on their own 2-yard line. The quarterback tries to call timeout, doesn't get it recognized by the official, and the center actually snaps the ball while the QB isn’t paying attention.
He’s able to recover, grab the shotgun snap, and throw an incomplete pass under pressure. TCU then lines up to punt on fourth-and-10, and before the ball is kicked, a timeout is awarded. Not sure why.
The game comes back from a commercial...and guess what? All of a sudden, it’s third down again. Not only did TCU get a timeout awarded 45 seconds after the fact, they didn’t get charged with their third-down play.
Just to clarify, timeouts are not something you can review. The quarterback putting his hands together in the shape of a T doesn’t automatically stop the game...the referee still has to grant the timeout. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
So how can you just pretend...five minutes later...that a play that wasn’t blown dead (the third-down incompletion) never actually happened?
Of course, TCU converted the mulligan and proceeded to drive the ball down the field.
Maybe officiating is easier than I thought.
7. EVEN THOUGH 17 IS A RANDOM NUMBER
Here’s the Top 17 ballot I submitted for this site’s poll. Think your team should be ranked higher? How about an overrated team that should be lower? Send me your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can be swayed! (Maybe!)
1. Oklahoma (Impressive win over a solid TCU squad gets them the top spot)
2. Alabama (Big-time statement on the road...but can they survive a brutal SEC?)
3. Missouri (A great week to be idle; with all the upsets, Tigers move up by default)
4. LSU (Struggled to defeat Mississippi State, but a win’s a win...)
5. Texas (Is Arkansas that bad or is Texas that good? Um...both.)
6. BYU (The BCS-buster hopefuls were idle this week)
7. Texas Tech (Another idle team...seems like every top-10 team lost or didn’t play!)
8. South Florida (With a Gator loss, it looks like the Bulls are best-in-state.)
9. Penn State (Another whiteout, another win; the Lions are starting to convince me)
10. Auburn (This may be a Top Ten team, but it’s not a Top Ten offense.)
11. USC (Everyone thought it would be the other OSU that the Trojans would struggle against.)
12. Florida (Never assume an extra point...right, Gator fans?)
13. Ohio State (Buckeye fans finally get to see their whole backfield intact.)
14. Georgia (How can you be down 31-0 at halftime? At home?!? Wow.)
15. Utah (Another week, another W...but does Weber State really count?)
16. UConn (Undefeated, but losing QB Lorenzen for a while could hurt.)
17. Boise State (Didn’t play, but they slide in this week...win @ Eugene helps their cause.)
8. COMING ATTRACTIONS
I don’t know why anyone would need a reason to be excited about the upcoming college football weekend. And it’s not just the weekend…we’ve got games on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday! But here’s a couple in particular that are worth highlighting:
a. “Worth buying a ticket for”: a matchup that deserves the hype. There’s a few that could fit here: Ohio State/Wisconsin comes to mind, for example…but I’m going with Oregon/USC. The Trojans’ national title hopes are on life support already, and it will be interesting to see how they respond against one of the most talented teams in the Pac-10.
b. “Heat check”: this team’s playing great, but faces a serious test. Vanderbilt is 4-0 on the young season (that’s such a rare occurrence that my computer is flashing a spell-check alert), but they’ll have their work cut out for them Saturday when perennial power Auburn comes to town.
c. “Diamond in the rough”: I’m going to wait a few days to pick next week’s in-depth game profile. If you can make a compelling argument why I should cover your team (and I have access to the game on television, of course), you could make the final decision. You just have to e-mail email@example.com with an explanation of which game and why it should be selected. Then check back on Sunday to find out if your game is the newest Diamond in the Rough!
Did you notice that Cincinnati is running out of quarterbacks in a hurry? They’re actually getting so low on the depth chart that coach Brian Kelly called Oregon to see if the Ducks had any signal-callers they could spare.
The Bearcats had been holding out hope that Ben Mauk would be granted a 94th year of eligibility (one for each appeal), but that fell through.
Dustin Grutza started the year, but he went down with a fractured right fibula, and the third guy (junior Tony Pike) got knocked out Saturday. Pretty soon, the Ohio winner of Punt, Pass, and Kick is going to get a UC scholarship instead of a trip to an NFL game.
That is, if the Bengals don’t grab him first.
Have a thought or comment? Send it my way: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your help in trying to make this the most interactive column in college football history. S– see you next week!
Tim Cary (yes, Cary…as in “Carrying on”) is a resident of Springfield, Ohio and a die-hard college football fan (especially when it comes to the Purdue Boilermakers). To submit thoughts, ideas, questions, arguments, or anything else for “Carrying On About College Football”, e-mail: email@example.com. Send in your ideas throughout the week...and check out the next installment of COACF on Sunday, October 5th.