Miami and Arkansas St. meet up this Saturday for only the second time. While Arkansas St. has a name and conference that screams "lay up", Miami comes into Saturday's match-up desperately needing to work some things out on offense; and can ill afford to take this team lightly. Both come into their match-up 1-1, with their wins coming over lesser opponents. Last week Arkansas St. played well in a loss against Tennessee, while Miami did their best to make a 41-7 win against FAMU look "Mehh".
Arkansas State: The Red Wolves come straight outta the Sun Belt where they have won the conference the past three years. For everything you could ever want to know, check out @SBN_BillC 's Big Arkansas State Preview here. In a nutshell, the Redwolves have gone through a bunch of really good coaches lately and it's worked out okay for them. When A-State burns Miami with something that looks like it came straight out of Auburn's playbook - it was. because Gus Malzahn had a stopover in Arkansas and installed his pain in the butt offense. You may remember their current head coach from Miami's ACC Coastal BFF UNC. Blake Anderson was the Tarheels OC in 2012 and 2013. I did the math - 986 yards of total offense - sweet. Now it doesn't matter what UNC was able to do to Miami two years ago. What I am saying though is to expect a well coached, irritating offense.
Their offense isn't just gimmick running either. They run a read option, it's fairly balanced between running and passing, but they do rely on duel threat QB Fredi Knighten to do both. Against Montana, the team ran for just under 300 yards, while they passed for just over 260. Last week they played Tennessee, which should be closer to Miami's level of talent ( though at this point Im not sure anymore, someone should fly a banner over the stadium that trash's the coching staff or something :/ ZING) ASU rushed for 141 yards and passed for 190 - not bad. They typically don't have many big plays, and spread the ball around in the passing game. Against Tennessee, nine different players caught one or more passes. Here are some highlights from their week one match up against Montana.
Knighten will be the primary headache for Miami on Saturday. So far this season he has rushed 29 times for 165 yards and has passed for about 385 yards. Miami has had issues dealing with mobile quarterbacks lately, so we should see just how far the defense has come. Knighten is the leading rusher this year, but Michael Gordon is the starting running back. He's only gotten seven carries a game, but is still dangerous.
On the defensive side, LB Qushaun Lee was compared to Denzel Perryman by Al Golden earlier this week. He's listed as 5-11, 225; and can hit, so it's easy to make the jump. Lee is one of the top tacklers on the team, and has a sack and interception. Miami hasn't looked overly sharp on offense, so Lee might be in for a big game. The defense so far hasn't shown any major strength or weakness. UT averaged 3.7 yards per rush last week while giving up 11.2 yards per completion. Much like Miami on the defensive side of the ball, most of their depth and talent comes from the back seven. Miami didn't look all too sharp on offense against an FCS school last week, so A- State will just have to play what they feel comfortable in until Miami forces them out of it.
Miami: UM looked better on offense against FAMU. Not as good as they should have though. QB Brad Kaaya has another week of practice under his belt, and has had a full week to prepare this time. Normally that wouldn't mean much, but being that he's a true freshman that wasn't here for spring, every little bit helps.
It's tough to gauge a performance against an FCS school, so I will go off of the assumption that Duke Johnson is still really good - so UM has that going for them. Past that, a few other things that were encouraging last week were the performances from Phillip Dorsett and Joe Yearby. Yearby had 95 yards, averaging nearly 7 yards a carry. Dorsett had two nice TDs which was a welcome sign - it didn't seem like he and Kaaya were on the same page all that much in week one. The interesting problem that has arisen is with Braxton Berrios. It's amazing that he's become a go-to target, but I wonder if he's getting used too much? WIth a stable of athletes he may have become the easy throw and not always the right throw. Again, it's a true freshman QB and I could be wrong, but expect Berrios to garner a lot of attention from defenses from now on.
Stacy Coley has had issues with both shoulders so far this season. He has been held out of practice all week, and UM announced yesterday that he will not be playing this week. This means more opportunities for the aforementioned Berrios, as well as Herb Waters and Malcolm Lewis. Look for Berrios to get the nod as Coley's replacement in punt returns.
The defense has looked good so far but will be tested this week. Thurston Armbrister has stepped up and helped out a thin LB core. Last week he had two sacks and a forced fumble. Jermaine Grace also had a big game last week, and according to coach Golden, earned himself some more playing time. Miami hasn't had an interception yet, and gave up a few big plays in the passing game. They were bailed out a few times from penalties, but won't keep getting second chances. Tracy Howard has been one of the most talented players on the defense since his freshman year, so I have faith it will turn around for him. It just needs to turn around soon. WIth the way A State runs their offense the defense will need to play smart moreso than aggressive, like they do when they play GT.
It doesn't look like AQM will play again this week so it will be the same rotation along the D line. Things have gone pretty well so far, but Arkansas State's QB will be difficult to deal with. They will need to keep him contained and not let their momentum leave open lanes for him to run through. So far Miami's tackling has been pretty good, so they will need to keep it up. Most of Arkansas State's highlight reel is players bouncing off of would be tacklers - something Miami is all too familiar with. Saturday will be another chance for Anthony Chickillo and Co to show how much they have improved.
Did You Know? Rodger Bumpass the voice of Squidward from SpongeBob went to A-State.
When and Where to Watch
ESPNU at 3:30
WQAM AM 560