Things were far from perfect for the Miami secondary in the second half of last weekend's far too close for comfort win over Nebraska.
The Huskers roared back from 23 points down to force OT, largely on the throwing arm of QB Tommy Armstrong.
UM's D has breakdowns at all three levels, and two huge penalties on Deon Bush and Jamal Carter certainly did not help things.
Nor did Tracy Howard having a few plays where he never found the football, allowing his man to make big time catches, including the game tying TD/2 pt. conversion.
But it wasn't all bad.
In fact through 3 quarters the Hurricanes defensive back field was down right sparkling.
On the season, Bush and Carter have been very steady. Ditto Rayshawn Jenkins (2 INTs).
But the two most significant developments have been the suddenly lights out play that Miami is getting from CBs Corn Elder and Artie Burns.
Elder was clearly UM's player of the game Vs Bethune Cookman in UM's with a pass defensed, sack, 2 TFLs, and 2 punt returns TDs (one called back) all before halftime.
His outstanding play was again on display this past weekend.
Corn Elder is Johnny on the spot again. Stops screen pass on 3rd down. #UM— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) September 19, 2015
Corn Elder with a big pass breakup in coverage. Been saying his name a lot this year #UM— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) September 19, 2015
And of course he made the game saving play that clinched the 36-33 win over Nebraska.
The name of the player whose huge OT interception helped Miami survive the Cornhuskers? Corn Elder. Yep. pic.twitter.com/YeLVNseCjU— ESPN (@espn) September 19, 2015
On the day, the rising junior from Nashville Tennessee had an incredible 4 pass break ups (could have 5 as he got his fingers on the ball in the 4th Q on Bush's targeting penalty) to go along with that huge INT.
Coach Al Golden has taken notice,
"He’s a super athlete. That play that he made, he opened his hips completely and caught the ball. He has great hand-eye coordination. He’s just a great kid."
At 5'10 190 and with sticky cover skills, a nose for the ball, and solid form tackling skills, Elder is playing like a poor man's Darrelle Revis.
What's allowed him to get better?
"Just focusing on football I’ve gotten stronger, faster and my technique has gotten better," Elder told the media following the win.
Do not be surprised if opposing QB's start to stay away from "Corn Island."
However on the opposite side of the field, things aren't much easier against the 'Canes.
6'0 197 pound junior Artie Burns is displaying the ball skills of a poor man's Richard Sherman.
Congrats Artie Burns first Cane to have an INT in 3 straight game since Sean Taylor— Steve Feinberg (@canesthing) September 20, 2015
And on top his equally impressive ball skills, Burns has been such a solid tackler that former UM players Kelvin Harris and Earl Little told me he was already being looked at by NFL Scouts and could even be a safety at the next level (think Antrel Rolle).
But Burns knows both he and the D as a whole can still be better.
"We just weren’t doing our job (in the second half). Guys were out of coverage, not in their gap, so they were making explosive plays. That’s why you come to meetings the next day to get everything corrected."
With Elder and Burns leading the way and continuing to improve, the 'Canes have arguably one of the best defensive back groups in the ACC, if not the country.
Here's hoping the rest of the D cleans up some errors to match them and these two continue to elevate their play.
(They make a good team during pressers as well)