It is hard to give an A here, but the one thing that matters more than anything at this position is performance under pressure. When Miami needed it most, Kirby Freeman, playing for an injured Kyle Wright threw a dagger to Dedrick Epps that gave the Canes a lead they would not surrender.
Running Backs: A
The backs ran hard all game and gained yards when the Canes needed it most. During the go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, Graig Cooper ran with a determination not seen in a UM backfielder since Frank Gore.
Receivers/Tight Ends: B+
Darnell Jenkins has become the best, most dependable player on the team. His 46-yard catch in the first quarter was possibly the moment when the Canes realized that they could actually win this thing. I cannot justify an A, mostly because they were underused.
Offensive Line: B
The big boys were iffy for the first three quarters, but held strong when it counted. On the go-ahead drive, they sprung Cooper for two big runs, and gave Freeman time to complete all three of his passes, including the touchdown.
Defensive Line: A
The undermanned, undersized line held up in the fourth quarter when they needed to. Teraz McCray’s forced fumble gave the lead to Colin McCarthy’s touchdown which iced the game for the Canes.
There were several breaks in coverage from this unit, but just like the defensive line, they hung tough when needed. McCarthy’s touchdown and Tavares Gooden’s two fumble recoveries highlighted a solid performance from this unit.
Randy Phillips showed why the staff thinks he is a playmaker at safety, with two interceptions. The unit did a very solid job of limiting a receiving corps filled with speed and big play ability. The only reason this is not an A is because of poor tackling by the cornerbacks.
Special Teams: A
The fake kick was an inspired call, and seemed to breathe new life into the team. The punt return team needs to work on giving Cooper more space to operate, but several solid kick returns negate this weakness.
At no point did they let the game get away from them, as Randy Shannon and Patick Nix were unafraid of going to the air on offense, even with Freeman in the game. Tim Walton’s defense was firm in the second half of the fourth quarter and essentially ended the game before Xavier Lee had a chance to bring the Noles back.