Miami Hurricanes fans have been clamoring for a return to the dominant defenses of years gone by and when not seeing it in losses to Louisville, Nebraska and Georgia Tech have been vocal in calling for the heads of Defensive Coordinator Mark D'Onofrio and Head Coach Al Golden. Of late, they are getting their wish. No, the coaches are not getting fired. Instead the defense is getting fired up in a big way. Feel free to look up the stats for yourself, which are very good, but I would argue they are still a little skewed as Miami has given up some yards and scores in garbage time when games were already well in hand.
I have been following The U since the late 70s and am an alumni, Class of ‘86. As a freshman, I watched Schnelly prowling the sidelines with Jim Kelly slinging it all over the field for the Canes and as such, it was fitting to be in attendance for the Homecoming game that celebrated Kelly Tough.
It was amazing to see JK12 again, to see him doing so well after all his struggles and to recall the memories and what he means to this program. Having listened to his emotional halftime speech about turning this program around and bringing more National Championships to The U, I know he was proud of this solid victory. Perhaps even more proud might have been former All-American defensive tackle Russell Maryland, in attendance to be accepted into the UM Ring of Honor along with the late, great Jerome Brown.
The Miami defense was indeed looking like the Canes of old as they refused to give up a score in the first half for the second straight game allowing the offense to amass a huge lead. While it is usually the "stars" that get all the credit, for me it was Tyriq McCord who's work and effort on the field most reminded me of the former greats.
McCord came out on to the field for the second half with bad intentions. Having told leading tackler and top NFL prospect, Denzel Perryman, in the locker room at halftime to "match his intensity" per Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald. McCord was fast, relentless and aggressive, making plays all over the field all day long, but as I watched from the stands one series stood out in particular. Midway through the third quarter, with the Carolina offense mounting their first effective drive, junior defensive end McCord took over.
On first down from the Miami 37, McCord dropped Marquise Williams, Carolina's leading rusher for a half yard gain on a QB keeper. After a penalty, Williams second down pass sailed incomplete, setting the Heels up for a huge 3rd and 14. From his standup defensive end position, McCord used a speed rush and blazed past his man almost untouched to blindside Williams for an 8-yard loss and force yet another punt.
Effectively ending any hopes Carolina had of scoring on what started out as a promising drive for the Tar Heels. The ensuing snap flew high over the punter's head and hustling downfield for the recovery at the Carolina 12 yard line, you guessed it, Tyriq McCord. Three plays later true freshman running back, Joe Yearby had his first collegiate score and though they fought hard, Carolina would never recover from being down 44-6.
Four downs, three amazing personal efforts, excellent job young man. Denzel Perryman got the most tackles, Duke Johnson got the most yards, but for me Tyriq McCord gets a game ball as well for heart, hustle and a passion that has been lacking for far too long.
Is the dominant Canes defense back? They have been for four of their last five games. Smothering, swarming and mauling the offensive attacks of Duke, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. With the CFP second-ranked and undefeated Florida State Seminoles up next on the horizon, Miami is playing it's best and most complete football in years. Just in time to set up what could be another epic showdown for the ages.