After taking a week off the Cards are traveling down to the Hard Rock ‘Cafe’ to hopefully feast on a buffet of players and fans alike who are suffering from a rivalry game hangover. Hopefully, like many of the Cards opponents thus far in 2019, they are somewhat unsuspecting of the Bird with teeth, who is bring his knife and fork and looking to eat.
This week I chatted it up with Cam Underwood from over at ‘State Of The U’ who is one of the few that gave me a little something to work with this year. If you want a formal Q&A go read a newspaper, if you want two grown folks talking about pizza and win streaks you’re in the right spot. Lets get after it....
Miami has had a bit of a roller coaster season thus far, starting out early pushing the Top 10 Gators to the brink but then dropping a couple head scratchers against Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Is this just the product of a young staff and the challenges that come along with it?
SOTU: Partly that, partly a program with a different coach than last year, and partly the growing pains of a young team. Miami only has 75-ish scholarship players on the roster (well under the 85 scholarship limit for FBS teams), and 51 of them are freshmen or sophomores. Even with some good senior leaders, it’s taken time to get the consistency in performance that Miami hoped for heading into this season. And yes, Manny Diaz being a first time head coach (no, he’d never been the HC at any level before this year) is also a factor that cannot be overlooked. It’s just not the ONLY factor in how things have gone for Miami this season.
Speaking of new coach Manny Diaz, he has a background that puts a tad more emphasis on the defensive side of the football. Miami, under the direction of Diaz continues to put a solid product on the field even after his move from DC to Head Coach. What type of defense does Diaz typically run, and what makes it so successful?
SOTU: Miami’s defense is multiple in terms of alignment, and able to adjust to various offensive styles from the opposition. The main thing that makes the defense successful is the focus on creating havoc. TFLs. Sacks. Pressures. Turnovers. If you’ve watched Miami in the last 4 years (when Diaz was DC and now HC), you know what I’m talking about: a fierce, relentless front 7 that will occasionally dial up pressure from the secondary, and a defense that has created more turnovers than anyone in the last few seasons. Sure, there are players making plays, but the scheme is predicated on finding ways to get the opposing offense behind the sticks, and that has worked to great measure over Diaz’s tenure here at Miami.
Staying on that side of the ball, Miami has some guys that are making me sweat through my Cardinal PJs at night. Defensive Lineman Gregory Rousseau is second in the country with 12 sacks already this season, and Shaq Quarterman has another ten and a half TFL, not to mention Romeo Finley and Michael Pinckney at the LB spot. How does Diaz get them behind the line of scrimmage with such frequency?
SOTU: Awwww. You wear Cardinal PJs now. That’s cute. Do you pair them with your standard Superman underoos?
(Editors note: Like any grown adult would....of course, I do)
ANYWAYS, like I said above, the overall defensive scheme is predicated on creating havoc and getting up the field. For the defensive line, that’s standard on run and pass downs. Gone is the passive, 2-gap defense employed by the former regime (well, 2 regimes ago now), and in is a 1-gap-and-go defense. And, when you have the kind of talent that Miami does on defense, it’s easy for those players to pick a gap and get up the field.
And that’s not just on the DL, either. Everybody on the defense has their job to do, and their gap to fill, on every play. With seniors like Quarterman, Pinckney, and Finley at LB, and a plethora of talented DL, Miami is able to accomplish that goal on more plays than not. That’s short-story-long of me saying that the foundation of the defense is getting guys aligned to penetrate a single gap on a given play, and that style fits this roster to perfection, and that’s why and how Miami has gotten that to work, and the defense to be as disruptive as they are.
That front seven for Miami is also only allowing 97.78 yards/g on the ground, one of only two ACC teams keeping teams under 100 yards on average. How do you think they’ll fair against one of the ACC’s Top rushing attacks in Louisville?
