Friday, September 21, 2007

Canes Mess With The Aggies

Canes running back Graig Cooper celebrates one of his two touchdowns against Texas A&M

Okay, I'll admit I was wrong. The 34-17 score between Canes and Texas A&M didn't surpise me. It's the winning team that shocked me. There's something about a night game at the Orange Bowl that just seems to conjure up the ghosts and goblins that scare UM opponents into submission. Over the years, so many magical moments in Canes history have happened in this same setting. But I didn't think this UM team had the firepower to summon these supernatural spirits. I am happily eating crow.

Coming into the game, Texas A&M was 3-0, ranked 20th in the nation with a powerful rushing attack that averaged over 300 yards a game on the ground. The Aggies were held to just 98 yards rushing. Meanwhile the Canes were unranked and were blown out 51-13 by Big 12 juggernaut Oklahoma. UM had also struggled to blow out a poor FIU team. This game had all the makings for a big Aggie victory in the Orange Bowl. But the folks in Las Vegas knew something I didn't. Not only were the Canes a surprising 2 point favorite, they easily covered the spread. I will never doubt the Vegas oddsmakers again.

Here are some observations:

* Kyle Wright played the best game of his college career. The embattled quarterback completed 21 of 26 passes for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns. His only mistake was a harmless fumble in the third quarter. But throughout the night, Wright made great decisions and got the ball to his playmakers. Barring a Wright injury, it appears Kirby Freeman will spend the remainder of the year on the bench.

* Who knew the Canes had receivers and tight ends? Going into this game, I doubt many casual Cane fans could even name Miami's starting tight end. After last night, I can name three: Dajleon Farr, Chris Zellner and Dedrick Epps. Receivers Sam Shields, Lance Leggett and Darnell Jenkins also came up with big plays. Miami will need more consistancy from this group, if the Canes are to contend in the ACC.

* Texas A&M looked terrible. At times the Aggies could not get out of their own way. Miami's swarming defense made A&M look as though they were stuck in sand. Running backs Javorskie Lane, Mike Goodson and quarterback Stephen McGee were complelely ineffective. What was TAMU head coach Dennis Franchoine thinking? Lane, a 268 pound bulldozer carried the ball only 2 times for just 2 yards. He burned timeouts early in the 3rd quarter and his team completely lacked focus. If I'm an Aggie fan, I want some explanations for this mess.

* Canes offensive coordinator Patrick Nix called a brilliant game. Miami unveiled plays and formations never seen before by Cane fans or opponents. Several times during the game, running backs Javarris James and Graig Cooper lined up at quarterback, while Kyle Wright moved to receiver. Twice the Canes scored touchdowns from this formation. And how about the screens and draws! Finally! Where have these plays been for the last few years? I haven't seen the Canes execute a good screen pass since the days of Ken Dorsey.

* The UM offensive line continues to get better and better. Wright had plenty of time to throw throughout the game. This has been the most surpising and most improved unit of the team.

* Graig Cooper and Javarris James both need to take better care of the football. Both players have struggled with fumbles in the last couple of games. True freshman Shawnbrey McNeal has emerged as the third running back and kick returner.

* Kudos to Texas A&M tight end Martellus Bennett. Bennett, who was recruited by UM, switched his jersey number to 85 to honor former Cane and current Buffalo Bills player Kevin Everett. Durning Bennett's recruitment by UM, he had struck up a friendship with Everett who was his host during his recruiting visit to MIami. Bennett scored on a 33 yard touchdown catch.

* Thursday night's crowd of 44,662 reminded me how loud the Orange Bowl can get for a night game. Even when the stadium is half-filled, the Orange Bowl makes more noise than a full house at Dolphins Stadium. Gottta love the "Overrated!" chants directed to the Texas A&M team.

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