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Thoughts and observations on Miami's loss to Virginia and its game against Duke

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Here are some of thoughts and observations looking back on the loss to Virginia and looking forward to the game against Duke:

  • It's extremely dissapointing to have lost to Virginia for a second consecutive year, and although UM likely wasn't going to compete for an ACC title anyway even with a win, it's now all but official that it won't be the case this year. If one assumes Miami wins in its favored games the rest of the season (not an easy assumption given that it has lost twice as double-digit favorites at home to Kansas State and Virginia this season), they'll go 7-5 in the regular season, which was their record from a year ago. Given the off-field distractions, it would probably be met with a lukewarm response from the Hurricanes' fanbase, but it isn't what anyone was really hoping for coming into this season, although there have been noticeable improvements both on offense and special teams.
  • Miami's defense simply isn't creating turnovers. It isn't creating turnovers because it hasn't blitzed most of the year until the game against Virginia, but why the team doesn't blitz was proven as Virginia hit two easy touchdowns on a tunnel screen and slant pattern. It may be frustrating for Hurricanes fans, but the team's standard approach to defense of using 7 or 8 defenders in pass coverage may be its best bet.
  • What was probably most alarming about the Virginia game is the lack of intensity from the team in the first half in what should have been a revenge game in front of a nationally-televised audience. The team came out flat, and although they made a nice comeback in the second half, it was far too reminiscent of last year's effort against Virginia where the team fell behind 24-0 before rallying but ultimately coming up short.
  • Duke isn't as talented as Miami, but they are capable of defeating the Hurricanes. The Blue Devils nearly defeated Virginia Tech this Saturday, losing 14-10, and they only lost to Wake Forest by a point at 24-23. The Blue Devils also pass the ball well and have played solid defense as of late. If Miami gets off to another lackadasical start, the crowd will become anxious and that will put even more pressure on the Hurricanes to win than there already is.
  • Special teams play continues to be a bright spot, as UM's kickoff coverage units have been outstanding this season. Jake Wieclaw did miss his second field goal of the year against Virginia (with the other being blocked) but he has been very good this year, and Dalton Botts had a nice night against the Cavaliers as well. Both the kickoff and punt returns have seemed to contribute more this year than they did the previous year as well.
  • It may go unnoticed nationally this year, and it may go unnoticed from last week's game because Miami lost, but Jacory Harris has had a fantastic season for the most part this year. He was great against Virginia as he threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns on a night when Miami didn't get much out of its running game. He has thrown 15 touchdowns while only throwing four interceptions this season (and one of those interceptions, which was thrown off John Calhoun's facemask in the Georgia Tech was certainly not his fault). Clemson's Tajh Boyd will likely be vited 1st-team All-ACC quarterback and, but don't be surprised if Harris is voted on s the 2nd-team All-ACC quarterback. One now has to wonder given Harris's performance where or if he might be given consideration in the 2012 NFL Draft.

For more information, please visit: www.miamiherald.com, www.collegefootballnews.com, www.nationalchamps.net, and www.espn.com

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