By Shasky Clarke
Miami (1-0) 34, FAU (0-1) 6
The Miami Hurricanes beat the FAU Owls 34 to 6 in their season opener. The point differential could have been worse as Miami dropped two to three would-be touchdowns, including a probable interception return for touchdown by linebacker Denzel Perryman. Clearly one of the top ten players in college football, Miami running back Duke Johnson starred, averaging about ten yards per carry and delivering a number of big plays. The defense held FAU to six points, dependent largely upon FAU’s quarterback woes.
Stephen Morris threw for only 160 yards and a touchdown, failing to lead what was expected to be an elite passing attack. The Hurricanes starting defensive line struggled to generate a ton of pass rush for much of the game but freshman end Al-Quadin Muhammad flashed heavily in third-down nickel situations. Ultimately, Miami is facing some questions on both sides of the ball heading into its touted match-up with the Florida Gators in week two.
Passing: Stephen Morris 15-27, 160 yards, 1 TD 1 INT
Rushing: Duke Johnson 19 car., 186 yards, 9.8 avg., 1 TD
Receiving: Clive Walford 3 rec., 34 yards, 1 TD
Underwhelming Miami Passing Performance
The Miami passing game disappointed in week one. It was supposed to be an explosive, vertical attack filled with dynamic pass catching weapons and a plethora of chunk plays. But against an up and coming FAU defense, senior quarterback Stephen Morris and the Hurricanes failed to hook up down the field.
Morris continued to show some inconsistency quickly finding open receivers even while showcasing his great arm talent on two picturesque completions on wheel routes to receiver Herb Waters and tight end Clive Walford. The pass protection wasn’t quite seamless, with left guard Malcolm Bunche giving up penetration inside on multiple occasions. Freshman receiver Stacy Coley dropped at least one touchdown.
The positive was that starters, Herb Waters and Allen Hurns, were able to flash their ability to elude defenders and be difficult to bring down in the open field. But while FAU had a strong pass defense in 2012 and senior cornerback Keith Reaser is a legitimate NFL prospect, the fact that FAU was so competitive doesn’t bode well looking forward to next week’s Florida match-up. Miami failed to get any kind of consistent separation and 4.3 receiver Phillip Dorsett caught just two balls for 14 yards.
The fact remains that Miami is facing some change in the play calling with the transition from Jedd Fisch to James Coley. While it’s too early to attribute this disappointment to that change, it is something to note.
Miami Defense Still a Question Mark
Miami held FAU to a mere six points. But it wasn’t really due to a dominating performance. There is a strong argument to be made that if FAU had a capable passer at quarterback, Miami would have given up plenty in the passing game.The starting defensive line struggled to get any kind of dependable pass rush early on.
The FAU offense suffered a significant drop by receiver William Dukes downfield and, generally, the three Owl quarterbacks displayed a lack of timing, accuracy and pocket poise. The passers failed to complete balls to receivers who were often open.
Starting ends Anthony Chickillo and Shayon Greene did not display dynamic pass rushing. But super athletic freshman defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad flashed enough to warrant additional time with the starters sooner rather than later.
In the secondary, sophomore cornerback Antonio Crawford was beat a few times and plays largely in the slot. Talented corners Ladarius Gunter and Tracy Howard played fairly well but were mostly untested by the Owl passing game. The defense may be better suited to playing tight man coverage on the outside to eliminate easy completions underneath.
Overall, the team faces uncertainty about how it will match up against a real quarterback, like Florida’s Jeff Driskel.
RB Duke Johnson
Johnson was Heisman-esque, dominating FAU’s defensive with his open field elusiveness, power and balance, and top-end speed and explosiveness. He broke tackles and consistently outran defenders to the edge. He is on his way towards a historic season and a terrific NFL career.
DE Al-Quadin Muhammad
Freshman end Muhammad was great when given opportunities to rush in nickel packages. He is clearly an explosively quick and sudden athlete and got penetration a number of times, getting in on at least one significant quarterback hit. But he also flashed his power at the point of contact even with his relatively lean frame. Given the lack of consistent pressure by the starters, Muhammad showed he deserves to get much more playing time in base packages.
Miami: Home versus ranked Florida, Saturday 9/7
FAU: Away at East Carolina, Saturday 9/7