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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Syracuse Edition

Recapping Miami’s 8-point win over Syracuse as only the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly can.

Syracuse v Miami
Christopher Herndon IV (23) and Ahmmon Richards (82) celebrate Herndon’s early TD vs Syracuse.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Whew. Man, we gotta stop meeting like this, guys.

After yet another down-to-the-wire game, a 27-19 win over the upset-minded Syracuse Orange, the Miami Hurricanes are undefeated at 6-0. Here’s more in my game recap:

And a quick hitter on the fact that, after 6 games, the Miami Hurricanes are now Bowl Eligible:

With no further ado, let’s dive into The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from today’s game vs Syracuse:

The Good

  • A Win. No, it wasn’t pretty the whole time, but a win is a win and that’s fine by me. 6-0 and undefeated. Let’s ride.
  • Michael Jackson with a first quarter interception, which let us see the Turnover Chain yet again
  • Jaquan Johnson got the Turnover Chain on the very next possession, after covering A LOT of ground to get to an overthrown ball.
  • Ahmmon Richards hurdled a dude who was standing straight up, so that’s cool
  • Michael Badgley continued his strong season. He hit FGs of 18 and 39 in the first half and added 3 extra points on the day. Every point counts, and Miami has one of the best kickers in America, so that’s a good thing.
  • Miami held Syracuse to 137 yards of offense on 47 plays in the first half. That comes out to 2.9 yards per play — an ELITE defensive performance, to be sure.
  • The Defense’s ball skills. Miami had 4 interceptions on the day (2 by Michael Jackson, 1 by Jaquan Johnson, and 1 by Demetrius Jackson (which he got ripped away from him by the Cuse QB). Add to that a fumble recovery (negated by penalty) and 10 (!!!!!) PBUs — including 5 by DT RJ McIntosh — and that’s a damn good day for the defense and their ball skills, if you ask me. And that’s INCLUDING 2 more dropped picks, too!!!
  • Miami’s conditioning, especially on defense. The Orange ran 93 plays, so that means the defense was out there for 93 snaps. That’s only 5 more plays than were run by Duke against Miami earlier, but the backups were in late in that game. Miami’s main rotation guys were in until the last play, and obviously took time off, but there were no issues of cramping or widespread fatigue. Great job to be in shape, and great job by the strength and conditioning staff to get the team in this kind of shape.
  • Oh hey. Michael Jackson had ANOTHER interception, and with it, became the first #Canes player to earn the Turnover Chain twice in the same game. Say what you want, but MJ been ballin’ this season.
  • Michael Pinckney’s game. 9 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, and 2.5 sacks. No turnover chain for 56 today, but he did enough where he didn’t even need it. Great game.
  • RJ McIntosh’s game. He was unblockable for Syracuse’s offensive line, and it showed. 5 tackles, 5 PBUs (a RIDICULOUS STAT for a DT), and 1 QB Hurry. 80 was in the backfield early and often for the Canes and he disrupted plenty of Syracuse’s 93 offensive plays.
  • 9 TFLs
  • 4 Sacks
  • 10 (!!!!) PBUs
  • 6.4 yards per offensive play
  • 4.3 yards per play by Syracuse (their 2nd lowest total for the season)
  • 13.2 yards per completion
  • 2-2 in red zone scoring (although I wish those were both TDs)
  • 480 yards of total offense
  • No more 1st half Malik! Rosier had a very strong game, although his ball placement could have been better on a couple throws. That’s the type of performance that is needed as the year progresses.
  • The returns of Ahmmon Richards, Michael Pinckney, and Sheldrick Redwine to the lineup. Miami needed all of them to win today, and getting starting level players back is big for this Miami team, which is talented, but doesn’t have the depth on the roster to absorb losing players of this caliber long-term.

The Bad

  • Letting Syracuse hang around for a half. By every metric other than the scoreboard, Miami DOMINATED the first half of this game. Yet, inefficient offense to finish drives only had the lead at 13-3 at halftime. Miami’s shown the ability to play to the ends of games and pull out wins, but the first half should have had some killer instinct and a wider margin on the scoreboard.
  • A picked up flag on a clear defensive pass interference on Syracuse. That play would have extended a crucial Miami drive. Instead, the Canes had to punt.
  • The every-week offensive lull. I hate it when Miami is working on offense so well and then just...stops. I hate it. HATE IT. CMR spoke about consistency after the game, with ball placement and catching the ball. I’d add play calling and overall execution to the list of things that need fixing.
  • Tackling (at times). Gotta wrap up and get guys on the ground, not lunge and let them skate around you.
  • QB contain. Syracuse QB Eric Dungey was able to get around the edge on far too many occasions. Players lost their contain, or were in a contain position but stopped their feet and let the fleet-footed Dungey get around them. I wasn’t too bad, because adjustments were made, but it was worth mentioning.
  • Chunk plays. Miami gave up 10 passes and 2 runs of more than 10 yards. That’s gonna happen vs Syracuse, but it shouldn’t happen because of missed tackles on crossing routes, or blown coverages on 3rd and 25.
  • Miami allowed 9-22 3rd down conversions to Syracuse. After stifling GT on 3rd down last week, this was a bit of regression. It was good, however, to see 22 3rd down plays (that means Syracuse wasn’t just busting loose for huge yardage on every down). I would have liked to see Miami’s D find a way to get off the field just a bit more often in those situations.
  • Demetrius Jackson got debo’d by Syracuse’s QB for the ball after his 1st drive interception of a tipped ball. Can’t have that. You gotta out-muscle the opposing QB for the ball. It’s not like he was wrestling with Cam Newton for the ball or anything.
  • Low snap count for Darrell Langham. I know the speed game isn’t his style, but 81 has been FAR TOO VALUABLE THIS SEASON to not play more snaps. I know most of the lost snaps went to Miami’s returning superstar WR Ahmmon Richards, but I wish Langham could have gotten more burn. He’s earned it, in my opinion.
  • Only 4.3 yards per carry on offense.

