Hurricane Duke Ravages Boston
This past weekend the Hurricanes of Miami headed up to Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts to face ACC rival the Boston College Eagles. The last time these two teams faced off was in Miami and it didn’t end so well for the ‘Canes. With an entire offseason to reflect on the embarrassing thrashing they received in front of their home fans, the Hurricanes were hungry for redemption. They got it and are now 1-0 on the year. Miami got off to a good start by defeating Boston College with the final score reading 41-32. Though this was only one game, plenty can be taken from it.
It has been no secret that the Hurricanes are sporting one of the youngest teams in all of College Football. Approximately 15 freshmen saw action against BC. As everyone knows, accompanying a young team is always young mistakes. For the most part, the Hurricanes kept those in check. The team however did rack up 9 penalties for 78 yards. In spite of having to overcome so many penalties, Miami was impressive. The score indicates a close game but Miami dominated the second half, Hurricanes fans should be excited by what they saw. What they witnessed was a change in culture right before their very eyes. In the past decade or so, Miami fans have been accustomed to their team getting down early and never being able to complete a comeback. The ‘Canes were notorious for digging a hole they just couldn’t climb out of. In his second year, Head Coach Al Golden is working to rectify that issue. If this weekend’s bout with BC is any indication, then the Hurricanes are definitely headed in the right direction. In the midst of an NCAA investigation, Golden landed quite the recruiting class and turned some heads while doing so. In their first collegiate action, three of them emerged and set themselves apart from the rest.
The first, Randy “Duke” Johnson, not enough could be said about this kid. Duke has the burden of being ranked the number 2 running back coming out of high school in his class. So much hype is usually very difficult to live up to and thus affects play negatively. This was not the case for Duke in his first collegiate game. He single-handedly electrified an entire fan base that has been apathetic to say the least. Coming into this game the coaching staff had a plan to use Duke for about 10-15 plays or so. The talented freshman really only needed two plays to leave his impact on the game. Johnson carried the ball seven times for 135 yards and two scores. When his team needed him most, he delivered. His first touchdown came when he busted loose from about 54 yards out breaking six tackles on his way to the endzone. Johnson then followed that up with another score from 50+, this time from 56 yards away. He also came up huge on a fourth down when he took an option pitch from quarterback Stephen Morris sacrificing his body to reward his team a much needed first down. Duke is a dynamic player and is only going to get better with time. He is near impossible to tackle. His combination of speed and power makes him a complete back. Just after one game, fans are already proclaiming him to potentially be the best back to ever come out of “The U”. He’s got a long way to go to break Willis McGahee’s single season rushing record of 1,753 yards but the future looks very bright for Hurricane Duke.
The two other freshmen who had a lasting impact on the game were Wide Receiver Malcolm Lewis and Safety Deon Bush. Lewis was a guy that was talked about frequently during fall camp. At first he was overshadowed by fellow freshman receiver Robert Lockhart but eventually surpassed him and earned his spot on the travel squad. Lewis hauled in 4 passes for 42 yards and scored once. It was very refreshing to see such solid play from the young wide out, mainly because a couple of his counterparts had numerous key drops. After just one game Lewis is listed as a starter for the Kansas State game this Saturday. Deon Bush’s story is a bit different than Malcolm Lewis’ in the sense that there wasn’t a lot of talk about him during fall camp. The only news that came out was that he would play Safety. Bush quietly challenged for the starting spot once star Safety Ray-Ray Armstrong was dismissed from the program. He battled with Kacy Rodgers II and ultimately wound up sharing the responsibilities with him. Bush played a total of 30 plays on defense and 12 on special teams. Deon made his presence felt by recording 4 solo tackles. He showed good technique by wrapping up and driving his opponent to the ground. This is a very promising sign because missed tackles have plagued the ‘Canes for years.
Denzel Perryman, the leader of this Hurricanes defense, had himself a game against Boston College. He recorded 7 total tackles (5 solo and 2 assists). Denzel was everywhere on the field and always at the bottom of the pile. He has big shoes to fill after the departure of Sean Spence but in his 2nd year, Denzel is showing he’s not only capable of the responsibility but also that he’s ready for it. Perhaps his biggest play was an interception returned for a touchdown to tie the score at 14. Denzel saw a quick slant coming his way and jumped it, taking it in for the score.
Quarterback Stephen Morris has been criticized quite a bit for not being a leader and not having leadership qualities. He took it upon himself this offseason to change that. The perception of Morris before was that he was nonchalant and didn’t care much. Now, there’s no question as to who the leader of this team is. He has taken on the burden and accepted it with full accountability. In his first game as a full-time starter, Morris impressed. He made good decisions and got rid of the ball quickly for the most part. Morris took what the defensive gave him. BC was allowing the Hurricane offense to operate underneath willingly in order to disallow the big play over the top. Morris was more than content with letting his receivers thrive in space so they can make plays. He totaled 207 yards passing on 28/45 passing. He did throw an interception, however it was not his fault. The pass was a beautifully thrown dart that bounced off the hands of his receiver coming over the middle and landed in the hands of the defender. Conceivably, the best part of Morris’ performance was his poise. He was neither rattled nor frustrated during any moment of the game. Even after he wasn’t getting much help from his receivers he stayed the course and kept his composure. When down double-digits on the road, he didn’t try to force anything. Going forward, this is a good sign for Miami. Morris’ maturation has a lot to do with how successful the Hurricanes can be this season.
As previously stated, quite a bit can be taken away from this game. Most important of all was the attitude of this team. They got down by 14 points quickly in a conference game on the road and never panicked. In previous years, the Hurricanes would have quit right there in the first quarter. Not anymore. Coach Golden has instilled a hunger and a never quit type of mindset into these players and it showed on the field Saturday. Another thing that can be taken from this game is how well-conditioned this team is. When the game came down to the second half, Miami was ready. They weren’t tired or winded. Fans are used to seeing this team lose close games late because of a lack of conditioning and strength. In just the second year of the preseason “U Tough” training program, the results are making themselves seen. This team is much stronger and faster than in previous years and in combination with great coaching, the sky is the limit for this team. However, expectations remain subtle because this is a young team and there are some holes on it. Just as there were plenty of positives Saturday there were also negatives. BC overwhelmed Miami through the air totaling 441 passing yards. That is simply unacceptable. The man to man defense the Hurricanes displayed was horrendous to say the least. There has been much debate about whether that was due to an abundance of blown assignments or the defensive scheme not being adequate. Either way, this problem needs to be fixed immediately, if not, the ‘Canes are in for a world of hurt. The defensive backs need help from their defensive line. The Miami d-line generated absolutely no pass rush. The equipment crew for BC probably doesn’t even have to wash Chase Rettig’s jersey because the Hurricanes defense couldn’t get anywhere near him. The d-line needs to step up and help out their struggling secondary, the defense cannot allow another aerial assault like that again.
Overall it was a good road test for Miami. Though Boston College isn’t the greatest of teams, it was a good win nonetheless. As fans, we learned that Duke Johnson is an absolute beast. We also learned that freshmen Deon Bush and Malcolm Lewis are ready for the big time and that the moment isn’t too large for them. This team is resilient and can comeback from being punched in the mouth. However we also saw some holes on defense and shoddy receiver play from senior Kendall Thompkins and sophomore Rashawn Scott. All in all the Hurricanes need to tighten things up this week as they head out to play Kansas State on the road. K-State is a good team and they showed it last season when they beat Miami at home. The Miami defense cannot afford blown assignments and mistakes against the K-State offense. Kickoff is set for 12:00pm noon from Bill Snyder Stadium.