The night started out with a celebration of the team that brought the first football title to The U back in 1983. By the time the game was over, three hours and 20 minutes later, the celebration continued with fireworks as this year’s team opened the season with a 34-6 win over Florida Atlantic.
It was far from a perfect night for the 2013 installment of the ‘Canes. While the defense looked markedly better than they did in 2012, giving up only 250 yards to FAU, the offense, aside from Duke Johnson, definitely had some opening night jitters.
“I didn’t think [the passing game] was as sharp as it had been (in training camp),” head coach Al Golden said after the victory. “Obviously it wasn’t where it needed to be and we’ll go back to work.”
Starting quarterback Stephen Morris went 15-27 for 160 yards with 1 TD and 1 awful interceptions. The Hurricanes were also abysmal on third down, converting on four of 14 chances.
“Offensively, we struggled a little bit,” the senior quarterback said. “First game jitters I guess. I’m glad everything got out and we have everything on film and now we know what to expect. We just have to be more precise.”
Seven different players cause a ball for Miami, but only Allen Hurns had more than three catches with five. Clive Walford had three catches, and a nice TD catch on the far side of the end zone, but guys like Phillip Dorsett and Malcolm Lewis were basically non-existent.
First-year offensive coordinator James Coley seemingly mixed up the play calling evenly between run and pass. The offense had 38 runs, 31 passes, and averaged 7.3 yards gained per play. Granted it was against a team that ranked 70th in total defense last season.
While the offense left a lot to be desired, again, other than Dukes career night of 19 carries for 186 yards, the defense played stout. Miami’s dee, which was ranked somewhere below the equator last year, only allowed FAU to gain 3.3 yards per play. The defense had five sacks and gave FAU’s QB fits all night. Mark D’Onofrio played 27 different players on defense, including nine players who saw their first action as a Cane Saturday night. That’s a lot of good experience that guys got as they get ready to face a totally different animal, literally, next week in the Gators.
Middle linebacker Jimmy Gaines was all smiles after the victory about the defense’s performance. “All of us as a group played really well,” Gaines said. “We played together. We played good team defense. I’m excited for our defense.”
That’s nice to hear, and of course see, after last years debacles. Maybe the whole size, strength, and experience thing does really matter. Now the Gators are a lot better than the 103rd that FAU’s offense ranked last season, but holding any team to two field goals, especially after a bad turnover, is a victory no matter what angle you look at it.
So now we get to finally talk about the Gator. Fans and media will blow next weeks game into a season maker, and it’s simply not that. Until Miami can say that they’ve won the ACC, beating an out of conference team, even the Gators, isn’t as important as it once was, or will be. The one thing the Gator game will be though is a good test. Playing FAU is great to get Duke Johnson some nice stats and attention, but it’s what this team does next week that will really prove whether this program has moved forward or not. There’s also that little matter of the NCAA sanctions that haven’t come down yet. Why not add more work for everyone this week and drop sanctions right about Tuesday. Yeah, that will be fun.
I always like to bring it back to a bottom line. The bottom line is this: don’t over react to Saturday night’s game one way or the other. I’m not going to tell you the offense is inconsistent until I see it perform against a real team, with the real pressures of playing a real team. I’m also not going to sit here and tell you that all is well with the defense after they shut down a team, that they should have shut down. In my mind, it all comes together and nothing I saw tonight changes my mind about my prediction of a 10-2 season. Next week’s sample is a different issue.