As the old sports cliché goes, defense wins championships and offense sells tickets.
That was apparent Thursday night at Heinz Field when the No. 19 Miami Hurricanes knocked off Big East foe Pittsburgh 31-3 on national television.
The Miami defense was fantastic while the offense underachieved but still did a good enough job to win.
As fourth year head coach Randy Shannon likes to say, “guys were flying around and making plays.”
Miami as a team had five sacks totaling in 45 yards lost. Miami had nine tackles for a loss. UM played assignment football and swarmed the blue and gold at the line of scrimmage.
The orange and green played assignment football and never bit on any play fakes.
Junior linebacker Sean Spence played like he did in 2008 tallying nine tackles and 1.5 sacks. He had a nose for the football and played his heart out.
Junior Andrew Smith, senior Josh Holmes and junior Adewale Ojomo lived up to the fall training camp hype and played stout defense.
While the secondary didn’t force any interceptions until late in the game, they held Pitt to only 104 yards passing. Pitt went three and out on their first four possessions.
The best move Shannon made was to play fifth year senior Ryan Hill over senior DeMarcus Van Dyke. Both had interceptions Thursday but Hill was fantastic in coverage. He finally “became a Hurricane.”
Pitt standout wide receiver Jon Baldwin was held to just 26 yards receiving on only three grabs.
But like any championship team, UM cannot get complacent. As good as its defense played this team still has some holes to fill.
Right tackle position remains a question. Senior Joel Figueroa was a turn style and led to junior quarterback Jacory Harris getting drilled. Harris sat out a couple of plays but returned. Harris has been known to be injury prone. The 6-foot-4, 200 pounder was seen Friday at around 5 p.m. leaving the Hecht Athletic Center in a sling on his left arm.
Freshman Seantrel Henderson looked great in limited action. He was pivotal on senior running back Damien Berry’s one yard scamper into the end zone on the first drive of the game. The No. 1 offensive line prospect was the lead blocker.
Henderson should be seeing more playing time very soon.
Play calling by offensive coordinator Mark Whipple was suspect. Harris threw two more interceptions now giving him six on the season. Both game on deep routes. Whipple needs to utilize the short passing game and Harris throws great in the out routes.
Former Hurricane All-American Eric Winston tweeted during the contest, “Dear jacory, There is nothing wrong with dumping the ball in the flat. Even Babe Ruth didn’t hit a homerun every at bat. Sincerely, Alumni.”
Harris needs to continue to work on his check downs because the bottom line his deep throws flutter and don’t have the crisp zip.
Penalties also continue to be a problem. Miami had eight penalties and two were pivotal special teams penalties that hurt field position.
These glitches are correctable and with the ACC being subpar, the Hurricanes have a lot of upside and could be BCS bound come January.
Justin Antweil may be contacted at email@example.com.