SOTU: I think they’ll fare well against Louisville’s rushing attack because that’s what they’ve done this year, and in previous years, and until they fail in that pursuit, I’m going to believe that they’ll succeed. Now, I know Louisville’s run game is strong, and Javian Hawkins is personally averaging 111 yards rushing per game. So, this won’t be an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination. But Miami has stymied other good rushing attacks this year and in recent years as well, and even held a VERY talented back — FSU’s Cam Akers — to 66 yards last week when the Noles did everything they could to get him going. This is a strength-on-strength matchup for sure, especially when you consider that Louisville runs the ball twice as frequently as they throw it, but Miami’s defense is built to stop, or contain, the run. And I think they’ll be able to do that on Saturday.
On the other side of the ball I think it’s fair to say that the Canes like to attack teams through the air. “Dual Threat” Freshman QB Jarren Williams had a career day through the air last week against FSU but still hasn’t shown much overall with his legs. What’s the story on what he brings to the offense thus far?
SOTU: Miami likes to attack through the air but the foundation of the offense is the run game. No, it hasn’t been as successful as Louisville’s has, but even in games when the run has struggled, Miami has stuck with it.
As far as QB is concerned, Williams and N’Kosi Perry have both started multiple games. Williams, however, is the player the coaches prefer, and now that he’s healthy again (he had a bit of an arm/shoulder injury earlier this year), he’s back at the controls. Williams is a very accurate passer in the short and intermediate ranges. And, as seen against FSU, he has the ability to take the top off of the defense with deep throws now that the OL is playing better, and his arm is healthy. Williams isn’t the most fleet afoot, but given space he can run for a first down here or there. The other QBs, Perry and Tate Martell, are the dual threat guys. Williams is a pocket passer with good-enough athleticism to run if needed. And now that he’s back healthy and finding his groove, he can put up big numbers through the air for the Canes.
While “The Turnover Chain” caught some flack nationally as a gimmick it has produced some on field results. Diaz, as DC at the time, was one of the key contributors to its creation and since 2017 Miami is actually +17 in turnovers, including +5 so far in 2019. How have they been so successful in forcing turnovers?
SOTU: Let’s be clear: Diaz was THE mastermind behind the now-iconic Turnover Chain. And Miami is so good at forcing turnovers because 1. they practice getting them daily (strip sack drills, fumble recovery drills, and coverage drills to be aware of the ball for interceptions), and 2. they play hard nearly every snap. A lot of getting turnovers is based upon effort and luck. So Miami works hard on the techniques to separate the ball from the offensive player, and they play hard, which takes care of the effort part. And, when you play hard, good things usually happen. Those things aligning is why Miami has been successful in forcing turnovers these last few years.
Miami welcomed Louisville to the ACC back in 2014, taking a loss (31-13) so the Cards could start their ACC journey on a positive note (appreciate that). That of course was coming off the bowl game victory over Miami the season prior (36-9), and the 2006 win (31-7) at Cardinal Stadium. If my math checks out, that’s a three game win streak, Cam. Do the Cards make it four? Do the Canes keep it rolling? Who punches their ticket to bowl eligibility this weekend?
SOTU: For all the talk of “Miami and their fans living in the past”...WHY YOU BRINGIN UP OLD SH*T?!?!?!
To the heart of your question: no, the Cards do not continue their winning streak against Miami. The Canes are getting things going in a good direction and after 2 tough road wins at Pittsburgh and at Florida State, the Canes return home to Hard Rock Stadium and take care of an improved, feisty, AND APPARENTLY TROLL READY Louisville team on the Homecoming/Senior Day/Official Visit weekend triple combo game.
I think this one will be tough because Miami won’t skirt by with 16 points and win. Against this Louisville team, Miami will have to put up some serious crooked numbers on the scoreboard, but Louisville’s defense will enable that to happen.
Final score: Miami 34 Louisville 27
Huge thanks to Cam for offering up some time and insight into the Canes. Give him a follow here and the ‘State of The U’ account a follow here. I also chatted it up with them earlier this week about the Cards and you can check that out here as well.
My man has a great site that covers all things Miami related to satisfy your every need. Hows the football squad doing? They got it. Hows the basketball squad that Louisville just rolled up looking? They got it. When is Pitbull’s next concert? Eh....maybe ask Pitino.