Get your bowling shoes out, everyone, because the Canes are going bowling. No, it isn't the type of bowl we were all hoping for. Yes, I realize this season has been far less than what we all expect from this program. And yes, I am WELL aware of all the opinions out there about the coaching staff. Check all of that at the door, because we are here to talk about a football game. A football game where Miami has a chance to get it's first bowl win since 2006 against a team from the vaunted SEC. This week, we are going to look at a match-up between two seniors who will be playing in their final collegiate football games; Miami Defensive End Anthony Chickillo and South Carolina Quarterback Dylan Thompson.
Season to Date
Going into the way back machine, Chickillo is a third generation Hurricane making his final start in a Hurricanes Uniform. He is a former 4-star recruit that was part of Al Golden's first recruiting class back in 2011. This season, Chickillo was expected to be one of the leaders of the Miami defense before the season started, and the results have been a mixed bag. Chick finished the season with 2 sacks, 38 total tackles, and 3.5 tackles for loss, according to hurricanesports.com. While those are all career low numbers, he seemed as disruptive and active as he has been at any point in his career as a Hurricane. The less sugar-coated part of that, however, is that his activity did not translate to great play on the field for his team. While Miami's defensive showed improvement on paper, anybody that watched the games can see that this defense has a long way to go to be considered even in the top half of power 5 conference units.
Thompson is fifth year senior that has patiently waited his turn at USC throughout his career. Like Chickillo, however, his senior campaign and did not exactly go as planned. Thompson put up good individual numbers in his first year as a starter, throwing for almost 3,300 yards, 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His play, however, did not translate to team success, as South Carolina ended the regular season with the same record as their bowl counterpart; 6-6 (3-5 in SEC play).
Chick has always been caught somewhere between a 4-3 rush end and a 3-4 power end. He is currently listed at 6'4, 282 and that looks about right when you see him on the field. He doesn't quite have the burst of a true rush end, but doesn't exactly have the strength and power of a run stuffing end or tackle.
Thompson is your prototypical pocket passer quarterback. at 6'3 218, he wants to stand back in the pocket and see his receivers over the line. He is not a legitimate running threat.
Passing Skills vs Pass Rush Skills
Thompson is going to begin this game at a bit of a disadvantage with the news earlier this week that talented receiver Shaq Roland is no longer with the team. That just means that he will be looking more for the team's leading receiver, Pharoh Cooper (Let my football go! Hanukkah joke, anybody? No? Moving on...). Like I mentioned above, Thompson isn't exactly a threat to run, but if you give him time in the pocket he will find his receivers and pick you apart. Thompson is a veteran of Steve Spurrier's offense and will make you pay if you let him.
This is where Chickillo has to make the most of his final collegiate game. He and the rest of the Miami defensive line has to get pressure on Thompson and disrupt his rhythm. Chick is a power rusher that will relies on his size and strength to get past blockers. If nothing else, he needs to absorb blockers and free up space for speed rushers like Tyriq McCord and Thurston Armbrister. Miami cannot afford to give Thompson all day in the pocket like they have done many, many times this year.
Other than those mentioned above, there are plenty of reasons Miami should want to win this game. Other than the seniors that have gone their whole careers without winning a bowl game, this could be the last game in a Miami uniform for one of the greatest running backs in school history, Duke Johnson. Plus, who doesn't want to beat Steve Spurrier? I realize that this match-up doesn't exactly feature two guys that will see each other every play, but it symbolizes a key component to the game; can Miami put pressure on the Quarterback and get off the field on third downs? If Chickillo and the Miami front seven can disrupt Thompson's rhythm with his receivers, they can get the ball to Brad Kaaya and the explosive Miami offense and stay off the field as much as possible. If they can get that, i think this team can get it's second win versus an SEC team in as many years.
Happy Holidays from the State of the U, everyone. Go Canes.