The Ugly

  • Ahmmon Richards’ drops. 4 costly drops in the first half prevented Miami from having a much, MUCH larger lead at halftime. He made some great plays, sure, but for a player of Richards’ ability, drops (and THAT MANY DROPS) is flat-out unacceptable.
  • Speaking of Richards and “The Ugly”, Miami’s star receiver re-aggravated his hamstring injury early in the 4th quarter. He came back in the game, tho.
  • More drops. Berrios. Langham. Patchan. Gotta catch the ball, guys.
  • Miami’s continued struggles to end drives with TDs. Miami should have scored 24-31
  • Miami’s continued struggles on 3rd down. Miami went 3-13 on 3rd down today, which was lower than their 34.5% conversion rate coming into today’s game. Miami was JUST BARELY able to overcome that, but this needs addressing now or that won’t be the case later on in the season.
  • Just like last week with Georgia Tech, Syracuse had a very low penalty count. The Orange only had 1 penalty through 3 quarters and just 3 for the game. It’s miraculous how every team that plays Miami never makes any mistakes, or has any penalties. Do better, ACC Refs.
  • Minor injuries. Chad Thomas left for a play. Ahmmon Richards left for a couple plays. Trajan Bandy left for a few plays. Mike Harley hobbled to the sideline after his only catch and wasn’t seen again. Miami doesn’t have another bye week and is thin all round, so even minor injuries can stress the depth on this team. Not a thing we can control, really, but I want to see less of this moving forward.
  • Letting Syracuse hang around for so long. You can’t let teams hang around. That’s how you get beat. Miami was clearly the better team today, but didn’t put the point on the board early to put Syracuse away. There’s no reason this should have been a 7 point game early in the 4th quarter. None. NONE.
  • Derrick Smith in 1-on-1 coverage. I think he may have been able to hold his own vs an X or Z receiver. But putting Smith 1-on-1 in the slow vs Ervin Phillips, possibly the best slot receiver in America, was just unfair to Miami’s freshman S. He was undressed in coverage a couple times, and lucky for Miami, Syracuse missed a couple throws down the field to Phillips.
  • The narrative around this team. As I’ve said before, if Miami wore “Alabama” or “USC” or “Michigan” on their jerseys, close wins would be “championship caliber football”. Instead, close wins is viewed as “Miami is fraudulent” or worse. I’m NOT saying Miami’s a perfect team. They’re clearly not. But Miami IS one of 8 (heading into this game) remaining undefeated teams in the College Football World, and it’s time people put some respek on their name.

Team Grades

Offense: B

It wasn’t perfect, but there was variety finally from CMR, and some play calls that many people, myself included, had been wanting for weeks (5 wide, multiple sets, fake bubble and go). The drive finishing and consistent production from the offense needs to improve, but this was a solid effort overall, even with the lapses I just mentioned.

Defense: A

Lock down. Yet again, Miami’s defense won the day and made it impossible for the opposition to get much going. After allowing only a FG in the first half, Miami gave up 16 points in the 2nd half, but held Syracuse to FGs in several key spots. The defense got 4 turnovers on interceptions, and stopped Syracuse cold on 4th down on their last drive to secure the win. Miami held Syracuse to their 2nd lowest yardage total of the season. That’s an A in my book.

Special Teams: B

Michael Badgley is still money in the kicking game. Jeff Thomas had a couple big returns on kickoffs. Braxton Berrios had a nice punt return that ALMOST broke loose. Coverage on kickoffs and punts was good. But Zach Feagles continues to struggle, and had another every-week shank, a couple of them this week. He’s good and has talent, but Feagles’ performance leaves much to be desired. And, for the record, the 2 balls that were downed at the 2 were bad kicks with lucky bounces. He’s gotta improve, and fast.

Coaching: B+

I liked that we saw more creativity from Mark Richt and the offense, but I think Miami went away from what had been working in recent weeks a bit too much. As for Manny Diaz and the defense, it was another beautiful gameplan against a different system than Miami had seen recently, and the players made plays. That comes from sound coaching, and Miami’s defensive staff is among the best in the country, and it showed today.

That’s my view of what was Good, Bad, and Ugly today. What’s yours? Hop in the comments below and let me know.

Go Canes