The honeymoon period at Dolphin Stadium will extend for at least another week.
While pregame activities seemingly lacked the “buzz” of games in the Orange Bowl, the team certainly looked better than it has in years.
The Hurricanes scored three touchdowns in the first quarter and moved the ball at will for most of the game. There was a slowdown in the second quarter, punctuated by a Javarris James fumble. However, the Canes went right back to work in the second half.
The fact that the Canes scored at least one touchdown in each quarter was evidence of the culture change that is gripping the program. In years past, the Canes’ offense would not have put up 52 points in a game or scored on their first four possessions, even against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, a clearly inferior opponent.
There were certainly areas of concern. It is never good when the starting running back loses a fumble. Jacory Harris under-threw two different receivers that had beaten man coverage. At times, linebackers Colin McCarthy, Glenn Cook and Daryl Sharpton looked slow. And on their scoring drive in the third quarter, CSU moved the ball against the Canes’ defense with remarkable ease.
However, for every negative, Shannon and company will probably be able to pick out two positives.
Harris displayed remarkable poise for a kid starting his first collegiate game as a true freshman, managing the offense and even showing a flair for the spectacular with his 30-yard scramble for a touchdown that opened the scoring.
Spencer Adkins was finally used properly and responded with two sacks in his speed rushing role.
Graig Cooper returned a punt for a touchdown, and the running game was powerful throughout the contest, overpowering the CSU defense time after time.
Perhaps most encouraging of all, however, was the play of the freshmen. Sean Spence, Marcus Forston and Brandon Harris made plays on defense, while Harris, Aldarious Johnson and Travis Benjamin looked good on offense. The team also got production from Andrew Smith, Thearon Collier and Kendall Thompkins, all of whom surprised fans with their ability to step right in and play.
All in all, the game was a starting block for the team.
But what did we really learn?
The truth is, not that much. We learned that this team is certainly better than last year’s from a talent standpoint. However, their inexperience may prevent them from capitalizing on that talent.
Accentuating this is the fact that quarterback Robert Marve has yet to take a snap in a collegiate game. Everyone has hope, but no one really knows what the Canes are going to get out of Marve, who commences his college career against the University of Florida at the Swamp.
Will the team be able to play with such poise against a better opponent or in a hostile environment?
We will get a good look at that this week. But teams like these usually get better as the season goes on. After Thursday night’s display, I would not envy the teams that are on the November schedule.