Everyone likes to mix and match combinations of items to get their desired end result. Whether it's cocktails or toppings on a pizza, everyone has that right mix that makes things perfect. Football is the same way except it takes an offense, defense and the special team to all find their right ingredients of play calling and scheming to get a victory.
Miami has been on quite a ride the last three weeks. The season as a whole however has seen many stutters and starts by the offense and the defense but the last three weeks has seen both phases firing on all cylinders. How did we get here though? What has been the correct mix by both Offensive Coordinator James Coley and the ever adored Defensive Coordinator Mark D'Onofrio? Check it out after the jump.
Coach Golden the last two weeks has said adamantly that the defensive philosophy has not changed. They haven't blitzed more or been more aggressive with safety play. Rather, the players are simply executing what has been called and are not "freelancing as often." So let's assume what Coach Golden says is gospel. Let's look at the offense over the course of the entire season to see if they've been the ones who've changed..
With freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya starting at Quarterback the offense was deliberately conservative. It was apparent to all watching the game and even afterwards the coaching staff reluctantly agreed that the play selection was vanilla. Duke Johnson is a talented and versatile player but if the same calls are made over and over the defense will key on him and limit his ability. The other facet of the offense, the passing game, was also too conservative by even the most average play calling standards. Kaaya was asked to throw quick slants and wide receiver screens for the predominant part of the game. Towards the conclusion as Louisville pulled away Kaaya started to go deep out of necessity and that's when he was picked off on two occasions.
WEEKS TWO THROUGH SIX
As mentioned previously, Coley and even Golden acknowledged that the play calling was too conservative to pull a victory out in the tough environment at Papa John's Coliseum. Both agreed that the play calling would be more dynamic and that going forward Brad Kaaya and the aerial attack would be more diverse.
Even though through this stretch of games Miami went 3-2 it was apparent that Brad Kaaya had both the talent and the skill set to play quarterback at the division one level. In arguably one of the toughest environments in college football, playing at night in Nebraska, he threw for 359 yards. This game seemed to give him confidence in both his own abilities and the skill players around him. During this stretch of games (five) he threw for 1,346 yards for an average of 9.44 yards per attempt (throwing anything over 7+ is really good).
The biggest benefactor of the suddenly aggressive passing game was speedy wide out Philip Dorsett and Clive Walford. Dorsett is amongst the NCAA leaders in yards per catch at 30.1 per reception (19 for 572 with 6 TD's) and Walford is in the running for the Mackey Award which is given to the best tight end in college football with his 395 yards receiving and 6 reception touchdowns.
All the offensive passing numbers were good but with Miami opening up the offense, the defense was executing but they weren't being necessarily effective in killing the opponent drives. If you looked at their per play yards given up, the defense was doing well. However, they were simply on the field too long. Now, sometimes it was due to their feeble attempts on third down stops but it also was coupled with the fact that the offense was simply flaming out too often with over aggression in play selection. Going for the long ball can lead to chunk gains. If you miss however it can set the offense back or worse, lead to turnovers.
Heading into the three game span of Cincinnati-VT-UNC, Coach Coley decided to try a different approach to play calling and it has delivered aces..
WEEKS 7 THROUGH 9
Miami's offense changed. They were going to hand the ball to Duke Johnson, they were going to screen pass to Duke Johnson and if he got tired they were going to do the same thing with Joe Yearby or Gus Edwards. If you didn't like it you needed to get out of the way. Period.
Could Kaaya throw the ball long to Dorsett or Waters or Stacy Coley? Sure, but it wasn't necessary. The offense leaned on its road graders along the offensive line and the three pronged attack at running back. With the occasional passes over the middle to Walford and short to middle distance passes to the wideouts Kaaya hasn't gone completely into "game manager" mode but he has thrown the ball less downfield which is not a bad thing.
With the offense slowing down that has allowed the defense to catch their breath. As the Canes offense has churned out drives instead of throwing quick scores the defense has had time to scheme for the next drive. This is a partial reason interceptions have been on an uptick the last month of the season. With more time to prep for each drive, passing coverage's and opponents routes can be more thoroughly vetted and game planned for. If a defense is coming off the field and 5 plays later is asked to go back out there again, obviously they won't be as knowledgeable as to what to do to stop the opponent on the next drive.
WHAT THE NUMBERS MEAN AND WHAT IS THE RIGHT MIX
The facts are pretty simple, here's the breakdown:
- When Kaaya attempts 24 or less passes in a game Miami has won five times. Their other victory was against Duke when he threw the ball 34 times.
- When the Canes rush the ball 27 or more times they are 6-0.
- When the Canes rush for 108 or more yards they are 6-0.
- When the Canes have 27 minutes or more time of possession they are 6-0.
It seems that Coach Coley may have found the proper mix of offensive play calling to keep the offense on the field and honestly, more importantly, keep the defense off. The less time the defense is on the field the less mistakes they make and the more preparation they have for their upcoming drive. Also, tiring out the oppositions defense can lead to big plays but right now Miami is using ball control to melt the clock and wither their enemy down to a negotiable size.