Summary: That was pure domination. Miami overwhelmed a real opponent on the road for the first time in 5 years. No, Pitt isn’t great. But they do have several play makers and could possibly even make a BCS Bowl (granted, it’s out of the Big East, so it’s not that much of an accomplishment, but the team is not complete garbage). When you come out of that game and the main complaint is that you didn’t win by enough (when you won by 28 points), then you know the team did all sorts of things right.
- The Entire Defense – outstanding performance. Pitt went a majority of the first half without a first down. Obviously, you can break it down position by position, talk about how the DL dominated, how Sean Spence was reading every play expertly, how Pitt’s WRs couldn’t get open…but it’s just easier to say the defense was amazing.
- Mark Whipple – The Hurricanes actually came out running, leaning on Damien Berry, protecting Jacory Harris. They protected Jacory with safe play calls all night. Even the 2 interceptions were safe play calls (and necessary play calls…you can’t run an offense without taking some shots down the field). Pat Hill saw a lot of playing time, which bodes well for this team. These plays were simplified and the whole offense was better for it. He stuck with the run through the 3rd quarter when it wasn’t as effective, and it wore down Pitt’s defense. By the 4th quarter, Pitt was out of gas and the running game opened up.
- 2 defensive switches – Ramon Buchanon and Ryan Hill starting made a world of difference for this team. Buchanon was all over the field and was certainly superior to Kylan Robinson. And Ryan Hill locked down the corner position opposite Brandon Harris. By securing the other half of the field, Pitt was left with nowhere to go, and Miami’s safeties were free to roam and help out with the run.
- Players playing smart – 2 particular defense plays stood out to me. In the first half, on a 3rd and long, Pitt’s QB scrambled and McCarthy, realizing that the QB was approaching the first down, laid out and tripped him, saving the play and forcing a punt. In the 2nd half, on 3rd and 4, Pitt’s RB went in motion and ran a quick out into the flat. This is a play used in short yardage in the NFL with a high success rate. Yet, Ray Ray Armstrong read the play, exploded into the flat, and made the tackle short of the first down. It’s when the brain meets the athleticism that you see dominant plays, and that happened here.
- The turnovers – the way Miami was pressuring Pitt all night long, the turnovers appeared inevitable. They came in the 4th quarter, with Pitt turning the ball over 3 times and Miami actually winning the turnover battle 3-2.
- Jacory Harris – many in the fan base questioned his toughness. Well, he showed both mental and physical toughness. Jacory shook off 2 first half interceptions to go 8-10 (both incompletions were drops) for 87 yards and 2 TDs in the second half, while leading the ‘Canes to 21 second half points. He also showed his physical toughness. taking a huge hit from a Pittsburgh defensive end, but only missing a play before returning to lead a TD drive. Jacory even had his moments in the first half, leading a brilliant first drive (highlighted by a wonderful read and deep pass to Travis Benjamin that set up the first TD) and leading a FG drive that would have been a TD drive had Leonard Hankerson not dropped a TD. All in all, 21-32 with, 248 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs with at least 4 passes dropped including a TD is a good performance out of Jacory.
- Jacory Harris – in an otherwise brilliant performance, 2 interceptions cloud his whole game. The fact that they were on easy reads, on 1st down, that were designed to be safe makes the particular throws more vexing. In both cases, Whipple called a 2-man route with max protection on first down. The QBs job is simple here. If the safeties bite up, you throw the deep ball, if they drop back in coverage, you throw it away. Both passes should have been thrown away.
- Right Tackle – by far the most troubling position on the team. Figuerora and Johnson were awful. Equally troubling was the lack of adjustment in blocking scheme (which almost ruined the season when Jacory got hammered). It is time to put Henderson in. He cannot possibly be worse than this. In addition, an adjustment needs to be made to the blocking scheme when the RT is struggling. Use a double-team, chip with a TE or RB, do something other than single coverage.
- Tight End – Chase Ford can’t block (and some would argue he can hardly catch). Richard Gordon can’t catch (he did make one nice catch, but dropped a few easier ones). It hurts the Hurricanes’ offense when they basically have a pick your poison decision at TE. Overall, blocking is more important (especially with the depth at WR), but it would be nice if one of these guys added the other dimension to their game.