It’s game week, and I'm breaking down every possible key to victory for the Hurricanes if they want to upset the 8th-ranked Florida Gators on Saturday, as both teams kickoff the 2019 season.
The first thing that I'm going to talk about is how Miami will need to win the first half, in they want to come out victorious against UF in Orlando.
Winning the first half has always something that I've stressed heavily in winning football games, especially with the Hurricanes. In fact, when previewing Miami-LSU last season, one of the things I said they had to do to win is outscore the Tigers in the first half, which of course they didn't.
For the Canes, the first half has determined many of the games over the last two seasons. Take 2017 for instance, something that the Hurricanes did well in 2017 on their way to a 10-0 start was have strong first half performances. During Miami’s 10 wins that year, they outscored opponents 118-56 in the first two quarters.
Most notably, it was their game when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish came to town in November of 2017. Miami was obviously ready to play, forcing three turnovers, and jumping out to a 27-7 halftime lead.
However, that same success Miami had in 2017 during the first half, that script was completely flipped the next year in 2018, as they were outscored 95-52 in their six losses, and averaged just 13.7 points. Against LSU, the Hurricanes went into the half-time locker room already down 27-3.
Now there’s two parts to this story, and that’s the Gators in the first half, primarily head coach Dan Mullen. During Mullen’s career, his teams are 10-40 when trailing at halftime.
Also, Miami has got to score points in the first half, something they didn't do in 2018. Dan Mullen's teams are 10-40 when trailing at half— Beat UF (@hurricanesmarsh) August 20, 2019
In two of their three losses in 2018, the Gators had very poor first half play, against the Missouri Tigers and then the Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia forced turnovers on the Gators first two drives, and then Missouri held UF to punting situations in five of their first six drives, while their offense built a 21-3 lead.
The Kentucky Wildcats were the other team that defeated the Gators last season, and while UF led 10-7 at half, they were effective in other aspects. Through the first two quarters, the Wildcats held Florida to just 51 rushing yards on 17 attempts, 3.0 yards per carry. Because of this, quarterback Feleipe Franks was then forced to win the game for the Gators in the second half, which is more than he’s used to.
However, in the games they won (not counting Charleston Southern), they outscored their opponents 164-84 in the first half.
So, there’s several things Miami needs to do in order for these things to happen. One, and I wrote about this several months ago, is to be aggressive with their play-calling right from the very start. The Gators defense is probably going to be expecting Miami to come out running, especially with Jarren Williams starting his first game, so I think they should come out throwing. Then, once the defense is creeping back anticipating the pass, that’s when you rush DeeJay Dallas and Cam’ron Harris with the ground game.