College Football Recap: Miami vs. Florida State

For the first time on a Labor Day game featuring these two rivals, Monday’s game between rivals Miami and Florida State was a very exciting game to watch.  Here is  a quick look at the strengths and weaknesses that each team showed last night:

Miami

Questions Answered:  Although I was very skeptical of Jacory Harris and his ability to lead an offense, he came

Harris stepped up in a big way against FSU on Monday

Harris stepped up in a big way against FSU on Monday

through with flying colors on Monday.  The FSU defense did not get much pressure on him, and Harris made them pay, en route to 386 yards passing to go along with two touchdowns.  As expected, the ‘Noles made it tough for the ‘Canes to run the ball, forcing Harris to beat them, and that is exactly what he did.

The other thing we learned about Miami is that not only is Graig Cooper a talented running back, he is also an explosive kickoff returner.  Last year, due the depth issues at tailback, the Miami coaching staff kept Cooper on the sidelines for kickoffs.  Now, with a healthy Javarris James, the ‘Canes are able to utilize more of Cooper’s skill set.  All he did in the Labor Day match up was gain 177 yards on kick returns, averaging over 35 yards per return.

Key Concerns: 

1.  Pass Defense:  A glaring issue with Miami’s team in 2008 was their defense, or lack thereof.  While the ‘Canes defense was able to slow down FSU’s running game, they were picked apart by Christian Ponder and the FSU receivers.  Either FSU’s passing offense is that good, or Miami still has some major issues on that side of the ball in 2009.

2.  Timeouts:  Another concern is the UM coaching staff and their lack of managing their timeouts.  In this match up, it did not negatively affect the outcome, but burning through timeouts like the ‘Canes did, especially in the first half will bite them if that continues.

Florida State

Questions Answered: 

Greg Reid showed Monday why he was an elite high school prospect last season

Greg Reid showed Monday why he was an elite high school prospect last season

1.  Ponder has stepped up his game: 

Much like Miami, FSU confirmed that they have a solid quarterback.  Christian Ponder did some great things last year with his ability to run, but his passing statistics were nothing to write home about.  Ponder was very decisive and effective all night, and engineered what would have been the game-winning drive by hitting his receiver in the end zone as time expired.  The ball was dropped, but Ponder showed great poise and put his team in position to win because of his arm.

2.  True Freshman, Greg Reid, is the real deal:  Reid was a highly-touted player out of Lowndes High School in Valdosta, GA, and he more than delivered in his first game at Florida State.  Reid took one kick return 51 yards, and ultimately, forced Miami to squibb their kickoffs the rest of the game to keep the ball out of his hands.  He also had a hand in each Miami turnover, intercepting one pass, and disrupting Jacory Harris’ throw on a blitz, which resulted in Marcus White’s pick-six.

Key Concerns:

1.  Passing Defense:  As previously mentioned, Jacory Harris had a great game, but much of that success was his ability to make the FSU secondary pay for a lack of a pass rush and blown coverages.  Harris had way too much time to make his reads, and if the ‘Noles cannot find someone who can apply pressure, BYU quarterback Max Hall will have a field day on September 19.  And other than Greg Reid, the FSU secondary seemed a step behind the Miami wideouts all night.

2.  Kickoff Coverage:  FSU had a couple of dangerous kick returners to deal with, but Graig Cooper’s big day returning kicks had a lot to do with his speed and vision, but it also had to do with dismal coverage by Florida State.  FSU started last season with poor kickoff coverage, but they picked it up when Lou Groza Award winner, Graham Gano returned to the line up and provided deeper kickoffs.  Gano is gone, and true freshman, Dustin Hopkins showed that he has a strong leg with his 52-yard field goal in the second quarter.  Hopkins either has to get more touchbacks, or the coverage has to improve, or the Seminole defense could be dealing with a short field a lot this season.

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